Why Is Geroge Soros Vilified?
And Chomsky is not?
George Soros, perhaps one of the two greatest investors of all time, unlike his counterpart Warren Buffet, is also an established man of letters and philosopher of some merit. Kicking off his philosophical discourse as a student of Popper, he abandoned it as one morning he could not make sense of what he had scribbled just the other night. Thus he set himself on a quest of making money and with that done, perhaps surprisingly for men of his vocation, returned to his point of origin and began to take Popper’s ideas one step further (in a practical sense) with his foundations.
It is this latter process that has led him to make many enemies. But why is this the case if the foundation’s purpose is to further the prosperity and well-being of the societies in which it operates? This article attempts to answer this question by means of an analogy with Chomsky.
But let us first take a quick look into the nature of these attacks against Soros, which are best described as conspiracy theories.
Flat-Earth Like Theories
The conspiracy theories on Soros are proliferating worse than religious sects were in the 18th and 19th centuries. Incidentally, it may be said in general that theorizing such conspiracies is simply an after shot of religious feelings (now that God has essentially died) and are on par with their other sibling, the cult.
Viewing the extremeness of these conspiracy theories as satisfying a normal distribution, in the one end of the tail we would have the most extreme ones, the ones that are akin to flat earth theories. Hence the first point that should be made is that a good chunk of this vilification of Soros essentially has its origins in childlike reasonings, which are not even worthy to examine as they fall apart with the most delicate exercise of rationalization.
As such, the more extreme end of the conspiracy theories is nullifiable without further ado. What are we to make of the other, more ‘refined’ and less fantastical theories?
Less Fantastical Theories
This set is also ridiculously easy to dismiss. And we need not even go into the details of each theory for this. The very fact that all these conspiracy theories are so widespread among the rabble, and find so many supporters, in itself serves to refute the vast majority of them.
And for our purposes here we can invoke that most ancient dictum on which all the philosophers of all times have essentially subscribed to (and boy is it hard to get two of these fellas to entirely agree on anything):
What the rabble cumulatively believes in is of very little value.
Goethe, perhaps put it most playfully in the following lines:
Alle die Weisesten aller der Zeiten
Lächeln und winken und stimmen mit ein:
Töricht, auf Besserung der Toren zu harren!
Kinder der Kugheit, o habet die Narren
Eben zum Narren auch, wie sichs gehört!
Why Is Soros Vilified and Chomsky Is Not?
Having amassed a fortune, Soros decided to go back to his point origin: Popper. His insight? Applying in practice the philosophy of the open society.
The purpose of his foundation has therefore been the opening of the closed societies — in particular, the foundation has been very influential in the post-communist countries after the breakdown of the Soviet Union —, correcting the deficiencies of open societies, and promoting a critical mode of thinking.
It is out of the scope of this article but if one is to once look at the record, the net effect of the foundation on the world has been overwhelmingly positive. This is a fact.
What is more, a large chunk of his most sworn political enemies today, were actually erstwhile beneficiaries of Soros’ grants. Soros himself supported many of them with no inkling at the time that they would turn out to be grave manipulators. Fate it seems is not without a sense of irony.
The turning point, that is the point when Soros started receiving massive backlash, probably came after a sudden insight of Soros on the nature of open societies. Popper was very technical when discussing the open society, mostly looking at it from an epistemological point of view, and excluding any political implications. What Soros recognized is that his greatest teacher’s teachings were inherently flawed when practically applied.
Based on his concept of reflexivity, which he recognizes as the key factor in making his fortune in the stock markets, Soros concluded that Popper’s on-paper open society could not work as long as the manipulative function took precedence over the cognitive one, in other words as long as the leaders’ discourse was not aimed at discovering reality but rather at manipulating it.
This is in a nut-shell what happens in almost every democracy today.
This consists of a turning point because it likely made Soros realize that a more rigorous approach was called for if his foundation was to succeed. Thus, during the Bush administration, Soros’ boldness increased and he started asserting himself more openly in the US political scene and hence also in the international one.
And this is where the problems start. You see, a guy with such a massive fortune dedicated to real-world structures that have a very discernible, real-world effect, such an extremely well-connected individual, poses a massive threat to these modern autocrats, and their counterparts, the average-manipulative-politicians since his aim is exactly the opposite of the whole being of these politicians.
Thus, the more impact the foundation had in a particular country, the more it asserted itself as a factor, the more it entrenched in the corrupt power of these leaders so to speak, the more they fought back as is to be expected. And they fought back in the way they best know to do so: by further manipulating reality. Considering their demagogue nature, they mostly did this by vilifying Soros as a whole, which is bound to be a success story given human psychology.
Seen in this new light, it then turns out that the more negative feelings and pushback there is against Soros in a particular country, which has its origins into the rulers of the country alone, the more of a positive work his foundation has been doing. Here, it is more than apt to evaluate the accusations voiced by the accusers' souls themselves. Take Victor Orban as the quintessential example of this.
It goes without saying that at some point blaming Soros for everything became a trendy idea, based on that most ancient human principle of scapegoating to vent out frustration and failure. At this point in 2022, it's essentially a safe bet for any demagogue to use Soros as the source of 1001 evils in their country.
But why is then Chomsky, who has uttered similar thoughts with Soros on a few matters, and has actually uttered incredibly much more, deeper thoughts in the great game of politics, which incidentally might be as much as 1000-fold more potent than Soros's thoughts, not vilified? To be fair, Chomsky has had his fair share of uncalled-for troubles for speaking out the truth so beautifully and decisively but this is a child’s play compared to Soros’ lot.
The reason lies in a miscalculation in reason of the attackers. Chomsky’s effects are in reality tremendously much more nefarious than Soros’ can ever be and this is because Chomsky enlightens the minds of future generations, and these future generations, in turn, have a much mightier influence taken cumulatively than Soros could ever have. If we are to once draw a comparison, we might liken the former with a sun that shines bright and high in the firmament, and the latter with a comet, whose effects are but momentarily. Incidentally, this is the most secret desire of philosophers: to be able to dominate the entire world — and on top of that timelessly so —, with their thoughts and ideas.
But because Chomsky’s influence is far-fetched, because his effects are not felt immediately, he does not constitute so much of a threat for these kinds of weak-eyesight politicians. Soros on the other hand has an immediate effect on day-to-day matters. Hence he is attacked and vilified considerably more than the former.
Albania Case Study
A short, but informative, documentary on The Open Society Foundation’s (OSF) work in Albania, for a quick background, can be found here.
Does OSF influence politics? Absolutely. But this is a tautology: if you want to change something, how can you do it without influencing it? The problem presents itself to us when this influence is mostly negative rather than positive. It is inevitable that mistakes will be made. Soros himself has accepted this much. But the important bit is that all in all, the overarching purpose is not lost.
If we leave for once out of the picture the immensely positive impact that the foundation has had in education and other fields in Albania and focus rather on Soros’ personal ties to the incumbent prime minister Edi Rama we get to the ground where real critique applies, at least in a first superficial view of the problem.
This question bugged me for some time: Why has Soros supported an autocrat, such as Edi Rama is? This question can be answered on several levels.
Historically, the support that Rama received has probably been on par with the support that other politicians were receiving at the time. Then, Rama came to the political scene with the facade of the young western man after decades of brutal communist dictatorship in the country. This perception was very strong in his first three years in politics but actually lingered for much longer (probably for as much as 10 years) even after it was once pierced through the true nature of this individual.
So based on Soros’ early perspective in Albania, Rama must have been a viable option for realizing his projects. It must also be kept in mind that it is quite difficult, if not to say impossible altogether, to truly know a person’s character, which coupled with the rare meetings that the two men had, makes Soros’ decision to rely on Rama understandable.
However, as of today, Soros’ support stands strong for the regime in Albania. Arguably, Soros himself is less and less involved in his foundation’s work with each passing year but still, this connection has to somehow be explained. And again, there are various levels at which we can look at this.
From one perspective, it might be beneficial for the foundation to have zones that are amiable to it, for keeping up in the grand scheme of political games. While the foundation is supposed to change the societies where it operates the opposite also happens: the societies in which it operates change the foundation. This sums up cumulatively globally. In other words, while OSF might have started as somewhat disconnected by grand-scheme politics as time went on it became entrenched into it and now can be described as a global political player. In this respect, the influence even in such a small country as Albania has its benefits.
One such benefit is probably the judiciary reform that has been going on in the country since 2016 and which was started with the blessing and guidance of OSF. From the short-term perspective of Albania, this reform is an unmitigated disaster. From the perspective of the foundation, however, it might serve as a sort of beta test for this sort of judiciary reform in developing countries. And this is acceptable in the grand scheme of things. Albania might indeed have been damaged in the short term but this might help in a grand scheme of global political research of some sort.
Moreover, it is not clear whether the judiciary reform is a failure in the long term in Albania itself. The autocrat has been strengthened by it, granted. But what might matter most is rather that the structures are set in place and perhaps in a near future, with different, less aggressive political actors, as well as slightly improved general conditions, the foundations created by the judiciary reform might start kicking in.
Finally, it is can often be difficult to change a single person's mind. This converges to extreme difficulty bordering on the impossible when one tries to change society as a whole. The judiciary reform was perhaps judged too harshly by Albanian thinkers. As time goes on, it will probably be seen as a useful stepping stone. And that is what counts.
At any rate, the ties between the OSF and this particular autocrat seem to be beneficial for both parties. When taking into consideration George Soros himself, it might be a simple miscalculation of character, straightforward political influence benefits for his foundation, plain indifference, or even a cheap lab-rat for testing out certain theories.
Thanks for reading.
As always, constructive criticism and discussion of any kind are highly appreciated.
Remember what physics teaches us: One’s goal is to be less wrong about everything.