Untold Story of George Soros’ Worldwide Soft Power Empire
15:52 GMT 24.08.2023 (Updated: 16:34 GMT 24.08.2023)
© AP Photo / Kevin WolfSoros Fund Management Chairman George Soros testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington (File)
© AP Photo / Kevin Wolf
Elon Musk has confirmed X’s plans to sue NGOs funded by US financier George Soros over their alleged attempt to crack down on free speech. What’s the lawsuit about? Who is Mr. Soros? And how has his name come to feature so prominently in many of the most politically disruptive events of the first decades of the 21st century? Sputnik explains.
X CEO Elon Musk dropped a bombshell late Wednesday after confirming that his social media empire would “be filing legal action” to “stop” an attempted crackdown on free speech by politicians and George Soros-funded NGOs justified using trumped-up data on the number of "hate incidents" in the British Isles. “Can’t wait for discovery to start!” Musk wrote.
The billionaire did not elaborate, prompting users and media to speculate on the exact nature of the case.
Musk’s message was a response to a report by an independent Irish journalist accusing authorities in Ireland and Scotland of inflating statistics about “hate-based offenses” to pass a new “hate speech” law which would make it a criminal offense to possess “hateful material” on your person or in your home – including up to a year in prison and a 5,000 euro fine for those refusing to hand over their digital device passwords to the authorities.
The crackdown is reportedly being backed by George Soros-funded non-government organizations (NGOs) accused of supporting a hardline censorship agenda, including by supporting police intervention and the seizure of personal phones and computers, as well as raids on the homes of the accused.
What is Soft Power?
Soros-backed NGOs’ alleged attempts to influence Irish and Scottish government policy are a prime example of soft power.
Soft power, or the use of ideological, cultural, or economic influence rather than force to achieve one’s policy objectives, has been a primary tool of US and European foreign policy from at least the mid-1980s onward. After 1991, Western countries working to build the post-Cold War unipolar world order used soft power tools to spread visions of liberal democracy, free market economics, and "open societies" as "universal values" applicable to all nations. Countries refusing to adhere to these concepts have faced invasions, crushing sanctions, and coup d’états (among them Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Ukraine, just to name a few).
George Soros, 93, has been a staple of Western soft power campaigns for well over 40 years, and is perhaps the single most visible face of such efforts (although certainly not the first or only one). His Open Society Foundations spends around $1.5 billion a year from the financier’s vast hedge fund empire to fund “civil society” groups around the globe.
How Do Soros’ NGOs Work With Soft Power, and What Ideology Do They Spread?
While conservatives often characterize Soros as a “leftist,” “communist,” or even “neo-Marxist,” his actions in Eastern Europe in the late 1980s and early 1990s reveal that he can best described as a standard social and economic liberal, promoting a vision of the world which both social conservatives and traditional leftists abhor – that is, the spread of a neoliberal political, social, and economic order perhaps best exemplified by academic Francis Fukuyama in his famous 1989 essay "The End of History?"
The Hungarian-born hedge fund manager and financier got his start in soft power "philanthropy" in the 1980s, providing funding for groups promoting radical political, economic, and institutional reforms in the communist nations of Eastern Europe and the USSR. He quickly ramped up the scale and scope of his activities in the region after the collapse of the Eastern Bloc in 1989 and the end of the Soviet Union in 1991.
9 April, 04:02 GMT
Soros’ Open Society Foundations and other major Western political philanthropic institutions like them succeeded in creating an entire generation of new political and social leaders in over 60 countries, not just in Eastern Europe and the Global South, but many Western countries as well, including the United States.
OSF’s initiatives include a mind-numbing array of the types of support it provides, from generous grants to political parties pushing liberal, pro-Western politics, to money for media, think tanks, academia, and publishing houses (including those pushing textbooks for children), as well as modern art.
© Photo : Open Society FoundationsScreenshot of OSF presentation from 2017 showing countries where George Soros' Open Society Foundations operate.
Screenshot of OSF presentation from 2017 showing countries where George Soros' Open Society Foundations operate.
© Photo : Open Society Foundations
Soros in Ukraine
Setting up shop in Ukraine immediately after independence in 1992, Soros’ foundations played an intimate role in the formation of the country’s post-Soviet elites, especially its liberal, pro-Western faction.
Both during the Orange Revolution of 2004 and the Euromaidan coup in 2014, the OSF had a critical job to play in financing and otherwise supporting the "revolutionaries," from lobbying efforts targeting US allies to “legalize” the coup, to meeting with the country’s new authorities to advise them on policy, to spending vast sums of money on an array of domestic "civil society" initiatives (including over $181 million by late 2015 alone).
Ukraine, perhaps more than any other case study to date, demonstrates the effective synergy between private "soft power" wielded by billionaires like Soros combined with institutions like USAID and the US State Department, showing the effective role soft power in creating a crisis from scratch, and then attempting to use it to achieve a geopolitical objective.
© Sputnik / Nikolay LazarenkoUkrainian President Petro Poroshenko (second left) and George Soros (right), founder and chairman of the Open Society Foundations, during a meeting in Kiev
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (second left) and George Soros (right), founder and chairman of the Open Society Foundations, during a meeting in Kiev
© Sputnik / Nikolay Lazarenko/
Americans Get a Taste of Soros
Before the political rise of Donald Trump, Soros-linked organizations played a mostly low-key role in American politics, with the OSF’s initiatives and allies not really popping up on the radars of ordinary Americans before the rise of Black Lives Matter (which, it turns out, began receiving generous funding from Soros-linked groups from 2016 onwards).
Since then, the OSF has been thoroughly linked to financing of the election campaigns of judges (including some of those now looking to prosecute former President Donald Trump), and the bankrolling of major candidates for high political office. In 2022, a series of memos from an influential, but highly secretive Soros-linked Washington, DC-based nonprofit revealed that the billionaire had helped to formulate the then-incoming Biden administration’s policies across nearly two dozen policy areas, including the environment, education, healthcare, housing, and labor.
Where Have Soros and His OSF Been Banned?
Russia was the first country to move to stamp out Soros’ activities, banning the OSF and its affiliates in 2015. The Pakistani government issued a similar order against the OSF in late 2017, although the organization’s activities have since been reapproved. Turkiye banned the OSF in late 2018, citing the NGO’s meddling in domestic politics. The same year, the Hungarian parliament issued a series of measures aimed at forcing the OSF to close down its operations in Soros’ native Hungary. Poland’s nationalist authorities similarly called for a “de-Sorosization” of society in the late 2010s.
What is OSF’s Future?
Soros’ 37-year-old son Alexander took the reins of his father’s $25 billion business and soft power philanthropy empire in June, having replaced him as the OSF’s chairman in late 2022.
Last week, the OSF announced a “radical shift of strategic direction” for grantees, moving to end much of its operations across the European Union as part of a “global review of how we work to support democracy, human rights and climate justice.”
It’s not clear how much of an impact the shift in strategy will have on other countries where Soros-linked NGOs operate. However, if the billionaire’s comments about Trump being a “danger to the world” and the “threat” Russia and China supposedly pose to “open societies” are anything to go by, the OSF will likely ramp up its activities to prevent the former president’s reelection, and do whatever is in its power to prevent the emergence of a genuine multipolar world order.