Conspiracies claiming billionaire George Soros funds Antifa are a perfect storm of right-wing boogeymen

Conspiracies claiming billionaire George Soros funds Antifa are a perfect storm of right-wing boogeymen
Source: Bloomberg

Few figures inspire greater antagonism and conspiracy-mongering than Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros. Among many on the right of the political spectrum, Soros is the ultimate boogeyman, a billionaire who uses his seemingly unlimited funds to promote a liberal agenda.

Baseless conspiracy theories have followed the man for decades, including the false claim that he is a Nazi, despite being Jewish. At the moment, a popular belief among some right-wing conspiracy theorists is that Soros is funding the Anti-Fascist movement, more commonly known as Antifa.

Like Soros, Antifa has become shorthand for all manner of liberal and leftist misdeeds, with the loose association of unaffiliated activists often blamed for crimes they did not commit. Claiming that Soros funds Antifa ties two of the Right’s biggest boogeymen into one neat bow.

Is George Soros funding Antifa?

As the nonprofit fact-checking site PolitiFact explains, recent viral social media posts have asserted that Soros has been financially supporting Antifa. One such meme includes an image of Soros and states he is a “sociopathic globalist” who “destroy[s] economies, cultures & countries.” Below that, in bold lettering, it adds, “I am funding Antifa.”

In addition to claiming that the billionaire funds Antifa, many of the memes include the debunked claim that Soros is a Nazi. Some include an image of a Nazi soldier that is falsely stated to be a young Soros.

The idea that Soros was a Nazi collaborator is based on an article written in 2010 by a right-wing writer, Ezra Levant. The tabloid that published the piece, The Toronto Sun, later retracted the piece and printed an apology in which it said there was no basis for Levant’s claims. Nonetheless, the claims have persisted, merging with other conspiracy theories about Soros.

PolitiFact reports that “there is no evidence Soros ‘funds Antifa.’” They quote a Fox Business article, which states: “Little is known about who funds Antifa activists, or how the groups get their resources. Antifa is not a single organization and, therefore, financial details, if any exist, are murky.”

Still, President Donald Trump appeared on Fox News earlier this month and gave credence to the conspiracy theory. “You have Democrats funding [Antifa],” he said. “They say Soros and they say other people.”

Who’s afraid of Antifa?

While Trump, Attorney General William Barr and right-wing media figures have consistently painted Antifa as a vicious organization committed to rioting and violence, there is little concrete evidence tying alleged members to any specific crimes.

Online, white supremacists have been caught posing as Antifa groups and calling for violence. Across the country, multiple groups of white supremacists have been charged with using Black Lives Matter protests to instigate riots. Meanwhile, similar groups have been found to be spreading hoaxes online about Antifa gatherings that never materialized.

Trump has said that he will be designating Antifa as a terrorist organization, but the president hasn’t given the same treatment to any United States-based white supremacist movements (the US did label the white supremacist Russian Imperialist Movement a terrorist group in April 2020).

George Soros’ philanthropy

Once one of the richest men in the world, Soros has established a reputation for his philanthropic activities over the past four decades. In October 2017, it was reported that he was donating nearly 80 percent of his wealth to charity through his charitable organization, the Open Society Foundations.

Originally created in 1979, after Soros had built his fortune through hedge funds, the OSF “give thousands of grants every year toward building inclusive and vibrant democracies.” The OSF operates in over 120 countries with a budget of billions.

In July of this year, Soros’s foundation gave US$220 million to groups and programs that fight for racial equality. The money went to Black-led groups fighting for racial justice as well as to other initiatives meant to reform the criminal justice system.

The mainstreaming of conspiracy theories

Soros’ well-documented history of charitable giving has fed into the conspiracy theories that he is using his wealth to push a far-reaching liberal agenda intended to fundamentally change American society.

In addition to his supposed funding of Antifa, Soros has been rumored to be the main backer for the Black Lives Matter movement, a group some conservatives, including Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, have called terrorists.

Additionally, Soros has been accused of funding various media outlets – including ProPublica, CNN, NBC, ABC, The New York Times, HuffPost and countless other media outlets – that have been deemed by the Right as “liberal.”

Far from being a fringe belief, conspiracy theories related to George Soros have moved into the mainstream of the Republican Party.

On Tuesday, August 11, Marjorie Taylor Greene, a candidate for the US House of Representatives, won her primary race despite expressing views aligned with the QAnon conspiracy movement. She is considered a lock to beat her Democratic challenger in November.

Greene took a moment in her victory speech Tuesday night to attack the billionaire philanthropist.

“If you love this country and want to stop radical, hate America people like George Soros from destroying it, [the Democrats] are going to call you an anti-Semite.”

Fox News host Tucker Carlson is yet another one of the voices claiming that Soros funds the media. He specifically cited Media Matters, saying it should be investigated by the IRS. “Media Matters is a George Soros-funded lobbying organization whose sole mission is to punish critics of the Democratic Party,” Carlson claimed on his show in March 2019.

Carlson made this claim after Media Matters, a liberal media watchdog, released audio of him making multiple bigoted comments during radio interviews, including one in which he says that Iraq is full of “semiliterate primitive monkeys.”

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