Marjorie Taylor Greene and the Republican Anti-History
In June, Marjorie Taylor Greene visited the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The visit was, in its own right, revealing. Earlier in the spring, the Georgian member of the US House compared Food City, a grocery store chain that identified vaccinated employees on their badges, to the Nazis, who forced Jews to wear Stars of David. A few days later, she compared the Democrats to the Nazis.
Now she was contrite. “When you make a mistake you should own it. I made a mistake, and it’s been really bothering me for a few weeks now, so I really want to own it,” she said. mentionned. “The Holocaust, there is nothing like it.”
The lesson ended in less than a month. When President Joe Biden announced his intention to send public health officials door-to-door to encourage people to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, Greene tweeted: “People have a choice, they don’t need your brown medical shirts to show up at their doorstep to order vaccinations.”
Another visit to the museum would probably be in vain. For Greene and other members of the Trump wing of the Republican Party, anti-history has become a shibboleth. They deposit historical references and facts in political debates, but without regard to context, logic or proportionality. Their villains include Adolf Hitler, but also Mao Zedong and Joseph McCarthy; the Holocaust was bad, but also, the Jewish people control the weather. The pose is more than just the historical illiteracy that is rampant among American politicians. In this faction of the GOP, members willfully ignore history, which they view in purely instrumental terms as a bludgeon to wield even if they don’t bother to understand it.
As usual, Donald Trump himself led the way. In 2018, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly had to give the then president a capsule lesson on inter-war history and which countries were on which side. of the two world wars, according to a new book by the Wall Street newspaper journalist Michael C. Bender. “Well, Hitler did a lot of good things,” Trump reportedly replied, citing the improvement in the German economy in the 1930s. (Trump denies it.) “You can never say anything in favor of Adolf Hitler “Kelly replied. ” You can not. He was right, although he didn’t see it as a reason to stop right now.
Ignorance of Trump’s story is well established. During the first fortnight of his presidency, he cited Frederick Douglass as “an example of someone who did an incredible job and is increasingly recognized, I notice”, showing no awareness of who Douglass was. . Weeks later, Trump mentioned Abraham Lincoln at a dinner party. “Great president. Most people don’t even know he was a Republican, ”he said. “Does anyone know? A lot of people don’t know. Who? Then, in May 2017, Trump thought absurdly that if Andrew Jackson had lived later, the Civil War could have been avoided.
As you might expect, many of the most egregious examples of the anti-historical approach involve Hitler. Another notable case occurred in Washington state, where a Republican state lawmaker wore a Star of David at an event to protest against vaccination warrants. (“It’s an echo of history. In the current context, we are all Jews,” he wrote on Facebook, before apologizing later.) American conservatives have often argued that the Nazis were in fact leftists, noting that the full name of the party included the words National Socialist, but anti-historians have moved from this sly fallacy to a reflexive recourse to the Holocaust, however inappropriate or misguided, in almost every debate.
Hitler’s contradictory views on the part of anti-historians can resemble ideological confusion. But they actually show how the use of the past by anti-historians is purely opportunistic. These politicians do not interpret history to support their views, but choose isolated and misunderstood examples to match whatever argument they make.
The anti-history is not limited to particular views of Hitler. Earlier this week, former Trump spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany told Fox News viewers: “We know that most of our ancestors, all of our main founding fathers, were against slavery, acknowledged it. the evils. ” (Several founders expressed their ambivalence about slavery while enslaving people, but that’s not what McEnany said.) Rep. Madison Cawthorn from North Carolina likes to quote American history and is often wrong. , creating its own anti-history canon.
Many legitimate disputes exist over the facts of history and its interpretation: Consider some – but perhaps not most – of the debate over The New York Times Magazine‘s 1619 Project. Politicians can also make questionable or mistaken statements about history without participating in anti-history.
Conspiracy thinking, another hallmark of Trumpism, is anti-history’s natural partner. Each extracts isolated facts or claims from their appropriate context, fabricates new contexts for them without regard to reality, and transforms them into partisan weapons. That Greene (found espousing bizarre anti-Semitic theories while not comparing anything she doesn’t like to the Holocaust) and Trump are the main proponents of anti-history and conspiracy thought is no coincidence.
In 1955, the founding father of a new stream of conservatism, William F. Buckley, promised that his magazine, National exam, “would be throughout history, shouting Stop”. Rising Trumpist tension in the conservative movement rises through the slop, shouting “History! “