Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, spreader of misinformation, in her first term
The late August sun beamed through the window and I repositioned myself on the sticky couch, attempting to get cool. NBC Nightly News blared on as I put my head on the armrest. Anchor Lestor Holt began talking about the upcoming 2020 congressional elections. The election was a topic getting more tired by the day then, and I slumped back instead of closely listening. Suddenly, a blonde woman yelling words and wildly moving her hands appeared on my screen. She appeared to be on a taped video posted on social media. Her hat shook slightly as she hurriedly stated, “Q is coming! I know Q is a patriot, he is watching out for us…”
I perked up at this. Who was this woman, who was Q, and what was going on? I leaned in to hear Lestor Holt’s final words as the segment closed. “And this is Marjorie Taylor Greene, running for the 14th congressional seat of Georgia. This district is reliably Republican. In fact, a Democrat has not received over 30% of the vote here since the 1990s. She is expected to win and many have expressed concerns about her embrace of conspiracy theories. Some say that…” My mind had gone elsewhere by then, and I dashed off to Google the answers to my pressing questions.
In the 6 or so months that have passed since then, Marjorie Taylor Greene has become one of the most infamous representatives in the House and only heightened her public image, though not in a flattering way. She has professed her love of Qanon, a false conspiracy that a high-level official named Q is exposing the crimes of various Democratic politicians, including trafficking and cannibalism. Most believers feel that (now-former) President Trump is the only way to stop these crimes from happening. Believers of the Qanon theory see “messages” in things that would otherwise be mundane, such as the letter Q in government officials’ tweets. These theories have proven to be genuinely dangerous, with many that stormed the Capital waving flags and clothing with the Qanon logo on it. Unsurprisingly, this theory has become a main concern of national security agencies, with the FBI labeling it a domestic terrorism threat last summer.
Her view that the 2018 Parkland School Shooting (an event that killed 17 people) is fake angered many, with the upset mother of slain Parkland teen Scott Beigel even going onto live TV to call her out. Old Facebook records of Greene’s online activities show her calling for the execution of Democrats, stating that Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi should get a “bullet to the head.” Among the most extreme views Greene holds is that the 9/11 attacks, in which over 2000 people died after terrorists hijacked a plane and flew it into the Twin Towers, is a false event that cannot be proved. Needless to say, these extreme views have made Greene a controversial figure, and ignited dialogue on what counts as free speech and the limits of the First Amendment. American High School was not spared of this dialogue, and many students shared with me their (often differing) views on the polarizing congresswoman.
Harshini Vakkalagadda (11) feels that Greene should exercise more caution in the way she presents herself. Vakkalagadda emphasized the power Greene holds, and how she must use it wisely. “I certainly don’t agree with what values she holds. I do think that with free speech you’re allowed to have whatever opinions you want, but the opinions she has, they can harm other people if they have been through such events, it can be really traumatizing. As someone in a high position, I think she should be a bit careful about what she says. She has to know that she is under watch of a lot of people.”
Amy Zhang (12) agreed, and emphasized the reason why Greene should be more careful. “I definitely do not believe that it is okay for Greene to express these opinions while serving in government. There’s a difference between her, a public servant, someone who has authority, who has recognition in our government to be staying stuff, like denying Parkland and denying 9/11, versus some random person on the internet… These people are obviously delusional. It’s horrible. Free speech does cover that.”
However, Eric Gan (10) disagreed, stating that it was better to see how constituents living in the heavily conservative GA-14 Congressional District feel about her. Gan feels that it is better for Greene’s voters to see who she truly is and take appropriate action next election. “I think I believe that it is okay for Greene to express these opinions because they represent falsehood and she’ll just get voted out eventually [as a result]… All her colleagues and all her voters will just think she’s crazy and vote her out of Congress.”
When asked if Greene should be serving in Congress at all, Zhang doubled down on her stance. Zhang pointed out the negative effect of Greene’s statements, saying, “She should not be serving in Congress, especially not in the Education Department. Imagine how those people, the victims of the Parkland Shooting and their parents/families and the victims of 9/11 and their families feel.”
Gan disagreed again and pointed out that Greene was elected in a democratic and fair election by those who lived in her district. He also pointed out that representatives are supposed to represent the views and positions of those who elected them. “As a legislator, she got voted into office so there has to be people who hold the same beliefs as her… People in the legislature represent the people. There has to be people who are willing to support her, that represent the population.”
Vakkalagadda wishes the house would take permanent steps to get rid of Greene, citing her views. “I think they should impeach her. She’s not much of a good influence in government. I think the better way to go would be to impeach her and for her to try to find a job where she fits a little bit more. I definitely don’t think they should let her say whatever she wants.” This step would permanently oust Greene out of the House of Representatives; she would not be serving as a representative if it was taken. It is important to note that such a move is extremely rare and is usually taken in the event of the representative committing serious offenses (such as crimes).
Gan, however, points out that this may ironically backfire and lead to more attention being paid to Greene. “They should not censor her, because that’s clearly exactly what Greene wants, I’m pretty sure. The news title of getting censored… it would just spread her beliefs more.”
Some in government have called for a social media ban on popular websites, such as Twitter and Facebook to prevent Greene from spreading her views. Public figures have been suspended and permanently banned from the site before, most notably former President Trump in January. Critics feel that this is censorship, while proponents of it claim that it will help ensure civility on the web. Vakklalagadda supports this and believes it does not violate any First Amendment rights. “I think that would cut out a lot of toxicity… I personally think it would be okay. She needs to respect what other people believe too. She is not exactly doing that. I don’t think it would be that much of a violation.”
Gan expressed a similar view, though with different reasoning. He pointed out that Twitter, a private company, could have a policy and dictate the dialogues and information on its site (within reason). “If she violated the Twitter policy, then she should be banned. There’s a terms of service for a reason.”
Vakklaagada believes that though Greene’s ideas are extreme, she is genuine in her belief of them. She also brought up the influence of region and upbringing on personal beliefs and views. “I can’t speak on her, I don’t personally know her… She might be acting this way because she truly believes in it. She might have been brought up in ways that motivate her to believe in it. She might have just grown up in a mindset like that. It seems like she truly believes these ideas.”
Gan had a less sympathetic view of Greene. He felt that Greene was opportunistic, and simply wanted to take advantage of those who believed in conspiracy theories. “I don’t think she truly believes in these ideas. She is just trying to advocate to her far-right audience. The more extreme you are the more of a following you’ll get. In history, the political ends have gotten more extreme on both sides. Politicians would sometimes pretend to be on the extreme, have extreme opinions, in order to get the vote of that audience.”
Finishing the interview, he stated his disappointment with modern politics. “I was intrigued in how extreme both sides have gotten and how they point a finger to the opposite party.”