On Twitter, you may have seen the superficially hilarious term “Jewish Space Lasers” trending. However, the implications of this facetious but hysterical term, and how it came to be, are no laughing matter. Here are the facts of the situations: the “Jewish space laser” discussion began to unfold when freshman Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene publicly speculated that the wildfires which have plagued California of late were in truth caused by an experiment by the Rothschilds, an “international banking firm,” who were experimenting with “solar generators” that supposedly caused the fires. Greene posted her theory on Facebook in 2018, and it resurfaced recently. When these assertions caught the public eye, Greene did not issue a public apology. Further, even with this blatant anti-Semitism added to a long list of ridiculous conspiracy theories Greene supports, she was not condemned or criticized for her actions by most house Republicans.
I see two glaring, imminent, issues with Greene’s behavior and its fallout. The first, and most obvious, is the evident revival of an age-old style of anti-Semitism that relies on stereotypes and conspiracies to target Jews. The second is the slow poisoning of the US government caused by conspiracy theorists like Greene who sow mistrust among the political parties, and effectively strangle the electoral process.
Like many other forms of descrimination, anti-Semitism relies heavily on mythical stereotypes regarding Jews, and then applies these harmful characteristics to every member of the community without exception. However, there is a crucial difference between anti-Semitism and other forms of race or ethnicity based hatred. Most forms insist that the targeted race is “less than”: they are supposedly less smart, less wealthy, less deserving of success. But when applied to anti-Semitism the opposite stereotype seems to apply: Jews are supposedly in charge of politics, money, and vast media networks. They control the world.
The majority of all acts of anti-Semitism throughout our history have had this conspiracy at their core. From the allegation that Jews poisoned wells during the Middle Ages, to the more recent Protocols of the Elders of Zion (a forgery that claimed to have recorded a meeting of prominent Jews who schemed to control global finance) Jews have been targeted because of the unfair power we apparently hold.
By instigating that Jews have created space lasers with such destructive power, this age-old conspiracy is what Greene is supporting. Greene did not simply make an anti-Semitic remark–what she did was in some ways far worse. She gave anti-Semites worldwide the ammunition to attack us by revitalizing hatred and fear of Jewish power.
While alone, the anti-Semitism of this event is terrible, there is another layer of monumental problems caused by the words of conspiracy theory peddlers such as Greene. Alt right conspiracies, such as those publicized by QAnon, are not just saturated with anti-Semetic imagery and symbols: they weaken the very foundations of democracy. These conspiracies function by sowing mistrust of elected bodies, the legislative process, financial agencies, and the media. All institutions which are cornerstones of democracy. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s Wikipedia page verbatim characterises her as a “far-right conspiracy theorist.” How can it be that a person who avidly supports theories which weaken democratic government is representing Americans?
Greene is guilty of weakening democracy through her actions, but house Republicans are also guilty of standing by and allowing it to happen. A few principled leaders condemned Greene: Sen. Mitt Romney said of Greene “Our big (Republican) tent is not large enough to both accommodate conservatives and kooks.” House Minority Whip Steve Scalise maintained that “The comments made by Ms. Greene are disgusting and don’t reflect the values of equality and decency that make our country great.”However, these remarks are the exceptions. Only 11 Republicans voted to strip Greene of her committee assignments after these events took place a few weeks ago. By standing back and allowing Greene to spew conspiracy rhetoric and antisemitism, by applauding her, Republicans are dirtying their already tainted track record, and are allowing the cancer known as conspiracy and racism to flourish when it should be stamped out.