Ifan Morgan Jones
The Jac o’ the North blog yesterday published a new post in which he speculates that George Soros is ‘influencing’ Wales and involved in many projects that Jac disapproves of.
Jac o’ the North’s evidence for this ultimately amounts to the fact that some people now working in Wales used to work for projects to which George Soros had given money, and that institutions set up in Wales have ties to institutions to which George Soros has given money.
A bit like the game, ‘six degrees of Kevin Bacon’, it’s quite easy to play the game ‘six degrees of George Soros’. The man is, after all, one of the richest on earth and has given away $32 billion of his own wealth to causes he considers worthwhile.
£32 billion. That’s equivalent to the GDP of Bolivia. And just as it would be quite surprising if some people in Wales didn’t have any ties to Bolivia, it would be quite surprising if no one had ties to institutions funded by George Soros.
In fact, I’d be willing to bet that pretty much every institution in Wales had some tenuous link with an institution that had benefitted from his largesse.
But Jac sees a conspiracy in all of this. Because Jac also believes that climate change is a conspiracy, despite the overwhelming scientific evidence showing otherwise.
And because he believes climate change is a conspiracy – rather than a fact and an extremely pressing concern, which it is – anyone involved in the fight against climate change also becomes part of the conspiracy, too.
Take this paragraph:
“I’m not saying that George Soros controls Wales, but having read what Soros has to say on climate change – and it really is an obsession with him! – he could have dictated everything the ‘Welsh Government’ has put out in recent years.”
Perhaps George Soros and the Welsh Government’s concern with climate change is because – shock! – climate change is something to be concerned about?
I must admit, I am also very concerned about climate change. Does that make me an agent of George Soros too? Perhaps he has got his tentacles into Nation.Cymru!
Come to think of it, Nation.Cymru receives money from the Welsh Books Council, which receives money from the Welsh Government, which is – as Jac believes – in cahoots with George Soros!
I can’t even trust myself! *throws self out of window*
Now, to be fair to Jac, there is something untoward about George Soros’ power. But it isn’t the causes in which he chooses to invest, but rather the fact that he has so much wealth to invest in the first place.
It is wrong that any one person is able to amass $32 billion to give away, in a world where 10 percent of the world’s population lives on less than $1.90 a day.
But for some reason, George Soros seems to find himself attached to many more online conspiracy theories than other, richer and more philanthropic billionaires.
George Soros is outdone by Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg when it comes to giving to causes he feels are worthwhile.
Swansea University recently received £100,000 straight from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and I’m yet to read any blogs accusing Bill Gates of influencing Wales.
But it’s only George Soros that seems to get any stick for it. And that’s because – let’s face it – he’s Jewish.
Jac himself strenuously denies any accusation of anti-semitism in his post. He himself never mentions Soros’ Jewishness.
However, the obsession with Soros goes far beyond Jac. There is a whole industry of people online ready to blame him for everything bad that happens – from a spot of rain to next door neighbour’s cat being run over. ‘George Soros controls the world’ has become something of a trope.
And that trope does, of course, have its roots in the idea of a global Jewish conspiracy that is being pushed very hard by the online alt-right.
There’s nothing new about the tendency to blame Jews for everything. Even as far back as the medieval period, outbreaks of disease were commonly blamed on Jews poisoning wells.
Wales itself is no stranger to antisemitism. The walls of Edward I’s castles were built partly with money taken from the Jews who were shortly after banished from the country.
Anti-Jewish riots broke out in Tredegar in 1911, involving around 200 men and women who attacked Jewish homes and businesses.
Minorities often find themselves falling into one of two camps: Considered barbarian savages or, should they be moderately successful, bent on world domination.
See for instance how the Welsh themselves have progressed from being little better than animals up to the 19th century to being a sinister ‘Taffia’ of Welsh speakers controlling the country from Pontcanna (or something) in the present.
Because of the sheer amount of online conspiracy theories pushed by the alt-right, it is perhaps easy for someone to become embroiled in the apparent connections between George Soros and anything untoward going on in the world.
Where this becomes absurd, of course, is when it’s suggested that George Soros is involved in the relatively mundane plot such as controlling the Welsh Government’s climate agenda.
Let’s face it, George Soros would have to be a hell of a micro-manager to get involved on the level Jac suggests. Why, I’m pretty sure he could pass Mark Drakeford in the street and not recognise the man.
Therefore, it is important that we push back against this kind of stuff. Because whatever Jac’s intentions a) blaming a scheming George Soros for our ills is a gateway to rising antisemitism, and b) it is a distraction from the real problems facing our country, which are more cock-up than conspiracy.
So Jac, give the online conspiracies about George Soros a rest. He’s not a secret puppet master, he’s just a billionaire with loads of money, spending it on things he thinks are important, and some people and institutions in Wales will inevitably have links with institutions on which he has spent his money.
His wealth in itself, and the way he made it, may be problematic. But if it is, it’s time to judge the system that allows the billionaires to happen, not the billionaires for wanting to invest that wealth in things they think are worthwhile.