Don't laugh at Marjorie Taylor Greene's 'peach tree' fake meat, she's deadly serious
By now the internet has had a hearty chuckle over the video that's been making the rounds for like three days now. Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, a far-right conspiracy theorist who has served as the U.S. representative for Georgia's 14th congressional district since 2021, said in a Facebook Live this week, "You have to accept the fact that the government totally wants to provide surveillance on every part of your life. They want to know when you're eating. They want to know if you're eating a cheeseburger, which is very bad because Bill Gates wants you to eat his fake meat that grows in a peach tree dish. So you'll probably get a little zap inside your body and that's saying no no don't eat a real cheeseburger you need to eat the fake burger, the fake meat from Bill Gates."
It sounds funny because of its absolute absurdity. Greene is literally part of the government. If there was any evidence that the United States wanted to surveil the citizenry to that degree, she could easily produce it or (here's a thought) stop it. But it's actually not a laughing matter at all. It's incredibly dangerous rhetoric, and it has a long history.
I've said several, several, SEVERAL times that meat has always been used to assert white national identity in the United States. Journalists write about it every single year. But each time it comes up as a topic, many of them treat it as if it happens in isolation, like each time is brand new. But it's not. Meat is the constant site of an unending culture war in the United States. Joshua Sprecht even wrote in his book Red Meat Republic that beef, in particular, is foundational to the formation of the country as a whole.
Greene seems like a caricature, but as a woman and a politician, she inhabits a role perfected by Sarah Palin nearly a decade earlier, when she talked nonstop about the centrality of meat to her identity as an American.
Greene approaches it from a different angle, but she uses meat as the same dog whistle. Not only does she discourage people from eating beef substitutes, she incorporates other elements of conspiracy theories by invoking Bill Gates and hearkens back to her earlier baseless rhetoric of her previously famed "Jewish space lasers" by talking about how we'll get zapped somehow if we don't conform.
The danger in laughing is that treating this like a joke allows it to harmlessly enter the public discourse where it festers and becomes mainstream. Greene is not a joke. Despite supporting the January 6th insurrection, and perhaps because of it, she was one of the top GOP fundraisers of 2021. And although we treat this as harmless, people on both sides of the political spectrum apply her same logic--fake meat bad, real meat good.
Regardless of whether or not you personally believe that Bill Gates is going to zap you, there is already a collective bias toward the perceived virtuousness of eating animal flesh over plants. And the bigotry and misinformation she fuels gradually becomes more palatable because she attaches this consumption of 'fake' meat to government conspiracies and Bill Gates.
These conspiracy theories are boundlessly appealing because the reality is so soul-crushingly mundane. We shouldn't worry that Bill Gates is a major investor in Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods. We should worry that one billionaire is allowed to amass the largest portfolio of private farmland in the United States, comprising an estimated 242,000 acres. That is a disturbing consolidation of the food system.
We're living in an ecological emergency that is driven in part by animal agriculture, and Greene's words are being amplified on a national stage in a country that desperately needs to shift away from an animal-based food system. So yeah, laughing at the fact that she can't say Petri misses the point. Or worse, she's savvy enough to call it "peach tree" to bury the point that she is helping to drive environmental collapse.