Values conservatives once claimed to believe in

Nick Cohen looks at the hatred of the nationalist right for George Soros.

During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump ruled that Americans protesting against him were “professional” agitators. Roger Stone, who has worked for the filthy wing of the right since Nixon’s day, followed up by announcing he had discovered the agitators were “paid for” by none other than Soros.

Now it is commonplace for right-wing Americans to say that only Soros’s corrupt influence can explain why their fellow citizens take to the streets. A typically sly report in the Washington Times said one in three Trump voters believed Soros paid protesters to join the women’s march on Trump’s inauguration day.

One in three Trump voters believe a panoply of absurd things. Most of them appear to believe it’s possible to live in a small Appalachian town and have a wide range of job opportunities, in defiance of the obvious fact that small towns by definition don’t have a wide range of job opportunities, because they’re small towns. But hey, this is Murrika, people can believe whatever they like, and you’re not allowed to tell them they’re wrong.

It’s not just Putin who goes for Soros. Macedonia’s former autocratic prime minister, Nikola Gruevski, has called for a “de-Sorosisation” of society, as the country’s right uses every trick it can think of, including the threat of street violence by “patriotic associations”, to stop the opposition taking power.

In Hungary, Viktor Orbán’s self-proclaimed illiberal democracy is threatening the Soros-funded Central European University. Its president, the former Canadian Liberal party leader and former Observer columnist Michael Ignatieff, is bewildered. He protests that he is running a university, not an opposition political party that might take Orbán’s power away.

I could go on. Romania’s socialist elite imitates Trump and claims Soros pays citizens to take to the streets to demonstrate against corruption. The supposedly reputable financial analysts at Zero Hedge claim Soros “singlehandedly created the European refugee crisis”. Steve Bannon’s Breitbart says Soros’s funding of Black Lives Matter was part of an agenda to swing the US presidential election. The European far right claims he is trying to destroy Christian white Europe by importing Muslim refugees.

Why all this? Nationalism, aka xenophobia.

Billionaires shouldn’t be able to give money to politicians, Nick says, but the demonization of Soros isn’t about that.

Soros is the recipient of a hatred far beyond normal partisan rancour. The satanic influence attributed to the man who escaped the Holocaust as a child and resolved after the fall of the Berlin Wall to use his wealth to stop xenophobia returning to Europe isn’t normal. Not remotely so. It is one of the most striking signs of the crisis in conservatism, which is threatening free societies across what we used to call “the west”.

Most of Soros’s charitable efforts are not devoted to funding politicians, but values conservatives once claimed to believe in: transparency, free elections, free speech and a free press. Instead of upholding them, the dominant faction on the right has turned to a nationalism that treats opposition as treason. To learn about its antecedents, listen to the antisemitic echoes of the Nazi and communist eras in the vilification of Soros. They are so loud they deafen.

Orbán says he is against “the globalists and liberals, the power brokers sitting in their palaces with ivory towers” and “the swarm of media locusts”. Behind them all stands the “transnational empire of George Soros, with its international heavy artillery and huge sums of money”. March against Orbán in Budapest or Trump in Washington, DC, and you are a hireling of Soros’s cosmopolitan conspiracy.

Nope; just a cosmopolitan. Cosmopolitanism is a good thing, and xenophobia is a bad one.

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