Why Conspiracy Theorists Like Marjorie Taylor Greene Always Land on the Jews

Plus: a couple important announcements about me and this newsletter

I’ve got some news for you about exciting developments in my life and this newsletter, but first, my latest.

By now, whether you wanted to or not, you’ve probably heard of Marjorie Taylor Greene. Normally, the Georgia politician’s tenuous relationship with reality would be a problem for her and her immediate community, but currently, it is America’s problem because Greene is a member of Congress. And she has never met a conspiracy theory she didn’t like—or tweet. The rap sheet is long and bizarre, as I wrote in Tablet today:

Greene has shared material related to QAnon, which posits that the world is dominated by a clandestine pedophile cabal. She has expressed 9/11 conspiracy theories, claimed Barack Obama was a secret Muslim, and said that the mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida, was a “false flag.” And she’s had a particular soft spot for wild anti-Jewish plots. She posted a neo-Nazi video that declared that “Zionist supremacists” were “breeding us out of existence in our own homelands.” She accused the Jewish Rothschild banking dynasty of setting forest fires with a secret space laser. And she even liked a tweet claiming that Israel’s Mossad was behind the assassination of JFK.

…Greene is far from the first anti-Semite in Congress, and she won’t be the last. Members of the body have even quoted the infamous anti-Semitic tract The Protocols of the Elders of Zion on the floor of the House of Representatives. Which raises the question: Why does this keep happening?

Put another way, why do even conspiracy theories and theorists that don’t start out anti-Semitic inevitably become anti-Semitic? The answer, as I explain in the piece, is that once someone has decided that an invisible hand is behind the world’s problems, it’s only a matter of time before they decide it belongs to an invisible Jew. Read the whole thing to find out why.

And now some personal news

You might have noticed that I’ve been gone for a month. Contrary to popular speculation, it’s not because I’ve been deployed to a covert posting on the secret orbital Jewish space laser. (That was last February.) It’s because we welcomed our first child last month:

This welcome expansion of our family brings with it new financial obligations, which means it’s time for me to finally do something I’ve meant to do for a while: turn on paid subscriptions for this newsletter. From this day forward, if you appreciate my work and want to support it, you can now do so by becoming a paying member for $5 a month. That’s just 16 cents a day. Plus, if you sign up now, you can take advantage of a lifetime 20% early adopter discount ($4). Do it today and you’ll get to say you were a paying subscriber before it was cool (and then get to keep saying that for as long as this newsletter exists).

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Recommended Reading and Viewing

I obviously haven’t had as much time for writing in recent weeks, but hanging out with a newborn does provide ample opportunities for reading and watching stuff. Some of this is a bit off the beaten track, but hey, you wouldn’t need me to highlight it if it wasn’t!

  • Tzvi Sinensky on the anti-Semitic myth of Jewish male menstruation. This sounds bizarre to us in retrospect, but as Sinensky shows, the idea was widespread and seen as totally commonsensical by educated people for a very long time. It was even tied into the science of the era. Studies like this are a reminder that anti-Semitism always expresses itself in the respectable terms of the moment, and that thinking seriously about anti-Semitism means thinking seriously about how the respectable ideas of our day—political, religious, scholarly—might be being perverted to anti-Semitic ends, right under our noses. That’s an uncomfortable prospect, which is why so few people entertain it—and why anti-Semitism persists.

  • My friend from college Jake McAuley—former Washington Post Paris Bureau Chief and incoming Global Opinions columnist—did a Zoom class on something he knows more about than most people: How France collaborated with the Nazis and why that still matters. You can watch the talk here:

  • Slate’s interview with one of my favorite national political reporters, Astead Herndon of the New York Times. A lot of what he says about reporting on racism mirrors how I approach reporting on anti-Semitism.

  • Antonio Garcia-Martinez’s conversation with journalist and coronavirus prophet Zeynep Tüfekçi, which is hard to summarize, but is basically just two very smart people talking about very smart things—from how social media has changed global politics to why “follow the science” is more complicated that it seems.

  • Finally for some lighter fare, I recommend this Tom Lehrer concert that for some reason took place in Copenhagen in 1967. If you haven’t heard of Lehrer, the Harvard math prodigy turned international satirical music sensation turned quiet recluse, you’re in for a treat:

That’s all for now. Thank you as always for your readership and support, and please, if you’re able, do subscribe today, and tell your friends about this newsletter:

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