This week, U.S. President Donald J. Trump said that he would not be “surprised” if billionaire George Soros, who is Jewish, were paying hundreds of Hondurans to trek across Mexico to reach the United States. A week earlier, Soros had been the target of an attempted mail bomb assassination, and the man who committed the largest violent attack on Jews in the United States a few days later cited anti-Soros conspiracy theories among the reasons he believed that Jews needed to die. Writing these words is horrifying, and I struggle to understand exactly how our country has reached this point. It is almost like something out of the Twilight Zone, except that the Twilight Zone was created by a Jew, Rod Serling, who always made sure that in his stories the Nazis didn’t win.
On her Wednesday Full Frontal broadcast, comedian Samantha Bee correctly noted that the conspiracy theories surrounding George Soros are virtually identical to those told of Nathan Rothschild two centuries ago, and which formed the kernel of the anti-Jewish canard about a cabal of “international bankers” that secretly ran the world for the benefit of the Hebrew people. As Bee noted, conservative leaders for the past century have applied Rothschild conspiracies to various updated Jewish figures. The names may change, but the charges never do.
An early twentieth century forgery claiming to be the words of onetime German chancellor Otto von Bismarck is hardly distinguishable from the current babbling from right-wing politicians about Soros’s supposed master plan to destroy America with illegal immigrants. According to a fraud named Conrad Siem, writing in a French anti-Semitic newspaper, Bismarck alleged that the Civil War had been planned to give Jews control over two weak states:
I know of absolute certainty, that the division of the United States into federations of equal force was decided long before the Civil War by the high financial powers of Europe. These bankers were afraid that the United States, if they remained in one block and as one nation, would attain economical and financial independence, which would upset their financial domination over the world. The voice of the Rothschilds predominated. They foresaw tremendous booty if they could substitute two feeble democracies, indebted to the Jewish financiers, to the vigorous republic, confident and self-providing.
The claim that Soros and other Jewish financiers are trying to sap America’s strength and power by diluting it with Latin blood in order to give the “globalists” absolute control is simply a variation on the theme.
I wrote about this in an article I published in All About History earlier this year, and I originally wanted my article to hit more strongly on the key point that these old ideas are not dead and buried objects of antiquarian concern but are alive and terrible today. I was able to get into the final draft mentions of how these anti-Semitic conspiracy theories have appeared not just in the pamphlets and online screeds of white nationalists but also in French political campaigns, on Russian state television, and among the History Channel’s lunatic fringe rogue’s gallery, particularly David Wilcock and the late Jim Marrs. And now they are in the mouth of the American president. The point is that for all the talk about how the extreme right is reviving anti-Jewish conspiracy theories, these ideas don’t persist on the right for no reason. Governments have found it convenient to promote them, and it is no wonder that the extremists who take their cues from their allies in government parrot these ideas back.
In my article, I traced the way conspiracy theories trickled down the centuries. I focused on the false claim that Nathan Rothschild, of the British branch of the Rothschild dynasty, had made his fortune by playing the stock market with secret news of Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo to gain unfair advantage:
The whole story was false—Nathan was not the first with the news, and his market gains were relatively modest compared to those who had had faith in a British victory before Waterloo. But the anti-Semitic smear playing off of centuries-old stereotypes of Jews as ruthless, money-hungry villains endured in ways large and small. The story wound its way into media as diverse as the Encyclopedia Britannica and Nazi propaganda films. A few years ago, conspiracy theorist Jim Marrs drew on this story and decided that Nathan Rothschild was an evil agent of gold-hungry extraterrestrials who were, essentially, space Jews—stereotypes mythologized.
And here we are listening to the president and members of Congress speculating about another Jewish financier is secretly trying to undermine the government in service of diabolical ideals.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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