When I turned 13, like many Jews around the United States and the rest of the world, I was bar mitzvahed. Upon the conclusion of my service, after reciting blessings and reading from the Torah, I was rushed to an unmarked back room. The room was small and consisted of just a single chair facing a video monitor. It was there where I received a call from the Rothschild family. I was finally old enough to be given my very first Jewish space laser.

If it wasn’t clear that this did not happen, I will tell you now. It did not happen. There are no such things as Jewish space lasers. Any sane, sensible, respectful person should know this, but none of those adjectives apply to U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga. Greene has become notorious over the last few months for parroting all kinds of bigoted conspiracies. Most famously, her comments about Jewish space lasers causing California’s 2018 wildfires. However, Greene’s comments reflect a larger problem within the Republican Party. Their increasing acceptance of conspiracy theories should worry everyone, regardless of party affiliation, and must be met face on and put to an end. 

Greene’s conspiracy, which drew some of the most intense backlashes, came from one of her resurfaced Facebook posts from 2018. She wrote about how the California wildfires were caused by a space laser and that the “Vice Chairman of Rothschild Inc, international investment banking firm” was somehow involved. The rest of her post rambled on about how alternative energy panels in space were reflecting rays from the sun back to earth in order to increase stock prices and help wealthy investors. Aside from making zero scientific or logical sense, it is also blatantly anti-Semitic, as blaming the Rothschild family is a century-old anti-Semitic tactic to scapegoat Jews for society’s problems.

That was just the surface of Greene’s conspiracies. Greene openly supports QAnon, a discredited and disproven right-wing conspiracy theory that incorporates the “deep state” and a global elite that consists of pedophiles, Satan worshippers and cannibals who plotted against former President Donald Trump and has gathered a cult-like following. She also claims that no plane crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11, the Parkland shooting was a false flag event and Sandy Hook was staged. On top of all that, Greene “repeatedly indicated support for executing prominent Democratic politicians in 2018 and 2019 before being elected to Congress.” Writing about all of Greene’s theories is a daunting task but overall, they largely all consist of the same Islamophobic, xenophobic, racist, anti-Semitic and dangerous rhetoric. 

As more and more of Greene’s theories surfaced, House Democrats called for her removal from her assignments on the Education and Budget Committees. In a 230-199 vote, with just 11 Republicans joining all of the Democrats, Greene was removed from her committee seats, drastically reducing her ability to enact and contribute to policy making. While her political power has been hindered, what is still concerning are the 199 Republicans who did not believe Greene deserved to be punished for her comments. Yet, this should come as no surprise. About a month after voting to overturn the election results and choosing to support Trump’s lies about election fraud, the vast majority of House Republicans still cannot hold their own accountable. 

The current Republican party is infused with conspiratorial lies that contribute to hate and violence. Last fall, in a vote to condemn QAnon, 18 Republicans voted against condemning the dangerous conspiracy theory. In other words, 18 Republicans refused to denounce a disproven theory that Democrats, celebrities and a “global elite” conspire to traffic children, drink children’s blood and conspire against Trump and his supporters. These beliefs are not isolated within politicians either. In a recent YouGov poll, 30% of self-proclaimed Republicans had a “favorable” opinion of QAnon. At first glance, this seems like a polling anomaly. An NPR/Ipsos poll found that 17% of Americans, including 23% of Republicans, believe that a “group of Satan-worshipping elites who run a child sex ring are trying to control our politics and media” — a vital principle of QAnon. If this is the direction that the Republican Party is going in, they are going down a path that cannot be followed.  

So what can we all do to stop the spread of threatening and harmful conspiracies that have real-world consequences? First things first we have to understand how people get sucked into believing these things. The first mistake people make is believing that only stupid or unintelligent people become followers of QAnon. Like many cults, QAnon provides people with a feeling that they belong to an elite community, offering them a sense of belonging. Although it is not an easy task, and the tactics are widely debated amongst extremism experts, once more is understood about how QAnon attracts new followers, the work can be done to de-radicalize them. 

While some conspiracy theories can be harmless like Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster, other conspiracies have real-world consequences that should be taken seriously by everyone. We have already seen the damage that election fraud conspiracies have had when thousands of people stormed the U.S. Capitol Building leaving five dead and dozens more injured. QAnon followers have already been caught threatening to kidnap and even assassinate public figures. As QAnon grows in popularity and edges closer to becoming mainstream within the Republican Party, even more violence will accompany it. The time is now to put an end to QAnon’s conspiratorial influence within the GOP before they become the GQP. 

Alex Nobel can be reached at anobel@umich.edu.

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