November 4, 2018

We here at Crooks & Liars have long been purveyors of "both sides DON'T" when doing media analysis. (But let's also give full credit to Driftglass for nailing this particularly insidious and lazy bit of normalizing bad Republican behavior for more than ten years now.) And one of the more gratifying (if you can call it that) aspects of life in Trump-adjusted terms, is that more and more people are becoming aware of the dangers of both-siderism and how that media framing is actively hurting democracy.

So take Eliana Johnson, Political reporter for Politico, who is quick to normalize the right wing's demented conspiracy theories about George Soros by saying that the left invokes Sheldon Adelson all the time too.

I just want to be clear: I think what is being said about George Soros is absolutely wrong, the subject of this right wing fear-mongering. Adelson is the subject of the same kind of fear-mongering on the left. President Obama made the same sort of remarks about the Koch brothers. While the right wing was critical of both of those things, I don't recall the mainstream media bringing the same amount of attention to it at the time."

Yeah, no. There is NO equivalent of what the right wing ascribes to George Soros (from aiding the Nazis during WWII to actually paying for those scary migrants traveling to apply for asylum) to anyone else. At some point, reality and facts HAVE to come into the conversation (but not for that sad little milquetoast Brian Stelter).

Sheldon Adelson is the single largest donor to campaigns, some $113M this election cycle exclusively to Republican candidates, an investment that is dwarfed by what he'll get back in tax cuts, estimated to be in the billions.

In contrast, Soros has donated $17M this cycle. Not a small amount, but a fraction (roughly 15 percent) to Adelson's donations. Soros' philanthropic activities are more geared human rights activism and fighting authoritarian groups. Even so, he doesn't come close to the level of donations of Adelson.

Where does the irrational fear of Soros come from? Would you believe it started in Russia (and that Republicans have been gullible dupes for Russian propaganda for years)?

Three things happened in the early 2000s that began the international vilification of George Soros.

The first came in 2003, when the Rose Revolution in Georgia saw the ousting of Eduard Shevardnadze, the former Soviet foreign minister who became president of Georgia in the 1990s, and the rise of Mikheil Saakashvili, who then became president of the country. Saakashvili was fiercely critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who once apparently threatened to hang his Georgian counterpart “by the balls.” Open Society had backed some of the NGOs and political figures involved in the revolution, and one of Saakashvili’s Cabinet members, Alexander Lomaia, had been executive director of the Georgian branch of Open Society. Soros himself has said that his role in Georgia has been greatly exaggerated. But that didn’t matter as much as the fact that he had attracted Putin’s attention.

The second was in 2004, when Soros turned his attention to American politics, donating$27 million in the 2004 election cycle against then-president George W. Bush, who was not available for an interview for this article. Soros called working to oust Bush the “central focus” of his life, and said that Bush’s “with us or against us” rhetoric in the wake of 9/11 reminded him of “the Germans,” adding, “My experiences under Nazi and Soviet rule have sensitized me."

In late August of that year, Dennis Hastert, then speaker of the House, appeared on Fox News Sunday to say, “You know, I don’t know where George Soros gets his money. I don’t know where — if it comes overseas or from drug groups or where it comes from … George Soros has been for legalizing drugs in this country. So, I mean, he’s got a lot of ancillary interests out there.” Hastert, who last year was released from prison for illegally structuring bank withdrawals to pay off a student he had sexually abused, did not respond to a request for comment.

And the third thing was that, in 2010 — the same year that Glenn Beck put out three hours of anti-Soros programming on Fox News (Beck declined a request for an interview about where his interest in Soros came from) — a former Soros scholarship student named Viktor Orbán returned to power in Hungary, in the midst of the world economic crisis.

Orbán used Soros as the bogeyman willing to pay to bring thousands of migrants to "pollute" Europe and push polled against the "Soros agenda" to win election.

So it is true that both Adelson and Soros are criticized for money they give (although again, not nearly at the same scale), ONLY Soros is criticized for things that he's falsely accused of doing to the point of being the man conservative conspiracists think is ripping the fabric of society apart. No one accuses Adelson of the anti-Semitic slur of being a "globalist" though his influence in America is significantly larger.

Professor of Journalism and media critic Jay Rosen noticed the exchange as well.

To which Eliana Johnson had a patronizing and highly disingenuous reply

But Rosen wasn't having it.

It's a small comfort, but it is nice to see influencers pushing back on both-siderism with us.

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