Beck's three-day attack on Jewish financier George Soros has been widely criticized by Jewish leaders, Holocaust survivors and, most recently, Commentary magazine which describes itself as "the flagship of neoconservatism." Critics have been particularly concerned with Beck's false smears related to Soros' actions as a 14-year-old Hungarian Jew during the Holocaust. Beck suggested that Soros was a Holocaust collaborator, even going so far as to suggest that Soros helped "send the Jews" to "death camps."
Libertarian Reason magazine joined the growing condemnation of Beck's false attacks in a November 12 post on its blog, Hit & Run. Reason's editor-in-chief Matt Welch decried Beck's attacks on George Soros as a "ridiculous misreading" which "sets back the cause of human understanding." Welch went on to criticize Beck's suggestion that Soros' "actions were worthy of regret" as a 14-year-old during the Holocaust, writing of such attacks, "I am constantly surprised by how quickly people are willing to toss decency and basic rationality out the window when discussing a gate figure from the other team."
Welch also said he was "inclined to agree" with "critics" who "are describing [Beck's] characterizations of Soros' wartime activities as factually incorrect," but noted "even if the descriptions were 100 percent accurate and proportional, I would find" Beck's comments "above appalling on a basic human level."
From Welch's November 12 post:
First and foremostly, having lived in Soros' home town of Budapest for three years, plus another five in Prague and Bratislava (and an abortive, short-term attempt to "move" to Cuba), I have become convinced beyond the shadow of a doubt about this one thing: As a native son of the free world you can and damn well should cheer a person who acted bravely in the face of a pervasive and murderous totalitarian state, but with the exception of the monsters who willfully abused power there, you had better err massively on the side of reticence before casting negative judgment on the compromises that captive citizens made under a pressure we literally cannot fathom. This goes doubly for pubescent kids, and off the freakin' charts when it comes to a 14-year-old Jew in Jew-butchering Hungary in 1944 trying to stay alive. I would think that this would be a common-sense thing, but I am constantly surprised by how quickly people are willing to toss decency and basic rationality out the window when discussing a hate figure from the other team.
So Beck isn't blaming or questioning the 14-year-old, he just thinks that the 14-year-old's actions were worthy of regret, and quite possibly the source of later behaviors--including some directed at Israel--that are wrong-headed and dangerous. Glad we cleared that up!
Beck's critics are describing his characterizations of Soros' wartime activities as factually incorrect; scanning through these links I'm inclined to agree. But even if the descriptions were 100 percent accurate and proportional, I would find the passage above appalling on a basic human level. There is a palpable whiff of suggestion that 14-year-old George Soros not only enjoyed "helping send the Jews to the death camps" (another Beck formulation from this week), but that he still lights up with mirth at the thought of the idea six decades later, perhaps explaining why he hates Israel to this day. It is a hint and a nudge that the hunted teenage Jew might have been and maybe still is an anti-Semite. Not only are we passing over the only real emotional response appropriate for a 14-year-old Holocaust survivor--bottomless, uncomprehending sympathy for the traumas he and so many other children went through--we are passing negative judgment on his actions under fire, and using it as a Rosetta Stone to explain his darkly nefarious afterlife.
Soros is a fascinating, deeply flawed, and (IMO) quite wrongheaded major actor on the world stage. He is also not hard to get a basic read on, since he writes books constantly and is forever talking about his own thought processes, life histories, and conclusions. You want to learn about this important figure? Go read a book. But not by Glenn Beck.