It was inevitable that right-wing fans of the Trump-Cohen-Hannity troika would try to slime the federal judge who’s handling the Michael Cohen case. Surely there had to be a perfidious reason for Kimba Wood’s initial refusal to side with Cohen. Surely there had to be a dastardly explanation for her belief that the seized Cohen materials might be valid grist for federal investigators.
And sure enough, on Monday, we got The Word. It ricocheted all over the echo chamber: Five years ago, Judge Wood officiated the wedding of … George Soros.
Yup, the paranoid right’s all-purpose bogeyman is back again, for his umpteenth curtain call. Fox News announced that Wood “even officiated the wedding of left-wing billionaire George Soros.” InfoWars, the Alex Jones website, said that because she officiated Soros’ wedding “suddenly Wood’s decision to force Cohen to disclose his clients becomes clear.” Mike Cernovich, a prominent right-wing troll, said “The judge who performed Soros’ wedding names Sean Hannity as a Michael Cohen client. TOTAL COINCIDENCE.” And so on. (Wood did in fact officiate the wedding — which supposedly trumps the Reagan appointee’s three decades of jurisprudential experience.)
Why are unhinged conservatives so obsessed with George Soros, the Hungarian-born Holocaust survivor and generous donor to humanitarian and free-market causes? Why do they invoke him whenever they’re cornered? Why, in defense of their indefensible positions, do they insist that all conspiratorial roads lead back to Soros? Since they obviously need a scapegoat, why haven’t they laser-focused on, say, Warren Buffett or Bill Gates or Tom Steyer? Why does Soros fill the bill?
Stay tuned for the answer, although it should be obvious.
This Soros thing has been nuts for a long time. I can remember, in 2006, when House Speaker Dennis Hastert (who later went to prison for molesting boys) was under fire for slow-walking the molestation allegations lodged against Republican congressman Mark Foley. Hastert said he was the victim of a liberal conspiracy: “The people who want to see this thing blow up are ABC News and a lot of Democratic operatives funded by George Soros.”
Soros apparently orchestrates everything. In 2016, for instance, word spread through the fever swamp that Soros owned a company that controlled voting machines in 16 states and planned to rig the vote tallies for Hillary Clinton. (In truth, Soros didn’t own a stake in any voting machine company.)
In 2017, word spread that Soros had organized the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia; supposedly, he wanted protestors to attack the white supremacist and neo-Nazi marchers, in order to discredit all conservatives. There was no proof, of course, that Soros had any role in Charlottesville (the conspiracy theory, based on fake emails, was spread by InfoWars), but one Republican congressman, Paul Gozar of Arizona, was content to circulate the insinuation. He said “it would be interesting to find out” if Soros had worked with “the left” to foment the violence.
A few months after Charlottesville, some NFL players took a knee during the National Anthem. Apparently that was Soros’ fault, too. According to geniuses on the right, Soros funded the NFL protests in order to prompt a race war that would in turn trigger a coup against Trump. (The protesting players were capable of thinking for themselves without help from George Soros.)
A few months after the NFL flap, Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, the credibly accused molester, blamed his imperiled candidacy on Soros. Moore was ginned up by a fake Breitbart story that Soros was funding a program to give Alabama felons the right to vote, and that set him off: “Soros comes from another world that I don’t identify with … No matter how much money he’s got, he’s still going to the same place that people who don’t recognize God and morality and accept His salvation are going.” (Translation: Because Soros is Jewish, he’s going to hell.)
And this year, right-wingers refuse to believe that the Parkland students and the nationwide activists for gun reform are capable of thinking for themselves. Surely somebody must be pulling their strings. Take a guess who.
Ex-Republican congressman Jack Kingston recently said “organized groups that are out there, like George Soros, are always ready to take up the charge.” Ex-Milwaukee sheriff David Clarke, the nutcase Trump supporter, tweeted that “The well ORGANIZED effort by Florida school students demanding gun control has GEORGE SOROS’ FINGERPRINTS all over it.” The word went out that Soros orchestrated a school walkout on March 14, and that Soros was paying protestors $300 apiece to show up for a “March for Our Lives” rally on March 24. Every assertion in this paragraph was a lie.
So what helps to explain this obsession with Soros? That’s easy. He’s foreign-born and Jewish.
Rabid right-wingers (not all, but many) have long trafficked in anti-Semitic conspiracies; back in the early ’60s, southern white supremacists typically insisted that black civil rights marchers were being manipulated by Jewish plotters. The ugly rhetoric isn’t as blatant as it was back in the days of car magnate Henry Ford, who openly raged against “Jew-controlled” events, and warned that “it is the genius of that race to create problems of moral character,” but it’s clear that Soros — by dint of his faith and background — sates the paranoids’ thirst for an easy explanation, for an enemy Other.
And haven’t I seen this sick syndrome somewhere before?
“As usual, the face of Emmanuel Goldstein, the Enemy of the People, had flashed on the screen. There were hisses here and there among the audience … He was still alive and hatching his conspiracies … It was a lean Jewish face, with a great fuzzy aureole of white hair…he was advocating freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom of thought … uncontrollable exclamations of rage were breaking out … People were leaping up and down in their places and shouting at the tops of their voices in an effort to drown the maddening bleating voice that came from the screen …”
That’s from the Two-Minute Hate, in Chapter One of “1984.” So the Soros obsession isn’t new. It’s deja vu.