[Note: This is yet another reason for you all to subscribe to Haaretz, the equivalent of Israel’s New York Times. This article raises red flags, if they were not already noticed, of the danger of Tucker Carlson against American democracy, the well-being of American Jews and every minority community. Fox News is guilty of crass antisemitism as is Carlson.]
Fox News marked Holocaust Remembrance Day with a Tucker Carlson ‘Special’ glorifying Hungary’s white Christian nationalism and accusing Holocaust survivor George Soros of waging a ‘secret war’ on Western civilization. There should have been far more outrage
by Joshua Shanes – Haaretz
Jan. 30, 2022 1:54 PM
Thursday was International Holocaust Remembrance Day, established by the United Nations on the anniversary of the day Auschwitz was liberated in 1945. All over the world, national leaders, international institutions and media outlets commemorated those terrible years, honoring the six million Jews who perished, as well as the millions of other victims of Nazism, while advocating for education and action to prevent future genocides.
Not Fox News, though.
Instead, Fox News chose this moment to drop a new edition of “Tucker Carlson Originals” that “uncovers George Soros’ secret grip on Hungary and the media.” In preparation for its launch, Carlson spoke throughout the week about Soros’ “war” to make society “more dangerous, dirtier, less democratic, more disorganized, more at war with themselves, less cohesive – in other words, it’s a program of destruction aimed at the West.”
They are, in other words, marking Holocaust Remembrance Day with a fear-mongering special about the world’s most vilified Jew – a Holocaust survivor no less – whom they accuse of using his nefarious “grip on Hungary and the media” to “wage a secret war” on Western Civilization.
And they do this as part of a celebration of the authoritarian and deeply antisemitic prime minister of Hungary, Victor Orban, specifically celebrating his war against Soros and his alleged minions: the NGOs and international media that he allegedly controls.
This is, to be blunt, a reproduction of the most foundational myths of modern antisemitism, a fundamental part of the white Christian nationalist worldview that Carlson advocates. Their mainstreaming by Carlson and Fox News, and shockingly during this week, is dangerous and warrants more attention.
Carlson has a long history of accusing Soros of a malign plan to “remake” America. He is also an outspoken advocate of the antisemitic “Great Replacement” theory that posits white dominance in America is being undermined by demographic warfare orchestrated by (((globalist))) elites to “import” immigrants of color.
He is propagating precisely the antisemitic myths that sit at the heart of modern antisemitism and ultimately – when combined with the collapse of democracy – led to the Holocaust itself. It is also the antisemitic myth that led directly to the 2018 Tree of Life synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh.
Modern antisemitism is a product of the 19th century, when ancient and medieval Christian myths about Jews (ritual murder, connections to Satan, poisoning wells) evolved with the additional element of race — the argument that Jewish “traits” were immutable and could not be changed via conversion. Ethno-nationalists began imagining the nation as an organic, racially homogenous community in which Jews might be tolerated but could never truly belong.
One of the most important features of this modern antisemitic mythology was the belief that Jews constituted a single, ontological being, organized for the purpose of destroying the world by undermining the sovereignty and strength of the national community to which they could never belong.
The powerful “international Jew” (the title of Henry Ford’s infamous tract) led a global conspiracy with claws or tentacles strangling the nation and the world. A century ago, the villain was Edmond de Rothschild, head of the most famous Jewish banking family of the 19th century and a symbol of international Jewish wealth and power for antisemites at the time. Today, it is typically George Soros, often portrayed (as in a 2021 Fox News cartoon) with imagery out of the 19th century, as a puppet master secretly controlling all levers of government, economy and foreign migration. In Carlson’s own words, this is about the “billionaire who wants to run your country.”
It is this last accusation – that international Jewry through its Rothschilds and Soroses is engaged in a war against the pure white race by facilitating mass migration of non-white immigrants – that most animates today’s antisemites.
This myth has motivated killers throughout the past two centuries, from the Russian czar inciting pogroms to the Pittsburgh massacre. Even the assailant in Texas last week imagined the existence of an all-powerful Jewish cabal, headed in his imagination by a chief rabbi rather than a billionaire like Soros.
It is precisely this classic antisemitic myth – packaged with a fascist aesthetic promoting Orban’s authoritarian regime – that Carlson presents in his video special.
The “Special” itself opens to a soaring soundtrack of Christian hymns and images of classic European architecture and white families playing happily. Then the tone shifts: violent music and scenes of darker-skinned immigrants intended to frighten.
Its first words are Victor Orban telling the camera that Europe is George Soros’ “main hunting area.” He is waging a war, we are told: “[P]olitical, financial, and demographic” – spending “billions to undermine national borders and install puppets in power,” while Hungary – an “outpost of Western civilization” – is fighting against this “evil” to preserve its “Christian” character. The Visegrad Group, a right-wing nationalist bloc including Hungary, promotes Carlson’s program
With demonic photos of Soros in the background, viewers are told that the threat posed by him is “subtle and harder to detect. This is the typical language of antisemites. Jews are cunning, we are told, puppet masters who operate in the shadows, particularly through their financial resources and control of the media, a charge Carlson and his Hungarian friends repeat often of Soros. “He attacks us with money, with media,” says Hungary’s prime minister. “Why shouldn’t we have the right to react?”
Orban’s worldview is defended by an outside “expert,” Rod Dreher, a notoriously racist “postliberal” columnist for the American Conservative who has called immigrants from Africa and the Middle East a “Barbarian invasion” and, like Carlson (and Orban), defends white Christian cultural supremacy from those who seek its “disintegration.”
Between sinister photos of Soros (bolstered by a Fox host in the video special describing him as “scary” looking) and frightening images of bloodied, dark migrants who bring “crime” and “filth and rape” – overlaid with discordant music – Carlson presents a long interlude about Hungary’s natalist policies. Here the music is sweet and beautiful with happy images of white families and children. They don’t want to import dirty migrants, they say. They want their own white, Christian grandchildren to inherit their country.
This natalism, as George Mosse among many others have taught us, is a classic fascist aesthetic. Jorg Haider’s neo-Nazi Freedom Party in Austria used such images quite freely during his rise to power in 1999, as do similar parties all over Europe. The battle between Soros and Orban is a “war between globalism and nationalism,” Carlson concludes, a classic antisemitic dog whistle for Jews. Another long-time antisemitic trope is that Jews constitute an international communist menace: Orban provides that one. “The international left will do everything they can to change our government,” he claims, but not to worry: he is ready to fight them.
True, it is not identical to a century ago. Carlson doesn’t explicitly note Soros’ Jewishness, as people did of the Rothschilds. He even spends a few seconds of the video denying that his attacks could be antisemitic, because Soros is (he claims) “an opponent of Israel.” (Soros supports Israeli organizations that promote democracy and human rights in Israel.) This is the flipside of defenders of antisemites like Orban denying their antisemitism by emphasizing their support for Israel’s rightwing politicians, not least Netanyahu.
Nevertheless, the mythology – particularly when presented in such a stark fascist aesthetic in defense of an antisemitic, authoritarian leader – is clearly the same. The antisemitic message will be received, the hatred triggered and deepened.
Tucker Carlson is a significant player. His program is the most popular cable “news” program in America, averaging over three million viewers. In fact, Fox runs seven of the ten most popular cable news programs, most of which push this demonization of Soros alongside Carlson. Very few politicians enjoy this level of influence.
The ADL helpfully condemned this program and has repeatedly called for Carlson to be fired over his promotion of white nationalism. This is welcome but more is needed. Far from firing their biggest star, Fox is promoting his antisemitic and racist hate mongering. This constitutes a serious danger, far more threatening to Jewish life than an ice cream boycott of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, which somehow receives far more attention.
Fox News is due a rebrand, at least in our discourse. It should be officially recognized as an outlet of antisemitism and white, Christian nationalism – deeply interconnected ideologies being propagated on the most popular cable news show in America – and the ADL’s campaign against Carlson more robustly supported in light of the antisemitic, and racist incitement and propaganda Fox is promoting. Nothing less than Jewish safety is at stake, and the safety of others in turn.
Joshua Shanes is Associate Professor of Jewish Studies at the College of Charleston and Director of its Arnold Center for Israel Studies