Neither Madge Nor Liz
Of all the crackpot things believed by Marjorie Taylor Greene—the kosher space laser blowing holes in California, the cabal of Jews trying to, as Jews are wont to do, flood Europe with Muslims—it was the Sandy Hook trutherism that finally got me.
I’ve always thought there’s something uniquely despicable about denying the school shooting in Newtown. Maybe it’s because I’m from Connecticut and the images of that day—those periwinkle license plates, those woods just so—still haunt me. Maybe it’s the sheer ghoulishness of rummaging for inconsistencies through videos of crying children. Or maybe it’s what happened to Leonard Pozner, the father of one of the slain kids, who was so harassed by Sandy Hook hoaxers that he was forced to go into hiding. Whatever it is, no less an authority than Alex Jones seems to agree with me. Jones has claimed he only ever doubted the Sandy Hook shooting because he was suffering from a “form of psychosis” (just one?).
That’s his excuse; what about the newly elected congresswoman from Georgia? Greene’s Sandy Hook trutherism is smaller-ball than Jones’ but still plenty disturbing. Back in 2018, she liked a Facebook post that asserted, among other things, that Sandy Hook was a “STAGGED SHOOTING.” (A stagged shooting is when the gunman shows up without a date.) The post claimed that the Facebook memorial page for the Newtown victims had been created “3 days to two FN WEEKS” before the massacre, which proved the whole thing was a hoax. It then raised other conscientious concerns, such as that the NWO had attempted to assassinate Ronald Reagan and that Barbara Bush had schemed to thin the world’s population. Greene not only liked this diatribe, she commented, “That is all true.”
Today, Greene’s devotion to seemingly every conspiracy theory in existence has made her an object of contempt in the media. Turn on CNN right now and you’re likely to find her name on the chyron with a deeply troubled Wolf Blitzer glowering just overhead. Such Two Minutes Hate can admittedly be boring and groupthinky, especially since it seems to lack any sense of proportion (wouldn’t the head of the Burmese military be a better target right now?). Yet in this case, the outrage is richly deserved. There is no excuse to be made here, no workaround to be had. Greene is a fruitcake, full stop. Her lunacy can’t be ignored or waved away by citing the demented things some Democrats have said. To try is to whistle past the very real and growing problem of conspiracy theories on the right, which, as the Capitol insurrection showed, can have dire consequences in real life.
Yet in confronting this problem, we also shouldn’t seek shelter in what’s being presented as the other side. There’s been an effort recently to contrast Greene with supposedly more responsible Republicans in Congress, such as Senator Mitt Romney, Representative Adam Kinzinger, and—most of all—Representative Liz Cheney. This binary was reinforced by no less than Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who rightly denounced Greene’s “loony lies” while in the same breath defending Cheney as “a leader with deep convictions and the courage to act on them.” A recent CNN article went one further, alleging a “schism” in the GOP with Greene on one side and Cheney on the other. (Think the Avignon Papacy only everyone’s wearing red hats.)
The reason Cheney is now being portrayed as a moderate is that she broke rank with her fellow Republicans and voted to impeach Donald Trump. But she’s also her father’s daughter to her marrow, having supported every doomed Middle East war of choice that’s come along and clamored for another one against Iran. Yet it was these very failures, this loss of touch by the GOP with its own voters in favor of abstract Platonic state-making abroad, that helped give rise to Donald Trump. Cheney might not be a Sandy Hook truther, but she does subscribe to the far more consequential conspiracy theory that Saddam Hussein was working hand-in-glove with al-Qaeda. She might not be QAnon, but QAnon was never so stupid as to try to de-Baathify an entire country.
This is the false choice being presented right now: either you’re with the WWG1WGAists (really rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?) or you’re with the discredited throwbacks to the Bush era. The GOP itself is admittedly feeding this narrative. State parties rail against establishmentarians like Cheney, only to turn around and declare the Capitol insurrection a false flag or tweet out praise of a Holocaust denier. Listen to this stuff long enough and you start to feel like the only Republicans who oppose the neocons anymore do so because they think they’re in league with the Illuminati. That middle ground, that fertile valley of real politics and reform, seems to be rapidly shrinking.
To which we can respond: that must have been how George Orwell felt too. When Orwell, a socialist, cast his gaze across the Europe of the 1930s, he found himself in opposition not just to fascism and capitalism, but to what might have looked like the best available alternative, something new being cooked up in Moscow, a workers’ paradise if only you could overlook the manufactured famines. Because he denounced the delusion of Stalinism, Orwell drove away friends and sometimes had trouble getting published. Yet he was ultimately proven correct, and his example stands as a lesson. Sometimes all the ballyhooed factions and isms of one’s day aren’t worth a can of beer. Sometimes the world just goes mad. There is nothing to be had amid the smoldering cityscapes of Bushism, the jargon-screeching woke mobs of progressivism, the endless choose-your-own-adventure corn maze of Q. Any solutions can only come out of the quiet and narrow alleyways in between.
Thankfully there is hope. I’ve spent most of this column trashing two Republican congresswomen, so let me now praise a third: Representative Nancy Mace from South Carolina. Mace ran for Congress on a platform of at least modest reform, opposing American intervention in Syria, calling for troops to be withdrawn from Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet she’s also relentlessly called out her party’s Hanna-Barbera wing, even reportedly telling Greene to shove off on a text chain and deriding her as “QAnon lady.” Mace is the first-ever woman to graduate from The Citadel military academy in South Carolina. Notably she has yet to either plunge a Middle Eastern nation into chaos or unwittingly spark a domestic insurrection, major pluses in the GOP these days.
The best hope is that there will be others like her, Republicans who might disagree on some issues but are nonetheless united in seeking out that middle ground. Whether they can do so without getting vaporized by the Jews with the space laser remains an open question.