Back in the 1990s when I was a racist and antisemite who didn’t think he was a racist and antisemite, I believed that the Jews controlled the world. They had infiltrated our government, media, academia, and finance, and ruled behinds the scenes. The puppet masters at the top were the international bankers, most notably the Jewish ones, like the Rothschilds. The antisemitic far-right grand conspiracy narrative was and is flexible, with Jews prominently mentioned while not always explicitly pointing that out.
Those who did not want to endorse the racist version could talk about international bankers and use the same conspirator names, but not make it about race. One example of this was Pat Robertson’s ghostwritten book the New World Order, which was based in part on the Secrets of the Federal Reserve, by a man I once met, Eustace Mullins, who was blatantly antisemitic in a scholarly way. By embracing the same overarching conspiracy, it is easier for groups on the right to find common cause with each other and potentially to indoctrinate people into explicit racism.
When explicit racists look at the Civil Rights movement, it is not uncommon for them to claim that blacks could not have possibly done that on their own without outside influence, because black people were not smart enough or were otherwise inferior. They might say that blacks were content until liberals agitated them. They might claim that communists were trying to stir things up with Civil Rights to bring socialism to our shores. The last two claims can even be heard by some on the more mainstream right.
In most answers to who ‘they’ are, however, antisemitic conspiracy theorists will say “It’s the Jews.” The Jews were behind communism and have brainwashed white liberals to destroy their own country, they might say. The Jews want to stir up the lower races in America to take things away from the white Christians. The Jews want to bring in mongrel hordes to destroy our culture and lower our living standards. The Jews want to foment rebellion among leftists to bring down our government and implement a socialist dystopia and ultimately bring us into a one world government. There are variations to the theme, but that is the gist of it.
In explaining the nature of antisemitic narratives, I should be clear that I no longer hold these believes and now ardently oppose them. However, since I was once steeped in antisemitism, I am familiar with the insidious way that it seeps into public consciousness. I now see more antisemitism in the mainstream that I have in my lifetime, from all sources, but especially on the right.
George Soros is the new Rothschild, based on the way he is portrayed in conspiracy theories. Soros existed when I was in the far right, but he was not the boogeyman that he is now. While Rothschild is still the main demon when many explain the grand conspiracy, those on the more mainstream right tend to key in on Soros, who has the advantage of being much more real and present. It is easier to follow the money of Soros and his organization. He is pro-migration. He funds Democrats. He funds Black Lives Matter. He has funded Media Matters. He has used his wealth to profit off financial instability in other nations. He also happens to be Jewish.
All criticism of George Soros is not necessarily antisemitic, nor should it be considered as such. Further, calling any criticism of Soros antisemitic is counter-productive, as that can fuel antisemites, who already say that Jews use claims of antisemitism to protect themselves. I also think many who play into antisemitism narratives about Soros do so in ignorance. Intent matters, but accidental antisemitism does not mean it is not antisemitic. However, in the context that impeachment testifier Fiona Hill was recently asked about Soros, she was absolutely right that the Soros conspiracy theory is the new Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The Protocols were the famous forgery that has been used for decades to demonize Jews, including by Henry Ford. The conspiracy theory underlying the Protocols, Rothschilds, and Soros shares many threads and tropes.
A few years ago, one far-right Facebook friend of a friend asserted that Black Lives Matter and antifa (i.e., anti-fascists, who tend to dress in black bloc) were funded by Soros, with all of them following the Frederick School blueprint to destabilize the country. Now, putting aside that antifa are mostly small autonomous groups who use tactics that do not require much funding, this is a good example how the threat from within and below is expressed. The protest actions of athletes like Colin Kaepernick also can be associated with this threat area, based on this way of thinking.
The Soviet Union and its satellites, aka communism, were the big threat in the 1980s. Communism was both an external and internal threat. Externally, the threat of infiltration and invasion was very real to Americans. Conspiracy theorists like Brigadier General Jack Mohr claimed that the scenario in the original Red Dawn movie was a very real threat, for instance. Internally, far-right conspiracy theorists saw communism as a threat that included leftist protest groups, but the bigger threat was communists in positions of influence. I remember reading a book called Behind Communism that explicitly made that point. The Jews are behind it and here’s list of Jews in media and government. We were then told that ‘they’ did not want anyone to see the truth about Jews, and so Jews wielded the Holocaust and accusations of antisemitism like a weapon. Antisemites weave in enough history and examples to make it seem not crazy, but rational. The reasons antisemites give, however, are within the construct of an oversimplified global conspiracy where everything is connected, nothing is as it seems, and nothing happens by accident.
Immigration as a whole has been cause for concern on the far right for decades. Illegal immigration was seen a threat by which communists, criminals, terrorists, Muslims, and those with diseases could come in the United States. Ultimately, it was the influx of non-whites that was the issues for racists and antisemites. Within years, the white race would be mongrelized (i.e., brown) and easier to control as part of a one-world government.
I used to believe in Christian Identity, which is a heretical Christian theology complete with a Manichean conspiracy theory. We believed all of the above, but since we considered ourselves Christians, we also said that white Christians, the hope of the world, were at risk of being eliminated. We saw ourselves as the true Israel, so that meant that God’s chosen people were endangered. Who would do that? Those who say they are Jews but are not, but are of the synagogue of Satan (see Revelation 2:9, a verse quoted by the Poway shooter). To us, modern Jewry were false Jews. Back then, I would have connected everything using news, history, and the Bible, to weave together a narrative that seemed true and was not so easily debunked, and yet false.
We liked to refer to the conspiratorial Jews as Zionists, which tied them to the modern nation of Israel and to Talmudic law. We noted the United States had close ties to its ally Israel and said that Jews controlled our government with money and their sob stories about persecution. The Holocaust, or Holohoax, as some of us called it, was seen as a lie concocted by the Zionists so they could claim victimhood and avoid criticism. I have since been to Berlin and been to the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. It is an impressive world of cognitive dissonance that Holocaust-deniers live in.
Talmudic law was based on the Talmud, which was a collection of writings about Jewish law and tradition. We spent an inordinate amount of time obsessing over the Talmud. We claimed the Talmud was the basis international law and an alternate religious paradigm based on tradition rather than the Bible, and thus anti-Christian. Jews were seen as infiltrators and parasites who did not produce anything of their own, but just fed off a host. That was the only way they could rule the world and yet be inferior. Jews had also infiltrated Christianity, hence Judeo-Christianity, and made lots of evangelicalism lionize them as God’s Chosen People embodied in the Nation of Israel, who could do no wrong. Here it is worth noting that some antisemitic tropes are on more than just the far right. However, in my experience, antisemites on the far right are more likely to attach their antisemitism to this grand conspiracy narrative.
The Jewish infiltration of the United States government was labelled Zionist Occupied Government, or ZOG. This was the named enemy in the Turner Diaries, which has inspired domestic terrorist groups like The Order and terrorists like Timothy McVeigh. The idea of an ‘infiltrated government that is becoming more tyrannical’ is popular in many parts of the far right: militias, Christian Identity, white nationalists, neo-Nazis, sovereign citizens, etc. Not all of them embrace the racist narrative, but they nevertheless tend to believe pieces of the same primary conspiracy narrative with some variations and differences of focus.
White nationalists today are much more likely to have rejected Christian theology entirely in favor of atheism or some form of neo-paganism combined with their racial ideology. They have also formalized the idea of mass immigration mongrelizing the white race into two related ideas: white genocide and the great replacement. While demographic change based on immigration is a real phenomenon, it is not even close to fitting the definition of genocide, nor is anyone being replaced. That is not the problematic part though. It’s that many see it as an intentional conspiracy. Believers in this conspiracies may say it is being done by Jews or George Soros. Some may not mention Jews specifically nor believe it is the Jews. Some may use the ambiguous ‘they.’
When some mainstream right-wingers suggested George Soros was behind the caravans of non-white people coming into the United States prior to the 2018 midterms, I took notice. Whether any of his organizations were involved in assisting migrants isn’t even the point, because the conspiracy theories go beyond that to make him a puppet master who is orchestrating the mongrelization and destabilization of America in order to bring about a socialist utopia. There may be variations over time and between groups, but the basic conspiracy theory has remained the same.
The caravan narrative and right-wing media reaction also bore a striking resemblance to the Camp of the Saints novel, which tells the story of how caravans of lesser peoples from third-world countries come to Europe and bring down Western culture. Having read the novel twice, I can tell you it is overtly racist. It is also a book that Steve Bannon has publicly endorsed on multiple occasions, that Steve King publicly endorsed, and Steve Miller promoted to Katie McHugh while she was at Breitbart. King has also expressed concern about The Great Replacement and tied it to Soros.
Does everyone know when they share tropes and narratives that play into antisemitic conspiracy theories? No. However, I am less concerned about intent than effect. First, there are lots of people who already believe in these types of conspiracy theories and validating their beliefs may contribute to nudging them to act on their beliefs. Second, these types of conspiracy theories can transcend their boundaries. Minister Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam, has not just used antisemitic tropes, but said several things that sound similar to the same right-wing antisemitic conspiracy theory, just with more of a focus on his identity group. So, when different types of extremists can find common cause on their demonization of Jews, promotion of antisemitism from any group may contribute to rising antisemitism.
While antisemitic tropes and stereotypes are problematic, antisemitism “is a form of prejudice rooted in conspiracy,” as Vox’s Jane Coaston wrote. To notice it and evaluate it, one needs to understand its conspiratorial underpinnings. The kind of antisemitism that leads someone like Robert Bowers to shoot up a synagogue is the kind based on a specific conspiratorial narrative that to him seemed rational and imminent.