Hungarian govt, media train sights on Soros son

Hungarian govt, media train sights on Soros son

George Soros has become a bete noire of the international far right
George Soros has become a bete noire of the international far right. Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP/File
Source: AFP

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After years of demonising billionaire investor George Soros as a sinister liberal bogeyman, the Hungarian government and its allied media are taking aim at a fresh target -- his son Alexander.

Monday's announcement that the elder Soros will hand over control of his philanthropic empire to 37-year-old Alexander, who goes by the name of Alex, prompted an object lesson in the workings of media loyal to nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

The 92-year-old Soros has become a bete noire of the international far right because of the activities of his Open Society Foundations (OSF).

In Hungary, the government accuses him of wanting to "flood Europe" with migrants because of the OSF's support for refugee rights advocates.

Critics of the Hungarian government say it has used anti-Semitic tropes in its virulent attacks on Soros, who is Jewish, depicting him as a shadowy and manipulative figure. The government denies these claims.

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"The government has made George Soros a kind of axiomatic enemy" blamed for everything from high inflation to Hungary's isolation in foreign policy, according to Peter Kreko, executive director of the Political Capital think tank, which lists the OSF among its donors and partners.

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Orban was one of the first to comment on Monday's news, tweeting a scene from one of the "Godfather" films showing the crime lord protagonist kissing his son, with the caption: "Soros 2.0".

In his weekly interview with state radio on Friday, Orban went as far as to blame Alex Soros for the deal reached by European Union interior ministers earlier this month on refugee resettlement within the bloc.

'Soros-boy's propaganda'

The EU deal was reached because "Soros handed over the leadership of his empire to his son, who dictates an even tougher pace than he does", Orban said, claiming that both George and Alex Soros "are preparing to incite the migrants".

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The wider reaction showed the range and methods of the pro-government media ecosystem in a landscape where independent outlets have been marginalised.

The Hungarian government and its allied media are taking aim at Alexander Soros
The Hungarian government and its allied media are taking aim at Alexander Soros. Photo: Nicholas Hunt / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File
Source: AFP

For example Hirado, a programme on the main public broadcaster, quoted coverage from the pro-government private sector Origo website.

Anti-LGBTQ rhetoric has become a prominent part of official narratives in recent years and Origo used pictures of Alex with a man it called his "life partner" to make insinuations about his sexuality, adding: "This is apparently part of the Soros boy's LGBTQ propaganda."

"The pictures show them demonstrating their physical and emotional togetherness in sometimes provocative ways. They often hug and hold hands," Origo claimed.

The latest allegations echo a previous instance of disinformation in 2018 in which pro-government outlets claimed Alex Soros was spotted at Budapest Pride, while using photos of a different person.

Contrary to these claims, he is not known for commenting on his private life. AFP approached the Open Society Foundations for comment but had not received a reply at the time of writing.

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'Rhetorical house of cards'

Think tanks friendly to Orban's ruling Fidesz party are also frequently on hand to amplify its talking points.

In comments to a pro-government website, Tamas Fritz from the Alapjogokert Kozpont institute repeated the insinuations about the younger Soros's private life and warned he would be "more radical" than his father on "the question of a world government, mandatory vaccination, or abortion".

Orban was one of the first to comment on Monday's news
Orban was one of the first to comment on Monday's news. Photo: Attila KISBENEDEK / AFP/File
Source: AFP

Away from the traditional outlets on which many Hungarians rely for their news, the "Megafon" collective of pro-government writers and influencers are active on social media.

The group's funding is unclear but, along with affiliated sites, Megafon spends millions of euros on political advertisements on platforms such as YouTube and Facebook.

Megafon member Daniel Deak alleged the younger Soros wanted to "break our homeland", warning of the OSF's "rejuvenated strength".

However, Kreko pointed out that the coverage in pro-government media didn't mention "that Alexander Soros has also met regularly with right-wing politicians" such as former Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz or Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic.

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Nor is the messaging likely to change in the near future.

"The rhetorical house of cards built by the government is built on George Soros. Without him it would collapse. So it was to be expected that the rhetoric would remain even if Alex Soros came to the fore," Kreko said.

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Source: AFP

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