Whataboutism and The Rise of the Flip Wilsonicans
The only thing missing was a turn directly to camera, let that grin creep across her face and tell everyone “The devil made me do it”
During her floor speech before she was stripped of committee assignments and relegated to Tweeting at her fellow members of Congress from the sidelines, Marjorie Taylor Greene uttered a rather remarkable string of words:
But you see, here’s the problem. Throughout 2018, because I was upset about things and didn’t trust the government, really because the people here weren’t doing the things I thought they should be doing for us, the things I just told you I cared about. And I want you to know, a lot of Americans don’t trust our government, and that’s sad.
The problem with that is, though, is that I was allowed to believe things that weren’t true and I would ask questions about them and talk about them. And that is absolutely what I regret, because if it weren’t for the Facebook posts and comments that I liked in 2018, I wouldn’t be standing here today and you couldn’t point a finger or accuse me of anything wrong because I’ve lived a very good life that I’m proud of and my family’s proud of, my husband’s proud of, my children are proud of, and that’s what my district elected me for.
You could teach a semester worth of psychology and ethics classics just on that part, let alone the other 10 minutes’ worth of the non-apology explainer Rep. Greene doled out.
There were chunks of theology:
These were words of the past and these things do not represent me, they do not represent my district and they do not represent my values.
Here’s what I can tell you. I am being grateful for this opportunity and I’ll tell you why. I believe in God with all my heart and I am so grateful to be humbled to be reminded that I am a sinner, and that Jesus died on the cross to forgive me for my sins, and this is something that I absolutely rejoice in today, to tell you all.
And I think it’s important for all of us to remember, none of us are perfect, none of us are, and none of us can even come close to earning our way into heaven just by our acts and our words, but it’s only through the grace of God.
There was an exposition on the Greene family dynamics:
I’ve lived a very good that life that I’m proud of and my family’s proud of, my husband’s proud of, my children are proud of, and that’s what my district elected me for…
There was of course a heaping helping of whataboutism:
And if this Congress is to tolerate members that condone riots that have hurt American people, attacked police officers, occupied federal property, burned businesses in cities, but yet wants to condemn me and crucify me in the public square for words that that I said and I regret, a few years ago, then I think we’re in a real big problem, a very big problem.
What shall do with Americans? Should we stay divided like this? Will we allow the media that is just as guilty as QAnon of presenting truth and lies to divide us?
And a segue into abortion, which is of course the true hallmark of any good apology for promulgating posts about Jewish space lasers, denying Sandy Hook & 9/11, and remarking the best way to deal with the sitting Speaker of the House was to put a bullet in her head:
And this why I will tell you, as a member of this Congress, the 117th Congress, I am a passionate person, I am a competitor, I am a fighter, I will work with you for good things for the people of this country, but the things I will not stand for is abortion. I think it’s the worst thing this country has committed, and if we’re to say ‘In God We Trust’, how do we murder God’s creation in the womb?
And no modern dance of blame avoidance is complete without the buzzword du jour, “Cancel Culture”:
“I also want to tell you that we’ve got to do better. You see, big media companies can take teeny tiny pieces of words that I’ve said, that you have said, that any of us said, and can, and can portray us into someone that we’re not, and that is wrong.
“Cancel culture is a real thing, very real, and when big tech companies like Twitter you can scroll through and see where someone may have retweeted porn, this is a problem. This is a terrible, terrible thing, but yet when I say that I absolutely believe with all my heart that God’s creation, is that he created them male and female, and that should not be denied.
But consider, if you will, that first highlighted passage again.
I was allowed to believe things that weren’t true and I would ask questions about them and talk about them. And that is absolutely what I regret, because if it weren’t for the Facebook posts and comments that I liked in 2018, I wouldn’t be standing here today and you couldn’t point a finger or accuse me of anything wrong because I’ve lived a very good life…
To use another overused term of the day, Marjorie Taylor Greene is what happens when the rich blonde privilege of having never been told no is made flesh and dwells among us, and a bunch of fools in GA-14 thought it was a good idea to elect this manifestation of never having been rebuffed in her life to congress. It’s the media’s fault, for quoting her word for word and showing the videos she herself made to make herself famous, you see. It’s Facebook’s fault for her spending so much of her idle time chasing conspiracy theories and enjoying the views and likes from making her own media about them. There wasn’t an apology, just a regret that she had documented her lunacy to such an extent that it finally caught up with her and there was no longer a shield from the consequences of how she had conducted herself.
Not that she was going to be doing the grunt work of committee assignments and legislating anyway. Let’s be real here; while she deserved to be stripped of committees, and in my humble but accurate opinion should be expelled from a congress that wasn’t completely craven like this one is, this is the greatest thing to ever happen to Rep Marjorie Taylor Greene. She now has carte blanche to just be the backbench troll she was going to be anyway, but now with a martyr complex to sell during fundraising and even more people to blame for not getting her way.
The only thing missing from her speech and actions afterwards was for her to turn directly to camera, break the fourth wall down, let that grin creep across her face and tell everyone “The devil made me do it” while the laugh track played behind it.
That, of course, was the method and catchphrase of the late, great Flip Wilson. Like all great comedy, it worked because there was a good amount of real life truth baked into the punch line for folks to relate to:
Wilson would do something outrageous in plain sight, then grin into the camera and say, “The Devil made me do it.” The audience would howl because everyone was in on the joke. We all knew that Flip was exploiting a bit of theology to avoid taking responsibility for his bad behavior. All you had to do was say, “The Devil made me do it,” and you got off the hook with your parents, your boss, your teacher, or your partner. It was a “Get out of Jail Free” card and Flip used it week after week.
The difference is, it was absurdist comedy when Flip did it. But not everyone is kidding about this.
Wilson’s routine got us all to laugh at the idea that someone could acknowledge that they had done something terrible, but dodge responsibility by making a theological claim. Whether the subject had robbed a bank, cheated on his wife, or played hooky from school and gone joyriding with his friends, it was all the same. It wasn’t his fault because-all together now-”the Devil made me do it.”
This kind of devil-based theology includes an important but unstated message: When I’m a good boy (or girl), you can attribute my good acts directly to me and my sterling character. But if I behave in horrible, irresponsible ways, just blame it on the Devil, who is running the show.
We are hearing it incessantly these days. It makes one long for the days when personal responsibility at least got lip service. But that’s so passé to the new era of Flip Wilsonicans. It’s easy to fundraise off “The media made me do it” and grow email lists of “Big Tech made me do it” and get votes out with “the other party made me do it”. And then when all else fails, you can always turtle up under the shadow of the cross and remind everyone how we are all sinners so how dare you judge me in the first place you sinning sinner who sins and are sinning right now by even thinking about judging me…
Whatever the reason, all they have to do is turn to camera now and utter the line with just enough grin to let their audience join in on the joke “The [fill in the boogeyman of your choice here] made me do it” and if that doesn’t work then segue how you are practically Christ on the cross as a backup plan.
Which is what Marjorie Taylor Greene did here. This is learned behavior from our political class. Marjorie Taylor Greene didn’t roll out of bed Thursday morning and suddenly come up with that speech; she trained her mind and ethics for years with repetitive behavior of never having been challenged and never being told no, you are wrong. Thus, you get the Flip Wilsonican non-apology that is basically “I can’t believe this is happening to me, do you know who I am oh look murdered babies I love Jesus Dems bad.”
And it isn’t funny. But we’ve allowed it from the body politic, and until we train them with refutation of their behavior, the newest crop of Flip Wilsonicans will keep grinning to the camera and claiming the devil, or the media, or the other party, or whoever else made them do it because they think that is sufficient to get them off the hook and back on the grift. Marjorie Taylor Greene will be made into an avatar for many different things, but she is without question a perfect example of the slew of Flip Wilsonicans we are afflicted with who will never be to blame for anything they ever do.
And the pathetic thing is, until we the American people prove them otherwise, they are right. They will get away with it. The wickedness that plagues our congress doesn’t have anything to do with the Devil. He can just sit back and laugh. We aren’t doing a thing different than he would for him already. Shame on us.
Originally published at https://ordinary-times.com on February 5, 2021.