The U.S. House of Representatives kicked the far-right Republican congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene off her committees on Thursday as punishment for her past support of violence against prominent Democrats and various styles of bigotry and extremism—including anti-Muslim dogmatics and the viral anti-Semitic QAnon conspiracy theory. In one Facebook post, Greene suggested that forest fires were started by the Rothschilds using a space laser. How is the renewed currency of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories on the right changing American politics?

Emily Tamkin has been writing about these subjects as the U.S. editor for the U.K.’s New Statesman. She’s the author of The Influence of Soros, a book about the Jewish billionaire and philanthropist George Soros, who’s lavishly funded progressive causes and had become a frequent figure in right-wing conspiracies long before Donald Trump took office. Tamkin sees strong correlations among anti-Semitism, conspiracy narratives, and some core challenges to liberal democracy and the open society worldwide.


Graham Vyse: What does the election of Marjorie Taylor Greene tell you about the role of anti-Semitism and conspiracy theories in contemporary American political life?

Emily Tamkin: Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and anti-Black racism are all connected. But if we focus on what is explicitly anti-Semitic—from the supposed laser controlled by the Rothschilds to the idea that Jewish people are responsible for a Muslim invasion—what these things have in common is the notion that Jews have outsized control and are using that control to hurt the sovereign country. This is classic anti-Semitism.

It’s tempting to write off the “Jewish space laser” as zany—to say it’s so outlandish that it shouldn’t be taken seriously. But the risk, because some of this congresswoman’s views are almost cartoonish, is that she will be taken as a cartoon. I don’t think there’s anything funny about the idea that Jews are controlling various nefarious elements to hurt people.

Vyse: Greene was first known nationally for believing in QAnon. What’s the connection between conspiracy theories generally and anti-Semitism specifically?

Tamkin: If you adhere to something like QAnon, which basically claims to explain everything going on in the world through a series of events that are not actually happening, you can believe the world is ordered in a certain way. Things are happening for a reason. But if you give yourself over to that, you need a villain—somebody pulling the strings.

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