The Black Lives Matter movement, which is at the centre of the rumor that it received $33m from George Soros, started as a simple hashtag after the killing of Trayvon Martin, a black teenager, and the acquittal of his killer. When three black women started twitting their shock and anger over treatment of blacks by the police under the #blacklivesmatter hashtag, little did they know that it would become the potent social and political force that it is now.
As the Daily Beast explains (1), the Black Lives Matter movement is not a centralized organization. Rather, it is an umbrella term used by different protest groups, social media outlets, speakers, blogs among many other groups. There are many methods members of the movement use to raise their grievances but perhaps the most prominent one is protests during political rallies of leading presidential candidates, especially of those candidates they think are not affording their grievances the seriousness they deserve. Recent disruptions of the campaigns of Bernie Sanders and Jeb Bush have led to a backlash against the group from right wing groups and personalities like Bill O’Reilly who think the movement is being used by powerful liberals as a political tool.
At the centre of this backlash is the allegation that the movement is being bankrolled by George Soros, the billionaire liberal political activist, philanthropist and investor. Soros is a household name not only in the US but also in much of the world. An immigrant from Hungary who received his higher education in England, Soros is primarily known in the business world as the founder of Soros Investment Fund, the hedge fund he founded in 1973 and considered one of the most successful hedge funds in history (2). With the billions of dollars he had made as an investor, Soros founded the Open Society Foundation to financially support causes he espouses like university education for poor but bright students and support for human rights and pro-democracy groups (3).
The activities of George Soros and his Open Society Foundation have provided fodder for so many conspiracy theories. As the Daily Beast reports, the rumor that Soros is bankrolling the Black Lives Movement to a tune of $33m through his Open Society Foundation might just be the latest of such conspiracy theories. It is not true. Nowhere in the 2014 financial records of Open Society Foundation is such funding shown. Secondly, as Ken Zimmermann, the head of US programs of the foundation, explains, the decentralized nature of the Black Lives Matter movement makes funding it directly as alleged extremely difficult, if not impossible.
George Soros’ huge influence in business and politics has made him the subject of many conspiracy theories. Often, they have been absurd- and untrue. This latest one is definitely such conspiracy theory- absurd and untrue.