The Financial Times has named 88-year-old left-wing billionaire George Soros as its “person of the year” for 2018, calling him a “standard bearer of liberal democracy and open society” and praising “the values he represents.”
The paper noted Soros’s work for liberal democracy, but ignored critics who claim that groups he sponsors are actually eroding liberal democracy today by promoting left-wing extremism and undermining national sovereignty.
The Times noted:
From his native Hungary to his adopted America, the forces of nationalism and populism are battering the liberal democratic order [Soros] has tirelessly supported.
He is the standard bearer of liberal democracy and open society. These are the ideas which triumphed in the cold war. Today, they are under siege from all sides, from Vladimir Putin’s Russia to Donald Trump’s America.
For more than three decades, Mr Soros has used philanthropy to battle against authoritarianism, racism and intolerance. Through his long commitment to openness, media freedom and human rights, he has attracted the wrath of authoritarian regimes and, increasingly, the national populists who continue to gain ground, particularly in Europe.
The paper adds that Soros has been the target of antisemitic conspiracy theories, and that he detests Trump.
Last month, the online Jewish magazine Tablet published a more sober, and accurate, look at Soros’s political involvement — written by James Kirchick, who is vehemently opposed to Trump but also critical of Soros.
Kirchik noted that despite Soros’s good work in helping nations in Eastern Europe and elsewhere emerge from the shadow of communism and Cold War tyranny during the 1990s, his politics took a turn to the extreme during the George W. Bush administration:
Long before a Manhattan real estate developer bellowed about “locking up” Hillary Clinton, Soros had adopted the language of political delegitimization and vilification. “When I hear President Bush say, ‘You’re either with us or against us,’ it reminds me of the Germans,” George Soros said in 2003. “My experiences under Nazi and Soviet rule have sensitized me.” That same year, aping the language of Bush administration war planners salivating over the downfall of Saddam Hussein, Soros called for “regime change” in Washington.
Soros began backing a variety of groups whose tactics and ideology corroded liberal democracy, rather than making it stronger — especially in the United States (original links):
Polarization, tribalization, partisanship, and a general breakdown in civic discourse are all serious problems in America right now, but they are hardly the exclusive preserve of the American right. And to the extent that these baleful phenomena manifest themselves on the American left, George Soros must answer for some of the damage. Soros was an early backer of MoveOn, the aggressively partisan, left-wing organization which once published a full-page advertisement in The New York Times slandering Gen. David Petraeus as “General Betray Us.” Last year, MoveOn published a guide titled “How to Bird-Dog,” providing its followers with tips for harassing elected officials in public. Soros is also a major funder of Media Matters, the watchdog group founded by right-wing hit man turned left-wing hit man David Brock, whose stock-in-trade is the organized boycott of conservative media figures.
Such pressure tactics, aided greatly by the evolution of social media into the primary forum for American public discourse, are a staple of Soros-funded groups. The Center for Popular Democracy, whose executive director accosted Jeff Flake in a Senate elevator, last year organized a “Corporate Backers of Hate” campaign targeting companies it claims “stand to profit from Trump’s hateful agenda.” The group set up a website that allows supporters to flood the inboxes of CEOs of companies they decide are culpable. Such “mass lobbying of individuals in the private sector” is “unprecedented” according to Time.
Kirchick noted that while some criticism of Soros’s political involvement is driven by antisemitic paranoia, some of it is accurate — despite mainstream media efforts to pretend otherwise. In the recent hearings over the confirmation Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, for example, “it is far from irrelevant that many or even some of the protesters, who were attempting to override the constitutional process of representative democracy through pressure techniques, were professional political activists deriving part of their salary from George Soros’ largesse.”
Kirchick added that Soros’s philanthropy, the Open Society Foundations, “behaves like a government unto itself,” labeling Republican “Nazis … while simultaneously calling for a return to bipartisanship” and defying criticism.
In addition, Kirchick wrote, “There is more than a whiff of hypocrisy to Soros using charges of anti-Semitism, especially given his own use of the same tropes he decries as anti-Semitic against people who object to him.” Soros has also backed vehement anti-Israel groups, and “believes pro-Israel advocates provoke anti-Semitism.” Kirchick also noted that Soros does little to promote the welfare of Jews, while funding advocates for other groups.
Instead of investing in the liberalism of his icon, Karl Popper, “Soros has chosen to nurture the future generation of intersectional left-wing activism,” Kirchick concluded, with all its negative effects on the “open society” ideal.
In a passage that all but predicted the Financial Times‘ treatment of Soros, Kirchick observed: “It used to be the American media that called wealthy and powerful people, irrespective of their political ideology, to account. But since Soros appointed himself the foremost individual patron of the institutional left—his “amulet to ward off criticism”—the press abandoned its role. … Because Soros is one of the most visible anti-Trump figures in the United States, the media has become pro-Soros.”