The (hated) Prodigal Soros

Like madam, kayak and a wee town in Ireland called Navan, you can spell George Soros’ surname backwards and it reads the same. It’s called a palindrome, apparently. There’s one for a pub quiz.

George Soros definitely doesn’t see himself as backwards though.

Born in Nazi-occupied Budapest in 1930, he sees himself as a liberal, progressive philanthropist using his Open Society foundations to create……aye, open societies.

The foundations’ aims include “working to build vibrant and tolerant democracies whose governments are accountable to their citizens.”

Sounds fine, eh? Well, no. Some entire countries have a serious problem with him and have had for quite some time. His name was associated with protests once again at the weekend.

Thousands of Hungarians marched in Budapest, protesting new government legislation which could see the closure of his Central European University (CEU) in the city. He founded the university in 1991 and continues to fund it.

The new legislation would require ‘foreign’ universities to have a campus in their country of origin, meaning the college would have to close.

But Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban doesn’t have much time for the billionaire. At all.

Hating him seems to have become a pastime for the hard-right, anti-EU cloud that hangs over eastern Europe. The perfect boogy-man for the hardliners.

But what are they crying about?

They essentially see him as a liberal puppet of the West, out to destroy nationhood and nationalism by spreading his ultra-liberal ideas with hard cash.

And politicians aren’t shy about expressing their opinion of Soros on state owned television. Hungarian president Viktor Orban didn’t hold back in October 2015.

“His name is perhaps the strongest example of those who support anything that weakens nation states, they support everything that changes the traditional European lifestyle. These activists who support immigrants inadvertently become part of this international human-smuggling network.”

In FYR Macedonia, anti-Soros banners were held by nationalist demonstrators who for weeks protested a coalition deal between Albanian parties and the Social Democrats. (There’s been no movement on that front).

With Soros, it’s not only that he’s a billionaire and ultra-liberal, but he’s also seen as a foreign influence with foreign ideas. Even with the university debacle in Budapest, anti-foreign rhetoric isn’t too far from the surface.

Viktor Orban says that there were violations of regulations in awarding diplomas at the CEU. But is that really the reason for the government’s attempt to close the university?

He asks why Hungary should put its own universities at a disadvantage while giving an “unfair advantage [to] the foreign university.”

Fake News has also been rife in these countries (and also Romania). FYR Macedonia was the root of this problem during the American presidential election.

But he has used his money to influence elements in eastern Europe. Is it not expected then that the hard-right and conservatives would try to stop this man coming with all his money and spreading his ‘foreign’ values?

Expected? Yes, perhaps. Legitimate? No. The closure of the CEU is an attack on free-speech and education. It is anti-democratic to the core, no matter how hard they try to paint it in legitimacy.

As the protests continue, Soros will continue to fund pro-Western elements, and wield his influence, in eastern Europe.

And there, maybe even more so than America, the new political spectrum is at play.

The nationalist, anti-EU, pro-Russia, anti-Islam, ‘border here, border there’ people and the liberal, pro-EU, pro-Western, ‘tear-down-borders’ people.

The divide between these groups is wide. Most people have instinctively picked a side and there isn’t much of a middle.

The only thing in the middle is the letter ‘r’.

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