Is George Soros funding US riots? Conspiracy theorists claim he hired protesters, rented buses to transport them
Veteran billionaire George Soros has found himself at the center of wildly circulating conspiracy theories claiming that he has been organizing and funding nationwide protests against police brutality that have spread in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May. According to the theories, the 89-year-old has hired protesters and rented buses for their transportation to reach demonstration sites besides gathering bricks that can be used for vandalism and attacking the cops though there has been no solid evidence to prove it. Protests in the wake of Floyd’s brutal death have turned so violent that the top leadership inched closer to deploying the military to quell them.
The far-right has joined the party, which has seen the online posts about the Hungarian-American billionaire skyrocketing the recent weeks. According to Associated Press, the posts have also been accompanied by online ads bought by conservative groups that have sought an investigation against Soros “for funding domestic terrorism and his decades-long corruption”. Soros has donated billions to liberal and anti-authoritarian camps around the world and has often found himself being targeted by the right. To cite an example in the spike in anti-Soros sentiments on social media, negative posts against him on Twitter jumped from around 20,000 to more than 500,000 in a day over a span of just four days in late May, according to an Anti-Defamation League analysis, AP added.
Even on Facebook, the jump was remarkable. According to the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, London, there were more than 68,000 mentions of Soros in May. The previous record was around 38,000 registered in October 2018 when the veteran was accused of aiding migrant caravans to enter the US. Even President Donald Trump, of whom Soros is a major critique, fueled the charge at that time, saying: “I wouldn’t be surprised. A lot of people say yes.” Soros has, in fact, been a target of conspiracy theorists for decades. Speaking about the latest conspiracy theories, Soros has also been accused of owning Antifa and Black Lives Matter, while others have alleged that he is a former Nazi who is hell-bent to destroy America. Some even said he colluded with the police to fake Floyd’s death.
'An attempt to distract from real matters'
Conspiracy theory study experts feel the new claims about Soros were aimed at delegitimizing the protests and the actual reasons behind them. “I think partly it’s an attempt to distract from the real matters at hand — the pandemic, the protests or the Black Lives Matter movement,” Laura Silber, chief communications officer for Soros’ philanthropic Open Society Foundations, was quoted as saying by AP. “It’s pretty demeaning to the people out there protesting when someone says they’re all paid. It’s insulting.”
The experts say such unfounded theories could become a problem when they lead to threats of violence or make people lose trust in key institutions. “Conspiracy theories are like themselves viruses. The characters may change a little, and the theory itself may mutate. But they stick around,” Josh Introne, a Syracuse University information studies professor who researches the theories, was quoted as saying.