Watch the whole speech. It’s only ten minutes long. Do not rely on media characterizations of it. For example, here is the despicable CNBC web headline: “Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene expresses some regret about conspiracy claims ahead of vote to punish her.” Tell me if you think that’s a fair characterization of what she said.
1. It is a well-delivered, seemingly sincere, sympathetic and appealing and effective speech for anyone with any objectivity at all, designed to appeal to strong conservatives, and to send a message to progressives that she is not ashamed of her values and will not be intimidated into backing down from them
Good for her in that respect.
2. Her practical and ethical problem, however, is that she did not make this speech before the prospect of losing her committee assignments began looming. Why didn’t she say than that she was not a believer in the QAnon garbage? Why did she attack the messengers that revealed her other conspiratorial social media posts, rather than admitting what she had advocated and retracting it, with an explanation? This calls into question her honesty now. Yes, we now know she possesses at least one major asset for a politician: the ability to defend herself in a political crisis—like Bill Clinton. The ability to lie under pressure is another talent she might have.
3. I am troubled by the shadow of possible deceit in her choices of words. She never claimed the 9-11 attacks didn’t happen; she seemed to agree that it was “an inside job.” Saying now that the disaster happened is a non-sequitur..or just rhetorical carelessness. Her comments about school shootings are similarly ambiguous.
4. The fact, if true, that she has not met any of her Democratic colleagues is a terrible reflection on House leadership, and Nancy Pelosi in particular. How can that be defended? Not even a meet and greet for the entire freshman class? That’s rank incompetence.If you want a divided and dysfunctional body, that’s how you get one.
5. Greene sounds like a victim of our untrustworthy news media, as are all of us. She is right that it is impossible for normal Americans to know who to believe. She is a case study on what happens when someone naive and ignorant resorts to Google and the web for news and education.
6. She is absolutely correct that the Russian Collusion claim that shadowed most of President Trump’s administration was a conspiracy theory.
7. She is also correct that many of her colleagues have engaged in conduct that is objectively worse and a greater blight on the House than her support for paranoid right-wing theories. But that is a rationalization (#2.Whataboutism, or “They’re Just as Bad”), not a defense.
8. Yes, she played the Mom, God and “I’m a good person” cards, but not to excess. She played them well, and fairly.
9. She comes off in her speech as a normal American, with everything that implies. There are strong arguments that Congress should include ordinary Americans. I believe that those charged with governing should be better than ordinary in knowledge, experience and ability, but I see the other side, though it still feels to me like Senator Roman Hruska’s argument that Judge Harold Carswell, an ultimately rejected Nixon pick for the Supreme Court, might be a mediocre judge, but didn’t mediocre Americans deserve representation too?
10. However, if one is inexperienced and maybe a bit over one’s head, the way to proceed is to keep one’s head down, watch, listen, find a mentor, and learn. I blame GOP and House leadership for not guiding a political naif like Greene so she didn’t immediately get in trouble. But I also blame Greene for not figuring out that she needed to learn her job before making headlines.
11. Ann Althouse had a fascinating post about Greene’s reported arguments in defense of her conduct in a private part meeting. The Hill reported that Greene had apologized and said she had been “curious” about the QAnon theories. This was hearsay, of course, which Althouse, as a lawyer, immediately recognized. She wrote,
I wish I had a verbatim quote, because I’m interested in whether she used the word “curious” and whether she apologized for being curious. I think we are in a very dangerous phase of cultural development if people are learning that it is wrong to become interested in things and to read and talk about notions that are not the entirely mainstream, agreed-upon stories. Are doors closing, with self-interested, cowardly people taking a stark lesson not even to consider looking at what’s in there? Freedom of thought entails a freedom to explore what is out there and to get things wrong and continue in a process of learning and thinking. The message should not be don’t take any side roads because, later on, people may see that you journeyed that way, and they’ll regard you as tainted and shun you.
Excellent, and spot on. Next, Althouse tries to diagnose where Greene went wrong:
Greene seems to have gone wrong not by being curious, but by passing undigested material along without processing it through her own critical thinking. I haven’t read much of the stuff she posted, but I did see the one Facebook post with something about the Rothschilds and California wildfires. It looks like the kind of text that naive people copy and paste because the text itself demands that it be copied and pasted. Quick! It’s important! That is so dumb. But the nitwits who do it are probably not malicious. They may think they are helping and not even recognize the signs of, say, anti-Semitism… the solution is not to punish and control people even more and to shut down their curiosity and path of intellectual exploration. It is to encourage people to go deeper and to generate their own questions about everything they read and to keep going. Don’t vouch for anything you don’t know! Maintain sharp awareness of what you actually know, which often is just that you have only read something, and not that it’s true.
This is also true, but is a comment that would be appropriate if discussing a high school junior, not a member of Congress. It terrifies me that the elected officials who make out laws may contain individuals who lack the ability to think and analyze. Yes, passion , patriotism, curiosity and civic responsibility are all admirable, but the things Rep. Greene was willing to believe just “a few years ago” are signature significance.
She’s not trustworthy.