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Components of Conspiracy Theories: Using ‘code-words’ to talk about the Jews: Rothschilds, Illuminati, and George Soros:
This is extremely common both on the ultra-right and on the conspiracist left. Many anti-Semites believe, probably correctly, that they will gain greater acceptance and popularity if they avoid directly using the words ‘Jew(s)’ or ‘Jewish’. As we said above, often the words ‘Zionist(s)’ or ‘Israel(i)’ are substituted, but other code-words are ‘Rothschilds’, ‘Illuminati’, and ‘George Soros’ . Sometimes Jews are alluded to solely as ‘them’, ‘shadowy forces’ ‘global elites’ and the like. Conspiracy theories invoking the Rothschilds are becoming increasingly discredited, but they are still invoked. George Soros is increasingly referred to instead, as a modern-day very wealthy and influential Jew. He funds the Open Society Foundation which is dedicated to strengthening democracy and other progressive causes and backs the Democrats in the US. However, in conspiracy theory, he is often described as controlling things that he does not, and in addition, his biography is traduced. For example, a non-Jewish Hungarian family helped him pose as a non-Jewish child to save him from the Nazis, but he has been accused of being a Nazi collaborator.
Conspiracy theories involving The Illuminati (an alleged secret group of people, all or almost all Jewish, who are supposed to be in control of almost everything) have been around a long time, and are beloved of David Icke (see below). There was a real group, the Bavarian Illuminati, an Enlightenment-era secret society founded in 1776 in Bavaria, whose aims were to oppose superstition, obscurantism, religious influence over public life, and abuses of state power, but they were suppressed in the 1780s. In the mid-20th century, however, the name was resuscitated by Fascist propaganda claiming that the Illuminati was a subversive secret society drawn from the Jewish elites that supposedly propped up both finance capitalism and Soviet communism in order to divide and rule the world. In the US fundamentalist Christians initially disseminated this theory which was picked up by right-wing populists. The full-blown theory states that humanity has been colonized by the Illuminati, a satanic cult representing Masonic and Jewish bankers who aim to protect their vast financial monopoly by creating a totalitarian world government dedicated to Lucifer, while distracting and controlling the population by infiltration of governments, intelligence agencies, education and the mass media, undermining institutions like marriage and religion, and promoting depravity, dysfunction, corruption and division. Having orchestrated two world wars, they are planning a third.
These code words are routinely used by established antisemites to attack Jews as a whole by alleging that Jews are in control of large parts of world society, and where they are used, antisemitism can be strongly suspected. Other expressions such as ‘globalists’ or ‘global elite’ are sometimes used in the same sense; however these words are also often used in a far more innocent way, and the context has to be inspected for antisemitic intent. When ‘global elite’ is used in the sense of a secret cabal as a substitute for class analysis, to us and many others this does and indeed should ring alarm bells.
The mural below by Mear One became famous when it emerged that Jeremy Corbyn had apparently defended it on the grounds of free speech while failing to recognise that it was antisemitic. It portrayed a cabal of bankers, many of them with stereotypically Jewish features, oppressing huddled masses, in combination with an Illuminati symbol.