He’s a Jewish multi-billionaire philanthropist who has given away $32bn. Why does the hard right from America to Australia and from Hungary to Honduras believe George Soros is at the heart of a global conspiracy, asks the BBC’s Mike Rudin.
One quiet Monday afternoon last October in leafy upstate New York, a large manila envelope was placed in the mailbox of an exclusive country mansion belonging to multi-billionaire philanthropist George Soros.
The package looked suspicious. The return address was misspelt as “FLORIDS” and the mail had already been delivered earlier that day. The police were called and soon the FBI was on the scene.
Inside the bubble-wrapped envelope was a photograph of Soros, marked with a red “X”. Alongside it, a six-inch plastic pipe, a small clock, a battery, wiring and a black powder.
More than a dozen similar packages were sent to the homes of former President Barack Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other prominent Democrats.
None of the devices exploded. The FBI traced the bombs to a white van covered in pro-Trump and anti-Democrat stickers, parked in a supermarket car park in Florida.
Immediately the right-wing media claimed it was a “false-flag” operation intended to derail President Donald Trump and the Republican campaign, just two weeks before the crucial US mid-term elections.
Soon the internet was awash with allegations that the bomb plot was a hoax organised by Soros himself.
President Trump condemned the “despicable acts”, but when a member of the audience at a White House reception shouted “Soros! Lock him up!” the president seemed amused.
Then a 56-year-old Florida man called Cesar Sayoc was arrested.
Conspiracy theories claimed he wasn’t actually a Republican. But Luigi Marra, a former work colleague, told me how Sayoc used to deliver pizzas in his van plastered with pro-Trump stickers and argue with customers if they had Democratic posters at their homes.
“Everything for him was a conspiracy theory, everything. George Soros was the one behind everything, he was the one buying the whole Democratic Party, he was the epicentre of what is going wrong in the United States of America.”
Sayoc’s social media revealed more. On the day the pipe bomb was discovered at George Soros’s house, Sayoc reposted a meme claiming, “The world is waking up to the horrors of George Soros.”
Sayoc later pleaded guilty to 65 counts, including intent to kill or injure with explosives, and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
So how did George Soros come to be regarded by so many as the evil mastermind at the heart of a global conspiracy?