October 23, 2018; Bloomberg
A series of pipe bombs mailed to former President Barack Obama, Democratic Party leaders, and critics of the current US president two weeks before midterm elections also targeted philanthropist and foundation-founder George Soros, prompting the Open Society Foundations to call for an end to the “politics of hate” in America and other countries around the world.
Although an FBI investigation into the acts of terrorism is still ongoing, authorities believe the packages mailed to Hillary Clinton, George Soros, John O. Brennan, Robert DeNiro, Joseph R. Biden, Jr., Maxine Waters (who was mailed two packages), Sen. Cory Booker, James R. Clapper, Barack Obama, and Eric H. Holder Jr. are linked, according to the New York Times. (Note that three of the eight victims are people of color and Soros is Jewish.) An additional package was sent to the office of CNN in New York.
As a Bloomberg story by Christian Berthelsen and Katherine Burton notes, Soros has long been “a bogeyman of the right.”
Soros, a former hedge fund manager who made his fortune with swashbuckling trades in currency and bond markets, is a longtime supporter and financial backer of progressive causes and Democratic politicians—and a bogeyman of the right wing, which accuses him of all manner of anti-American plots. Most recently, President Donald Trump claimed that Soros paid people to protest Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation.
And, in an op-ed in the Times on Wednesday, Soros’ son, Alexander, described attacks against as his father as “dripping with the poison of anti-Semitism” and pointed to Trump’s election as the cause of rising white supremacism and nationalism.
A genie was let out of the bottle, which may take generations to put back in, and it wasn’t confined to the United States. In Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán launched an anti-Semitic poster campaign falsely accusing my father of wanting to flood Hungary with migrants. This included plastering my father’s face onto the floor of trams in Budapest so that people would walk on it, all to serve Mr. Orbán’s political agenda.
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Now we have attempted bomb attacks. While the responsibility lies with the individual or individuals who sent these lethal devices to my family home and Mr. Obama’s and Ms. Clinton’s offices, I cannot see it divorced from the new normal of political demonization that plagues us today.
Alexander Soros is the deputy chairman of the Open Society Foundations. Soros also noted the rising risk for nonprofits accepting the foundation’s funding. “It is also all too normal that organizations doing important pro-democracy work face existential threats simply because they accept support from the foundations my father started,” he wrote.
In a July NPQ story, we reported that the attacks against George Soros and the Open Society Foundation in Hungary have caused Soros to doubt the future of liberal democracy here and abroad. He also questioned whether civil society can survive when new-age autocrats are increasingly cracking down to consolidate power.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, hate is increasing in the US—at least when it comes to organized hate groups. “The number of hate groups rose to 953 in 2017, from 917 in 2016. Within the white supremacist movement, neo-Nazi groups saw the greatest growth—soaring by 22 percent. Anti-Muslim groups rose for a third straight year. Ku Klux Klan groups, meanwhile, fell from 130 groups to 72.”
While President Trump initially called on Americans to “unify” and “come together” on Wednesday, he again pointed to the “mainstream media” as the cause of “the anger we see today in our society.” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders defended his comments on the media on Thursday, according to CNN.
And, let’s face it, this stream of hatred, even specifically as it is aimed at foundations of the left, cannot solely be laid at the feet of this administration. Readers may remember the 2010 incident involving a man who loaded up his mother’s car with guns with the intent to stage an attack on the ACLU and the Tides Foundation, two targets of Glenn Beck’s ire on Fox News at the time.
The fact that this comes a week after President Trump described himself as a nationalist may seem particularly dangerous to those of us with a grasp of history. As writer Robert Jones Jr., known as @sonofbaldwin online, put it succinctly, “We can disagree and still love each other unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.”—Anna Berry