When considering a dubious claim made by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), it is helpful to recall her lengthy history with such remarks. This is the candidate who gained national attention in 2020 for her embrace of QAnon, who has spread I-know-better-than-you claims about 9/11 and the 2012 Sandy Hook, Conn., mass shooting, and, perhaps most infamously, suggested that wildfires were intentionally caused by a space-based laser.
However, just because Greene is demonstrably credulous (especially when it serves to impugn her perceived adversaries) does not mean that any new claims should be dismissed as unimportant. Her position as a member of Congress, as well as her national profile, lend weight and distance to her remarks. More importantly, her assertions are generally things she’s picked up from the right-wing information universe, implying that she is, in fact, speaking for a large portion of the American population when she says what she says, no matter how obviously false it is.
Greene was speaking at a rally in Michigan headlined by former President Donald Trump, demonstrating the extent to which her election to the House has empowered her rhetoric. She began by making now-familiar claims about how the legal system had been used against the political right. Then she went a step further.
In a speech last month, President Biden chastised Trump’s most ardent supporters for rejecting election results or downplaying the threat posed by rioters at the Capitol on January 6. In other words, people like Greene. However, because it is always useful for members of the right’s political and media leadership to cast criticisms of a subset of the group as a criticism of the entire group, Biden’s remarks become an attack on “every freedom-loving American.”
Meanwhile, the notion that these “enemies of the state” are pinned to the two acts of violence cited by Greene is an appeal to anecdotes that should raise red flags for any observer. Especially in light of the actual cases.
For the past week or so, the North Dakota incident has been a focal point on the right, owing to the intoxicated driver’s claim that the teenager was a “Republican extremist.” According to police and witnesses, there was no political debate prior to the incident.
Meanwhile, the shooting in Michigan is being investigated. According to the shooter, it was an accident. More importantly, voting records show only one person in the county where the shooting occurred who matches the shooter’s name and age; that person has consistently voted in Republican primaries since at least 2014. Then there’s the fact that the victim was not actually murdered.
When racial justice protests erupted in the late spring of 2020, conservative media outlets exaggerated the scale of vandalism and violence that occasionally ensued. Many people dismiss the idea that most of those protests were peaceful, even though they were. For weeks, outlets like Fox News recycled footage of riots and looting to suggest that widespread violence continued well into the summer.
Part of this stems from a widespread belief, particularly among Republicans, that White Christians face unusually severe discrimination. Calls for the country to recognize systemic racism, uproot often subtle forms of discrimination, and address ways in which race and class can provide advantage are seen as calls to diminish the group that has long held the most power in the country, rather than to remove limits or elevate some people.
Since Biden’s election, we’ve seen this insecurity manifest itself in a variety of ways. The notion that “cancel culture” or “wokeism” is a fascist attempt to control the right. It is risky to encourage people to vote when they could legally vote for Democrats.
Much of this can be attributed to the country’s wide partisan divide. According to Pew Research Center data, 6 in 10 Republicans have a “very unfavorable” view of the Democratic Party, while just over half of Democrats do. Republicans and Democrats both regard each other as dishonest and immoral, with Republicans accusing Democrats of being “lazy.” The divide is frequently literal as well. In 2020, Pew found that four out of ten supporters of Biden and Trump had no close friends who supported the opposing candidate. At most, three-quarters had “a few” who did.