Marjorie Taylor Greene held a press conference late last week. It took place inside, meaning the Jews with the space laser must have been at red alert once again.
The raison d’être for Greene’s shindig was to announce that she’d been banned from Twitter. Which raises the question: what do I have to do to get arrested in this town? I recently reactivated my own Twitter account after a blessed hiatus and I would give anything to be banished from that cesspool. How do you get hoosegowed? Apparently all you have to do is what everyone else on Twitter is doing: Greene was banned for spreading ‘COVID misinformation’.
If @jack is going to personally exile everyone who’s tweeting falsehoods about the coronavirus, then that ridiculous beard of his is going to reach Gandalf the Grey-levels by the time he’s finished. Instead he seems to just be picking on Greene, which only empowered her to claim that she’s being censored. Greene did make it clear, though, that she doesn’t want to share her entire tornadic system of inner thoughts on social media. Asked by a reporter whether she’d been vaccinated, she called the question ‘a violation of my HIPAA rights’, which is the same thing I yell when someone asks me why I’m drinking at 11 o’clock in the morning.
Therein a tension at the heart of conservative thought. On one hand, there are some right-wingers, especially at the intellectual level, who have come to view individual rights as passé, obstructions to the government wielding like a fiery sword whatever it deems to be the national good. You can think of several groups who might have historically informed objections to this, starting with those Jews who aren’t atop the space laser. But such are the trends at the moment. On the other hand are conservatives who are busy expanding their rights into a 21st-century world: the right to say what they please on social media, for example, and the (apparently HIPAA-derived) right to not get vaccinated.
You might wonder whether there are HIPAA Anti-Federalists, those who oppose HIPAA because they don’t think its rights are codified explicitly enough. Whatever the case, let’s not get too bogged down in political theory. The takeaway from Greene’s press conference is not that she’s the next Montesquieu; it’s this: she was only banned from Twitter for 12 hours. Twelve hours! And over this, half the journos on Capitol Hill showed up at her presser. At one point, Greene shared a laugh with a reporter from the New York Times. It was the first moment of bipartisanship in recent memory that left me more depressed than I’d been before.
What this speaks to, what Greene represents, is a major change in our legislative branch. It used to be that congressmen and senators amassed power by waiting in line, putting in their committee hours, cosponsoring legislation, not pissing off the majority leader. These days, they get ahead by posing for the cameras; visibility is the new currency. The thing to do now is to give a fiery speech dressing down some public figure. Video footage of you then goes viral and you get invited on cable news. You then say something outrageous on cable news, which also makes the Twitter rounds. And then you post to Instagram a picture of you watching your own cable news hit with your breakfast grapefruit in the foreground, which racks up another 32,000 likes.
This is one reason why it’s so strange having Joe Biden as president: he’s our most prominent living throwback to the pre-internet congressional era. It’s why you can’t help but wonder what exactly is going to happen once Mitch McConnell and Nancy Pelosi are gone — whatever their faults, both have deep old-school institutional knowledge and understand how to manage their caucuses. And it’s why it’s difficult to blame the Notorious MTG for putting on a show. She was only playing by a set of rules that pre-date her by many years.
It’s also why all the journalists bemoaning her stunt can go pound sand. They helped create this mess, after all. They played along, skewed the incentives, turned our politics into a Target electronics department with monsters shrieking off of TVs stretching into oblivion. They were only too happy to provide these showmen with oxygen, driving up their clicks at the expense of more serious issues. And it’s here that my own inconsistency must be acknowledged. I’m contributing to this too. By writing about Greene instead of jobs or inflation or the military-industrial complex, I’m guilty of the very sin I decry.
I don’t know whether hypocrisy is a violation of Twitter’s policies, since I’d sooner try to read Finnegan’s Wake at a metal concert than get through those terms and conditions. But either way, @jack, take note: it’s time to ban me too. Sentence me to a hell of Twitter-free evenings with my family and friends. Condemn me to a quiet break from wondering whether that GIF I just posted has accrued another retweet. As for MTG, I think she’ll find that a short vacation from social media will do her some good. It will both heighten her contempt for our screamo press and ease her belief in whatever pernicious conspiracy theories she still subscribes to. And isn’t that just the sweet spot right there?
Still, if she does decide to get back on social media, she may need to make amends. Fortunately it shouldn’t be hard for her to prove she’s a responsible Twitter user. All she’ll need to do is tweet praise for the guy who attacked Rand Paul.
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