George Soros is the internet’s lightning rod.
He’s an 88-year-old billionaire hedge fund manager who supports liberal-leaning causes and politicians. He was a top donor to a super PAC for Hillary Clinton’s run for president. He’s spent hundreds of millions on refugees. He has monetary ties to dozens of media companies, and once spent millions on media programs aimed at defeating George W. Bush in his reelection bid. He’s one of the leading financiers of progressive causes and organizations in the country, and has handed over $18 billion to the network that spreads his wealth around, called the Open Society Foundations.
Depending on whom you talk to, Soros is either a philanthropist or the harbinger of the end times. He’s been the subject of criticism and conspiracy, due and undue, for decades ― ever since he made a billion dollars off a bet against the British pound in 1992.
Today, and especially on the troll side of the internet (from 4chan to your aunt’s Facebook page), he has become the punching bag for the Trump era, the liberal puppet master who funds everything the right despises.
Pick any conspiracy theory under the sun, and threads often lead back to Soros. The dark parts of the internet have claimed or implied incorrectly that he was linked to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and her allegations of sexual assault against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh; that Soros masterminded Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling protest…
…that he paid dogs to protest the Romanian government; that he has a hand in every QAnon conspiracy theory out there; that he bankrolls Black Lives Matter, the Women’s March and Antifa; the list goes on.
In various tweets and speeches, President Donald Trump has fanned the flames of Soros conspiracy by claiming that there is a bogeyman behind various news events. That bogeyman always ends up becoming Soros, whether it’s true or not. Recently the president said that a “lot of money” was given to a caravan of migrants traveling toward Mexico and the United States, leading The New York Times to file a story headlined, “Did Democrats, or George Soros, Fund Migrant Caravan? Despite Republican Claims, No.” Trump also claimed that Kavanaugh’s protesters were paid and were awaiting their checks, another thread that led back to Soros online. That list, too, goes on, and the GOP has followed suit by publishing anti-Semitic ads featuring Soros as the Jewish donor behind every nonwhite demonstration out there.
The demonization of Soros appears to have come to a head. On Monday evening, law enforcement responded to a bomb in the mailbox of Soros’ home in New York. Authorities deemed the device “not a hoax,” and the bomber’s motives are still unknown. Soros wasn’t home at the time of the discovery.
Conspiracy theorists ― especially the QAnon crowd, which is obsessed with Soros ― have already called the find a “false flag.”
As reporters on the extremism beat have already noted, however, Soros conspiracy theories had recently grown into full-blown calls for violence. Dark parts of the internet had called for the “killing of George Soros in the last week.”