Gather round, pumpkins, it’s controversial opinion time. I look forward to the thoughtful discourse/vicious attacks in the comments.
There’s Something about Marjorie
Let’s set some important priors to this before we continue.
First and foremost, I think Marjorie Taylor Greene’s views are repugnant and dangerous, have no place in public life, and being stripped of her roles on budgetary and education committees (which she was appointed to by Republican leadership, please remember) is wholly adequate following scrutiny of those views. I want her nowhere near my money or the education of my nieces, nephews, and godchildren, to say anyone else’s small fry. She is, as my British friends would say, bonkers.
Second, it is correct that she is being scrutinized and held accountable for these views. Her QAnon social media vids are a significant part of how she rose to prominence enough to run for Congress in the first place – and those videos and many of her social media posts are still available if you want to track them down and view what she has said and when. It is therefore appropriate to consider these opinions with her current political power and influence since they are key contributing factors to how she achieved both.
Third, she is not being cancelled and this discourse is getting old. The far right has had a good run getting prime time news slots, media specials, bestselling book deals, entire social media channels, and the podiums of the actual seats of our government to yell about how silenced they are. It’s bad faith and I can’t wait for the term to go back to referring to loss of popularity or attention – which is not the same thing as hard power.
So…with those priors…
I’m getting kind of pissed that she has become the QAnon boogeyman. Really. Let me explain.
We Need to Talk About Kevin. And Josh. And Rafael–I mean, Ted.
Marjorie Taylor Greene is a newly elected congresswoman, her first position in government at any level. By all means let’s hold her to account…
But do you know who also needs the spotlight kept on them right now? Senator Josh Hawley, a longtime political operative at state level and since 2019 an established sitting senator, who is also known to be positioning himself for a White House run in the mold of a successor to Donald Trump and Trumpist populism albeit a more methodically minded one. This includes up to and including carrying water for the lie that the 2016 election result was suspect and announcing his intention to vote against certifying it. Which you may remember as the conspiracy theory that led to the American Capitol building being stormed by extremists last month.
While we’re at it, he has use dogwhistle language which is typically used by the far right to avoid outright statements of antisemitism, called the Mueller investigation a hoax (sidenote, do any of these people know what a hoax means? The Lock Ness Monster is a hoax, the Mueller investigation definitely happened), and claimed that human trafficking is a result of the sexual revolution of the 1960s. Which again, is coded language around traditional gender and racial expectations, but do your own research into this; there is excellent academic and media literacy tools around this and I’m getting tired of having to explain it to bad faith debaters. He’s also on record in writing stating that, “Government serves Christ’s kingdom rule; this is its purpose.” Cool. Theocracy. At least he’s being honest about it.
Now since the Capitol Riot he has a book deal and complained (loudly and multiple times on international media platforms) that this is more evidence of cancel culture. And again, I’m tired of saying this but a sitting senator, serving on the Committees of Armed Services, Security, and the Judiciary is…um… not cancelled at all. He’s in fact incredibly powerful with a lot of equally powerful and influential people required to pay attention to him (which is why it took a literal act of insurrection to get a sitting US President kicked off his platforms). Hawley isn’t being silenced, he can’t be. He’s just getting less popular as more people outside his supportive echo chamber become aware of his tracker record, which I think is a great thing.
And in the same corner, we have his colleague Senator Ted Cruz who also has White House ambitions, who also kowtowed to Trump/Trumpism (even when he was the victim of some of their earlier conspiracy theories and bullshit), who also refused to certify the election results,
He has also been a sitting senator since 2013, sits on the Committees of the Judiciary, Foreign Relations, and Commerce, Science, and Transportation. Beating a dead horse here but, in spite of an almost mythologically bad feelings from anyone who has had the misfortune to work with him in government over the years, this guy is pretty powerful. He’s a regular on the right wing media circuit and like many of his part has swung further and further into the wingnut areas over the last few years.
And in the House, since we’re listing people who outrank and outweigh Congresswoman Greene, let’s not forget Kevin McCarthy whose ostensible job it is to promote or reign in his subbordinates.
All of which leads me to ask…
How Do You Solve a Problem Like Marjorie?
The honest answer to that is to hold the people above her and enabled her rise, who decided to empower her with committee assignments, who have shielded her and other QAnon believes in Congress (more than you might think, fam), who have made the decision to harness radical and repugnant beliefs (whether or not they truly hold them) to solidify power.
Congresswoman Greene deserves the attention she’s getting. She does not deserve to act as a shield for others who deserve as much or even more attention for their views and machinations. You don’t get a Congresswoman Greene without institutional guardians winking at or outright courting what they should be defending against.
I look at this situation and honestly, in spite of my very real and probably ugly disdain for her beliefs, I can’t help but see all the old problems rearing their head.
She’s a woman.
She’s more powerful than you and me maybe, but she is a lot less powerful and historically less influential than others in government who hold or harbor the same views.
She has become the face of QAnon in power, serving to push scrutiny of the Capitol attacks into the background which helps to minimize what it was: a dinky and dumb, but very real sedition attempt. There are other QAnon believers in congress who also need scrutiny, and behind each of them are a shedload of people for whom QAnon and extremism was not a deal breaker.
Attention solely on her is benefitting more entrenched and more powerful men, who have much longer and more effective track records of bad political faith/actions, and who frankly probably represent the likelier threat of extremism becoming embedded permanently in the party via the next presidential election and beyond.
And do you know what? I have no qualms about saying attention and focus on one person – one woman – feels awfully misogynistic in that all too American-hatred-of-women-in-power way. There are a lot of dudes who deserve to lose their committee seats or elected positions right now, but she seems to be the chosen scapegoat. It’s easier to mock, deride, and evict a solitary, relatively defenseless (usually) woman compared to taking on the more entrenched, more powerful, and more threatening in reality (usually) men.
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest
It goes all the way back to Eve, or at least Salem, but we really seem to need a single villain to focus on these days and when presented with unequal power options and especially male and female versions, we seem to choose the less powerful woman. Every time.
Witch hunts are satisfying to the subconscious, but they don’t actual stop spreading plague or whatever societal ill is causing your current anxiety. Scapegoating feels good because it tricks you into thinking you’ve achieved a victory, when usually nothing systemic has changed.
We need to learn to hold more than one thought in our heads as a society, even when confronting groups as damaging and horrible as I genuinely believe QAnon to be. We have to look complexly at the systems of power and disaffection that surround us. We can have more than one fight at a time, and can share proportion attention where it’s most deserved. We can walk and chew gum at the same time.
So, what’s the real goal here? Flog and humiliate a single, relatively less important woman, or make it truly unviable for a person to hold or harbor this views to hold office? Because if it’s the latter…making an example of Congresswoman Greene isn’t the victory a lot of people seem to think it is.
When the media cycle moves on, Kevin McCarthy (who managed to go from sorta-kinda speaking badly of QAnon a couple of months ago to pretending he doesn’t even know what QAnon is just a couple of days ago), will still be the Minority Leader. Cruz and Hawley will still be plotting their White House runs. And extremism will still be acceptable if not a key tool in the right wing power strategy.
Spend your attention and political capital accordingly.