The Great Replacement Theory has been in the news lately due to its connection with the May 14th Buffalo shooting. However, it has also inspired attacks on religious minorities in Texas and New Zealand. The replacement theory asserts that demographic changes in America are not natural and are orchestrated by politicians for political gain. Marilyn Mayo, a senior research fellow at the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism says that “Instead of saying that nonwhites are coming here and replacing white people, the language that is used is ‘We’re having an invasion over the border’ and that this liberal administration and Democrats are letting in these immigrants from Third World countries with the purpose of changing the demographics of this country.” There are many iterations of the theory. Some believe that the purpose of the migrant invasion is to conquer white America, some people believe that pro-immigration policies are “designed by elites to diminish the political influence of white Americans” and many believe that “Jewish elites are responsible for the replacement plot.” There is no evidence that any part of the theory is true.
However, the Great Replacement Theory has risen in popularity lately. On September 22nd, 2021 responding to the increasing number of migrants at U.S borders, Fox News host Tucker Carlson said that the U.S border policy is designed to “change the racial mix of the country. … In political terms this policy is called the ‘great replacement,’ the replacement of legacy Americans with more obedient people from faraway countries.” Carlson has echoed this theory multiple times in the past year—enough for a montage to be created showing all the times he promoted it. The New York Times found that “he has amplified the idea that a cabal of elites want to force demographic change through immigration” in more than 400 episodes! Furthermore, many far-right politicians and commentators have also shown their support for the “great replacement”, magnifying the theory’s support. According to the ADL, “The Great Replacement theory has its roots in early 20th century French nationalism and books by French nationalist and author Maurice Barres.” In modern society, French writer and critic Renaud Camus popularized the phrase when he published an essay titled “Le Grand Remplacement” in 2011.
The Buffalo supermarket shooting suspect Payton Gendron wrote a 180-page document presenting his white supremacist beliefs and his intentions to attack a Black community. Gendron was inspired by the man who shot and killed 51 worshippers in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. Both shooters released manifestos on their beliefs shortly before carrying out their attacks. Both also live-streamed their attacks. Much of the language in Gendron’s document echoes the New Zealand shooter’s beliefs. Both documents say “This crisis of mass immigration and sub-replacement fertility is an assault on the European people that, if not combated, will ultimately result in the complete racial and cultural replacement of the European people.” Neither of the documents directly mention the Great Replacement theory but both clearly reference it. The Buffalo shooter also takes on the same question and answer format that the New Zealand shooter used. Responding to the question: “Why did you decide to carry out the attack?”, Gendron says “To show to the replacers that as long as the White man lives, our land will never be theirs and they will never be safe from us.” The connection to the Great Replacement theory is highlighted when he says “the people who are to blame most are ourselves, European men. Strong men do not get ethnically replaced, strong men do not allow their culture to degrade, strong men do not allow their people to die. Weak men have created this situation and strong men are needed to fix it.”
It is frightening that people in our society truly believe in fallacious conspiracy theories. It is frightening that individuals murder innocent people as a result of fallacious conspiracy theories. It is frightening that noteworthy figures use their national platforms to spread fallacious conspiracy theories.
* a note: A 180-page document allegedly written, but still remains unconfirmed, by the Buffalo shooter was released before the attack. Individuals in the terrorism-analysis community posted on social media telling others to not circulate the document. That night, the document was seemingly wiped off the internet. Reporters quoted portions of the document but to confirm their findings, Discourses managed to gain access to the document for this article.