The right to criticise George Soros

Apr 21, 2019 by

by Frank Furedi, spiked:

This arrogant and destructive oligarch must be held to account.

Anyone who dares to criticise the billionaire speculator George Soros can expect to be denounced as an anti-Semite. So last week, when Roger Scruton spoke unkindly about Soros in an interview with the New Statesman, it was inevitable that sections of the media would brand him a xenophobic villain. Scruton referred to a ‘Soros Empire’ in Hungary and this was immediately seized upon as evidence of his anti-Semitism. George Eaton, who carried out the interview, tweeted that, ‘There is no context in which it is OK to refer to a “Soros empire” (an anti-Semitic trope)’.

There was a time when criticism of Soros was not automatically condemned as a form of secular heresy. Some in the media were more than willing to draw attention to Soros’s parasitic behaviour as a ruthless speculator who seemed indifferent to the destructive impact of his actions on other people’s lives. Even the New Statesman was prepared to question Soros’s imperial ambitions and to question this oligarch’s motives. Indeed, Scruton’s reference to a ‘Soros Empire’ in Hungary comes across as positively restrained in comparison with the wording in a 2003 New Statesman profile of Soros.

[…]Back in 2003, clearly the New Statesman was not in the business of instructing the public on what you could and couldn’t say about Soros. It was still possible then to criticise Soros’s imperial ambition without facing the charge of anti-Semitism. Soros hadn’t yet been claimed as a sacred figure. Sixteen years later and things could not be more different. Soros is now treated as a male version of Mother Theresa. Last year the Financial Times chose him as its ‘Person of the Year’ and, without irony, characterised him as the ‘standard bearer for liberal democracy’.

So what has changed? Why has the political establishment become so devoted to Soros and the idea that he is some kind of secular saint? What has changed is this: much of the Western political establishment and its supporters in the media have become acutely aware of the erosion of their authority and legitimacy. The context for the media vilification of Roger Scruton, and of anyone who criticises Soros, is the raging culture war. In this conflict, the values promoted by the political and cultural establishment are being openly challenged by what they contemptuously dismiss as the forces of populism. Their fear of populism has led them to take a hard line towards anyone who questions their moral or political authority. And in this climate, Soros becomes a kind of anti-populist hero whose reputation needs to be affirmed and celebrated, and whose critics must be damned.

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