Remember when conspiracy theories were the sole preserve of your one insufferable friend who painstakingly chronicled their YouTube “research” in an effort to convince you that 9/11 was an “inside job”? No longer. They are now truly mainstream. A study from Cambridge University has discovered that sixty per cent of Britons believe in at least one conspiracy about how the country is being run or the veracity of the information they receive.
There is one conspiracy that continues to dominate all others. It is the archetype; the original. A conspiracy that seemingly unites all other disparate conspiracies: a cursory search through the comments section on any “truth-seeker” video on YouTube will confirm this. Derived from the plagiarised Russian text, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the conspiracy goes something like this: the world is secretly controlled by a cabal of rich Jewish bankers, who wantonly meddle in the affairs of nation-states for their own nefarious ends. These devious individuals are responsible for all the world’s ills.
This is all baseless nonsense, of course. Nevertheless, its propagation played a role in legitimising the systematic murder of six million innocent people. You would, thus, imagine it being completely off-limits to all but the most hate-filled, far-right, knuckle-dragging schmucks. You would, however, be wrong. This conspiracy can still be found in mainstream political discourse across Europe and the United States, and even here in the UK.
Two weeks ago, billionaire and philanthropist George Soros was forced to withdraw his pro-democracy charity, Open Society Foundation, from Turkey. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accused him of funding mass protests in Istanbul. Referring to him as “that Hungarian Jew”, Erdoğan claims that Soros attempts to divide and shatter nations. Unfortunately, this was not an isolated incident. In his native Hungary, he has been attacked repeatedly by Prime Minister Viktor Orbån. According to Orbån, Soros has attempted to destroy the country by flooding it with Muslim migrants. The invocation of the anti-Semitic trope of the rich and devious Jew is undeniable in both cases.
Such heinous rhetoric may appear congruous from authoritarians like Erdoğan and Orbån. However, this conspiracy has been propagated by politicians in supposedly liberal democracies. In Italy, Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini claimed that Soros “would like Italy [to become] a giant refugee camp because he likes slaves”. When Nigel Farage appeared on Fox News this past summer he identified George Soros as the most serious threat to the western world. Yes, you read that correctly, THE ENTIRE WESTERN WORLD. Farage claimed that Soros was attempting to “undermine nation states” and “undermine democracy” by opening up borders to migrants. While US president Donald Trump, when questioned by a reporter on the recent migrant caravan, exclaimed that he “wouldn’t be surprised” if George Soros had something to do with it. The noxious stench of anti-Semitism is inescapable.
The aforementioned Cambridge University study revealed: there is a widely held belief by both Leave voters in the UK and Trump Voters in the US that their respective governments have permitted mass immigration which would enable Muslims to become a majority within their populations. George Soros, a Hungarian Jew who survived Nazi-occupation, has been a staunch advocate for open borders. He, thus, provides the perfect intersection of two different conspiracy theories, which authoritarian demagogues like Erdoğan and opportunistic charlatans like Farage, can weaponise for their own ideological ends. One doesn’t have to agree with Soros’s views on open borders to see the way in which he is being caricatured is completely divorced from reality.
The fact this age-old anti-Semitic conspiracy theory refuses to die is bad enough, but its inclusion in mainstream political discourse is truly disgusting.