Editor's note: Michael Wolraich is a founder of the political blog dagblog.com and the author of "Blowing Smoke: Why the Right Keeps Serving Up Whack-Job Fantasies about the Plot to Euthanize Grandma, Outlaw Christmas, and Turn Junior into a Raging Homosexual."
New York -- Creepy medieval puppets hung from the ceiling on the set of the "Glenn Beck Program" -- a conquistador, a squire, a witch, and a bearded guy who looked like a cross between Santa Claus and the Fiddler on the Roof.
"Make no mistake, we are watching a show," Beck gravely told his audience. That much was obvious enough, but Beck did not mean his own television program. "You have to see who's behind the puppets," he continued, "Who is choosing the puppets and the players? Who's the puppetmaster? George Soros."
George Soros is an 80-year-old Jewish billionaire. Born in Hungary in 1930, he survived the Holocaust and eventually immigrated to the United States, where he made a fortune as a currency speculator and became an international philanthropist. After the Iron Curtain collapsed, Soros donated generously to Hungary and other Eastern Bloc countries, funding scholarships, university endowments, and science grants.
In return for his generosity, anti-Semites in the new Hungarian parliament accused him of participating in an international Jewish conspiracy to bankrupt Hungary in order to restore communist rule -- despite the fact that Soros had been an ardent opponent of Hungary's communist regime
Anti-Sorosism first arrived in the United States in the late 1990s, courtesy of renowned crackpot Lyndon LaRouche. LaRouche has published a number of articles in his comically misnamed journal, the Executive Intelligence Review, accusing Soros of devious manipulations ranging from an attempt to start World War III to running drugs for Queen Elizabeth II's drug cartel.
But LaRouche's audience is small, and most Americans paid little attention to George Soros. In 2003, everything changed. Infuriated by the policies of George W. Bush, Soros sent his philanthropy homeward, donating $23 million to political action groups during the 2004 election. Suddenly, George Soros became the most powerful, evil mastermind in the world.
First, the influential conservative magazine NewsMax ran a story that cribbed LaRouche's conspiracy theories and accused Soros of secretly plotting a "regime change" in the United States. Then Fox News host Bill O'Reilly discovered that Soros' foundation had donated to the ACLU and therefore reasoned that the billionaire and the civil liberties organization were conspiring to destroy Christmas.
When former Republican majority leader Tom DeLay ran into trouble for ethics violations, he blamed Soros for masterminding critical coverage by the New York Times, the Washington Post, the L.A. Times, Time magazine, and Newsweek. And former speaker of the House Dennis Hastert insinuated to an incredulous Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday" that Soros got his money from drug operations. (Hastert did not mention Queen Elizabeth II, however.)
Glenn Beck, as usual, trumped them all. He told his audience that Soros has a five-step plan:
1. Create a "shadow government" under the guise of humanitarian aid.
2. Take control of the media.
3. Destabilize the state by building anti-government sentiment. (Yes, Beck attacked his opponent for building anti-government sentiment.)
4. Subvert the American electoral system.
5. Take over the world, of course.
Glenn Beck's conspiracy theories are no less bizarre and inflammatory than those of LaRouche, but his nightly audience numbers in the millions. Earlier this year, Americans voted Beck their second favorite television personality after Oprah Winfrey.
In consequence, he is far more dangerous. It must be a great sorrow to George Soros, who having survived the Holocaust now finds himself the subject of the same kind of conspiracy theories that the Nazis used to demonize the Jews.
The big bad "Jewish masterminds" of Hitler's day were the Rothschilds, a family of bankers who have featured prominently in anti-Semitic conspiracy theories since the 1800s. Like Soros, they have been accused of controlling the media, instigating war, overthrowing governments, and of course, taking over the world.
But in 21st century America, a popular television host cannot outright espouse anti-Semitic ideas. Thus, Glenn Beck took pains to present himself as a friend of the Jews. According to Beck, it was George Soros who was the anti-Semite.
Soros had survived the Holocaust by, at 14, pretending to be the godson of a non-Jewish Hungarian official. Since the official's responsibilities included confiscating Jewish properties, Beck implied that Soros had cooperated with the Nazis. This accusation too echoes Lyndon LaRouche, who has published articles calling Soros "a small cog in Adolf Eichmann's killing machine" and "a Nazi beast-man seizing Jewish properties."
Welcome to the "Glenn Beck Program," where Jews are Nazis and those who exploit ancient anti-Semitic conspiracy narratives are friends of the Jews.
Beck himself said it best,
"There are a few working parts to a puppet show. There is the puppet master. Here. There is a stage. There's the audience. There are the strings to each puppet. And then there's the story. There is also why? Why is the story? Why is the show happening? What is the puppet master? What is his motivation? Is it for the money? Is it for entertainment? Is it personal gain? What is it?"
What is it, Mr. Beck?
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Michael Wolraich.