Opinion

The QS of A

A symptom of a politically and economically exhausted populace, Georgia congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene is a conspiracy theorist. She represents a dark future for America, one which is becoming more and more realisable everyday it is not dealt with.  

In 2018 future congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene said on Facebook that the removal of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would come with “a bullet to the head”, according to a report from CNN.  A year later she declared that Pelosi was guilty of treason and as such should be put to death. (The seditious offense of the House Speaker, one might like to know, was the opposition to a policy of Mr Trump. Political opposition: a treasonable crime.) And her connection to right-wing militancy doesn’t stop there. Just 71 days before domestic terrorists stormed the United States Capitol, Greene prophetically told viewers during an interview with gun-rights advocate Chris Dorr, “The only way you get your freedoms back is it’s earned with the price of blood.”

Greene has also circulated the lie that Trump won the 2020 presidential election, has suggested (again on Facebook) that the 2018 Parkland school shooting and the 2017 Las Vegas shooting were staged by the government to induce a climate of fear around gun ownership, and has promulgated the Clinton crime syndicate conspiracy theory. 

Greene is not just an outlier: she now represents Georgia’s 14th congressional district as a congresswoman. Greene holds power. That should alarm you.  

One of the most disquieting aspects of her character is her public support of QAnon. And while she claims to have jettisoned the group, Greene has still done enough to embolden them. There are countless documented instances of her fanatic bigotry, such as the video footage of her hunting down Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib in the Capitol in order to force them to retake their oaths on the Bible insead of the Quran. And if Greene did in fact abandon the group, she still shares some of their views

QAnon is a doomsday cult, a fascistic conspiracist centre which believes that the political opponents of Trump – the ‘Deep State’, ‘Hollywood Elites’, ‘Globalists’ – are all Satan-worshipping paedophile cannibals. Parts of other conspiracy theories often bleed into it. Vaccines are control mechanisms, as are clinical facemasks; any immigration is an attempt to breed out the white race; the earth may well be flat – and COVID? COVID, like the Holocaust, is a hoax.

I don’t even need to begin to tell you just how harmful this is: axiomatically, beliefs like this kill. COVID denialism kills, misuse of facemasks kills, ‘white genocide’ propaganda kills (the Christchurch mosque shooter directly cited this fear of replacement in his 2019 manifesto). And this cult is supported by a congresswoman. At least one ally of histrionic millenarian theocratic fascists now occupies an office in the Capitol, an ally of theirs walks its halls.

QAnon is popular, with thousands of believers across the globe – all with the same  mythologising of Trump and his anti-Establishment populism. Greene is indicative of something larger, therefore. She is not an aberration: she is a possibility. What can be done about this? Why is America so conspiratorial? (Not to say that this is an exclusively American problem, but other countries haven’t embraced QAnon as enthusiastically as the US.) Well, conspiracy theories are a response to a damaged society; they just misdiagnose the problem.

Conspiracy theorists talk about feeling out of control in their own lives. That sense in which one feels lied to, feels left behind, feels like there’s a great secret that ‘we’ aren’t privy to (always take note of ‘we’: it betrays a false consensus)  – that is actually rooted in the material conditions of American society. Kindred feeling accounts for the rise of reactionary nationalist populism in Johnson’s Britain and Modi’s India. Marjorie Taylor Greene is tapping into a well of resentment and disillusion. Its cause is remarkably simple: inequality and disparity.  

The Pew Research Centre tells us that the distance between upper-income and middle- and lower-income families is rapidly increasing. The same paper shows that income inequality too is rising, even by international, not just historical, standards. This is a country of massive and irrefutable wealth disparity, which both major political parties are failing to deal with adequately. Even public schools are largely funded through property taxes, meaning that the prosperity of the local area determines the quality of your education.

Conspiracy theorists see this. They see the stupefying disparities in wealth, the inept administration of justice, the monopolisation of power in the hands of the moneyed, the lack of trust in the institutions of democracy, the arrant failure of communication between elector and elected, the offshore accountancy, the outsourcing of labour to the developing world, the shameless lobbying of career manipulators, the tax cuts, the reluctance to change, the lying, the irreducible association between money and politics. They see it all, and they come up with a neat explanation: everyone who has failed to drive for change eats babies and worships Satan. It’s obviously wrong but it’s still an attempt to order the orderless.

Marjorie Taylor Greene is a dangerous person, but she is one part (a very public and now powerful part) of a broader movement of misplaced righteous anger. QAnon is a cult and its members are shockingly bigoted. It is the job of those who see the solutions to these problems — people like Senator Bernie Sanders — to speak to those who do not. While it might be quixotic to think that their minds can be changed, someone at least needs to try. There are people falling down the very same pipeline, and the voices of reason and compassion need to reach them before they can hear the Facebook ravings of Marjorie Taylor Greene. 

A dark future awaits if this problem goes unignored, but let’s not forget that the light-switch is always in reach.