Analysis | Marjorie Taylor Greene would like to remind us that she is not serious

Washington Post
6 Min Read

As recently as last month, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) was still sensitive about the whole “Jewish space lasers” thing.

You may recall — who are we kidding, you do recall — that, soon after she was first elected to the House in 2020, Media Matters uncovered a 2018 Facebook post in which Greene theorized that a massive California wildfire had been sparked by a “laser beam or a light beam” being sent down from space as PG&E (and its Rothschild-connected leadership) sought a cleaner form of energy or to build a high-speed train or both. It was, in short, convoluted, in the way that making up nonsense tends to be.

End of carousel

The saga was pithily summarized by New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait as Greene theorizing about a “secret Jewish space laser,” and a meme was born. This wasn’t the birth of Greene’s conspiratorial reputation, mind you; that had already been well-established by her embrace of QAnon and promotion of alternative theories about the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and more than one mass shooting event. “Jewish space laser” was just the most accessibly bizarre.

After Republicans won the House majority in 2022, Greene emerged as an unlikely ally of Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). With the change in leadership, she went from pariah to establishment loyalist, someone who might at times serve as a bridge between the Republican conference’s fringe right and its leadership. She was now someone to be taken seriously.

So when a British journalist approached Greene at an event last month and brought up the subject of conspiracy theories, Greene bristled.

“Tell us about Jewish space lasers,” Emily Maitlis asked.

“Why don’t you go talk about Jewish space lasers,” Greene angrily replied. She then suggested Maitlis do something else that can be left to your imagination.

Yet, less than a month later, Greene offered an amendment Wednesday to legislation centered on foreign aid.

“By the funds made available by this Act,” the proposed amendment reads, “such sums as necessary shall be used for the development of space laser technology on the southwest border.”

Ha ha! Get it? Having fun, joking about space lasers. In a bill predicated on offering military support to Israel.

(For what it’s worth, which isn’t much, the original technology cited by Greene in 2018 as the source of the “space laser” wasn’t a laser at all but, instead, directed radio frequency power.)

We’re assuming that the intent here is to be lighthearted, as well as to bring one more thing back to the border and immigration. (A request for clarification from Greene’s office did not immediately receive a response.) But poking fun at one’s past eccentricities lands a lot better when one is not being problematically eccentric in much the same way.

Greene, for example, is a fervent opponent of providing more aid to Ukraine in its efforts to defend against Russian invaders. She has been for a long time, arguing soon after the Russian invasion that Ukraine would be better served by simply rolling over. The long game, she suggested in March 2022, was for Americans to be on the ground fighting, defending the imaginary financial interests of powerful non-MAGA political actors.

How the Rothschilds might have been involved was left unstated, but the framework of thought was recognizable.

More recently, she insisted in a social media post that it was “antisemitic” to make aid to Israel “contingent on funding Ukrainian Nazis,” a criticism that is intertwined with her relentless attacks in recent weeks on Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.). But the “Ukrainian Nazis” thing is itself false, as well as a central component of Russian misinformation about its aggression.

Nor are her flights of fancy limited to the subject of foreign aid. When a container ship smashed into a bridge in Baltimore late last month, Greene quickly amplified claims that there might be something nefarious afoot. When a criminal investigation into the accident was announced, she claimed to have been vindicated — apparently misunderstanding that the probe’s focus was negligence, not intentionality.

It is a feature of American democracy, not a flaw, that anyone can be elected to federal office. You don’t need to be a lawyer; you don’t need to have served at the local or state level first. But there has historically been an expectation of seriousness, of consideration of other viewpoints if not a willingness to compromise.

Greene has never approached national politics with seriousness. Instead, she largely views decision-making through the same lens she always has, influenced by fringe theories and with supreme confidence in her own ability to put the pieces together. Given that, it’s hard to view the “space lasers” amendment as an act of humorous subversion. It lands flat, as if Donald Trump were to attempt to be self-deprecating about his efforts to reverse Roe v. Wade.

It’s not clear, in fact, if Greene’s amendment is even a joke at all.