The Glenn Beck-George Soros story gets stranger by the day.
If you haven’t been following it: Glenn Beck devoted three evenings on his Fox News program last week, November 9, 10 and 11, to a three-part, three-hour documentary about George Soros. It’s titled “The Puppetmaster.” It purports to prove that Soros is the mastermind of a far-reaching plot to destroy the American economy and bring down the government. It’s a pretty shocking display of ignorance, innuendo, outright lies and not-too-subtle anti-Semitism. But as I’ve tried to piece together my take on it, I keep finding new and more surprising twists.
Right now I’m going to look at Beck’s inference that Soros’s teenage survival in Nazi-occupied Hungary made him a sort of Nazi collaborator, and I’ll compare Beck’s presentation of the thesis with Marty Peretz’s version of same from 2007. Next chance I get, hopefully tomorrow, I will look at the actual guts of Soros’s supposed plan, as it appears in Glenn Beck’s fevered imagination, and I’ll try to show how Beck’s description of Soros’s M.O. actually sounds less like Soros and more like Rupert Murdoch and the Koch brothers.
Beck’s basic thesis is that virtually all of the negative changes in American society in recent decades can be traced back to the machinations of George Soros. It’s all part of his grand scheme to bring down America as a world power and have it replaced by one-world government. Soros, he says,
has tens of billions of dollars all flowing in, pulling strings. His tentacles are everywhere.
The part that’s gotten the most attention is a reference, repeated several times, to Soros’s childhood in Nazi-occupied Budapest, when Soros’s father hid him and his siblings with Christian families as their “godchildren.” As Soros describes in his own 2003 authorized biography, he went out at times with his godfather-protector to deliver Nazi orders to Jewish residents and — once, apparently — to inventory some property confiscated from Jews. Here’s how Beck tells it:
So when George Soros was 14, his father basically bribed a government official to take his son in and let him pretend to be a Christian. His father was just trying to keep him alive. He even had to go around confiscating property of Jewish people. Now, imagine you are Jewish and you have to go and confiscate the property of your fellow Jews. And you are pretending to not be a Jew and if anybody finds out, you’re dead. He actually had to endure watching people send off to their eventual murders, watching people gathering their stuff, sending them off knowing that they were going to go to their death.
Beck also talked about the Budapest episode, albeit in a slightly different, less sympathetic tone, in the series’ first segment, “The Puppetmaster.” The transcript to Part 1 is here, the video here. But the transcript and video are only partial. What’s missing, what doesn’t appear anywhere on the Fox or Beck websites, is perhaps the most damaging and most distorted part of the whole series. The missing clip was captured by the progressive website Media Matters. I’ll show it to you after the jump.
As Beck tells it, Soros
used to go around with this anti-Semite and deliver papers to the Jews and confiscate their property and then ship them off. And George Soros was part of it. He would help confiscate the stuff. It was frightening. Here’s a Jewish boy helping send the Jews to the death camps. When he had to go over and take the lands from the people, his fellow Jewish friends and neighbors who were being sent to the gas chambers, I can’t imagine what that would do to a teenager, or anybody, to an adult. Well what did it do to George Soros? In an interview with Steve Croft, Soros was asked if he felt guilt at all about taking the property from the Jews as a teenager. He responded — no. He also said, quote, I don’t deny the Jews their national existence but I don’t want to be a part of it.
The quote about “national existence,” incidentally, is not from the 1998 interview with Steve Croft on “60 Minutes” but from a 1995 interview with Connie Bruck in The New Yorker. And it came in a completely different context — in the course of a discussion about how Soros views universalism and particularism in his own Jewish commitment. But more on that later.
The Anti-Defamation League issued a statement calling the accusation — specifically the intent to “hold a young boy responsible for what was going on around him during the Holocaust as part of a larger effort to denigrate the man” — “horrific” and “repugnant,” along with “inappropriate,” “offensive” and “over the top.” The head of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants, Elan Steinberg, called the description — particularly the made-up part about “helping send the Jews to the death camps” — “a particularly monstrous lie.”
Strangely, Soros isn’t the first to slime Soros in this fashion. Back in February 2007, Soros was called “a young cog in the Hitlerite wheel” by none other than Marty Peretz, the editor and publisher of The New Republic, in an over-the-top entry in his blog, The Spine. Apparently, that wasn’t offensive. It’s not clear why not.
Peretz quoted at length from the 1998 Steve Croft interview on “60 Minutes” in which Croft asked Soros if he felt guilty at having participated. Here’s what Soros really said: “Not at all. Maybe as a child you don’t … you don’t see the connection.”
Pressed further, Soros said:
“I was only a spectator, the property was being taken away. So the — I had no role in taking away that property. So I had no sense of guilt.”
Peretz’s blog post is framed as a response to something Soros reportedly said at Davos shortly before:
Turkey and Japan were still hurt by a reluctance to admit to dark parts of their history and contrasted that reluctance to Germany’s rejection of its Nazi-era past. “America needs to follow the policies it has introduced in Germany. We have to go through a certain deNazification process.”
This made Peretz apoplectic. He decided that Soros wasn’t speaking metaphorically, he wasn’t comparing America to Turkey (does anyone remember the Cherokees? Wounded Knee?), he wasn’t saying “the United States is now where Weimar Germany was. He is saying that the United States is now where Germany after Weimar was.”
Had he been tried in a de-Nazification process for having been a young cog in the Hitlerite wheel, he would have felt that, since other people would have confiscated the same Jewish property and delivered the same deportation notices to the same doomed Jews, it was as if he hadn’t done it himself. He sleeps well, while we sleep in Nazi America.
Peretz was just getting warmed up. He continued:
Soros is ostentatiously indifferent to his own Jewishness. He is not a believer. He has no Jewish communal ties. He certainly isn’t a Zionist. He told Connie Bruck in The New Yorker — testily, she recounted — that “I don’t deny the Jews their right to a national existence — but I don’t want to be part of it.” But he has involved himself in the founding of an anti-aipac, more dovish Israel lobby. Suddenly, he wants to influence the character of a Jewish state about which he loudly cares nothing.
Now, let’s take this piece by piece. Soros is ostentatiously indifferent to his Jewishness? The quote from Connie Bruck’s 1995 New Yorker profile is part of a longer passage in which Soros is discussing his newfound embrace of his Jewish identity, not an indifference to it. (And remember, this interview was in 1995. It was old news by 2007.) Here’s Bruck:
In Hungary, Soros has been subject to anti-Semitic attacks. Referring to being a target, Soros, in his book, “Understanding Democracy,” wrote, “I am ready to stand up and be counted.” When I mentioned that rather suggestive line to Soros during one of several extended conversations with him, he responded quickly, “Right. It took me a long time.”
Soros told Bruck that in Hungary in those days, being Jewish was a stigma, that “the assimilationist Jews of Hungary had a deep sense of inferiority, and it took me a long time to work through that.” His own mother, he said, “was quite anti-Semitic, and ashamed of being Jewish.”
He remarked, with a dry chuckle, “Of course, this whole interest in universal ideas is a typical means to escape from the particular.”
Bruck probes deeper into the universalism-versus-particularism question (a familiar one to anybody who ever attended a Jewish youth movement), and
In response to my suggestion that he has a fundamental philosophical difference with Israel, Soros replied, testily, “I don’t deny the Jews their right to a national existence—but I don’t want to be part of it.”
Soros elaborated on his purported indifference to Israel in April 2007, in what amounted to a direct reply to Peretz’s February piece, in an essay in The New York Review of Books titled “On Israel, America and Aipac.” Here’s what he said about his attitude toward Israel:
AIPAC is protected not only by the fear of personal retaliation but also by a genuine concern for the security and survival of Israel. Both considerations have a solid foundation in reality… I am not insensitive to this argument. It has held me back from criticizing Israeli policies in the past. I am not a Zionist, nor am I am a practicing Jew, but I have a great deal of sympathy for my fellow Jews and a deep concern for the survival of Israel. I did not want to provide fodder to the enemies of Israel. I rationalized my position by saying that if I wanted to voice critical views, I ought to move to Israel. But since there were many Israelis who held such views my voice was not needed, and I had many other battles to fight.
It’s worth recalling, too, that back in December 2003, as part of his ostentatious avoidance of anything Jewish, Soros appeared before the Jewish Funders’ Network to talk about his view of the universal and the particular in Jewish engagement. I described it at the time in a Forward editorial, after viewing a videotape of the event.
“I am very much in the Jewish tradition of giving,” Soros told his audience. “That is a wonderful tradition. If you look around, Jews are more philanthropic than other people, and I definitely come from that tradition.” Soros went on to note that in the age-old divide between particularist and universalist Jewish activism, he has focused on the universalist. … But that quest for universal rights, he said, is in itself an aspect of Jewish tradition and is “the major reason why Jews have made such great contributions. I consider that to be the Jewish genius.”
But now, back to Beck:
Here’s some of the material that’s missing from the Fox-Beck transcript of the first show. Notice the scary music with the kettle drums and the screaming mobs as he takes us back history to the birth of George Soros. Note, too, that he provides a list of countries where Soros “collapsed” the regimes, without once mentioning that they were dictatorships in the former Soviet Union and communist Eastern Europe. He makes the $600 billion that Soros spent over the last 30 years promoting democracy and human rights in the former communist world sound like a conspiracy to subvert democracy and establish himself as some sort of emperor. It would be almost funny if it weren’t so outrageous.
Eighty years ago, George Soros was born. Little did the world know then economies would collapse. Currencies would become worthless. Elections would be stolen. Regimes would fall. And one billionaire would find himself coincidentally at the center of it all. He was born in Budapest Hungary on August 12, 1930, as George Schwartz, the son of Orthodox Jews. Today Soros is an atheist who doesn’t embrace his Jewish identity and rarely supports Jewish causes or Israel…. He later would be blamed for the financial collapses in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan and Russia. And who could forget that he was the man who broke the bank of England in 1992 shorting the sterling by betting heavily that the currency would collapse, despite government assurances to the contrary Along with currencies he also collapses regimes with his Open Society Fund, which was founded in 1979. Soros has helped fund the Velvet revolution in the Czech Republic, the Orange Revolution in the Ukraine, the Rose Revolution in Georgia. He also helped engineer coups in Slovakia , Croatia and Yugoslavia. So what is his target now? Us. America.
Jonathan Jeremy “J.J.” Goldberg is editor-at-large of the Forward, where he served as editor in chief for seven years (2000-2007).