No Isolated Incident
Replacement Theory is being perpetuated by the Republican Party and Right Wing media as a political strategy. It's literally killing people and making bloodshed more and more certain.
On Saturday May 14th, a shooter wearing tactical military gear and carrying an assault rifle scrawled with racist slurs marched into the Tops supermarket in Buffalo, New York and opened fire. Killing ten and wounding 13, the shooter was eventually taken into custody by the police. That he survived the massacre while so many people of color are routinely murdered without so much as carrying a weapon is one matter, but the motivation he cited in his own writings is yet another.
This blog has been covering the Right’s obsession with Replacement Theory for over a year now, focusing on Tucker Carlson’s mainstreaming of the idea and FOX News’s willingness to let the poison punctuate their airwaves. The concept itself has become familiar to some of us trafficking in Right Wing extremism beginning in March of 2019, when another white supremacist killed 51 in a series of a mosque attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand. In his manifesto he blamed the carrying out of a “white genocide” by the world’s powers, framing his attack as hopefully one of many in the defense of the white race.
Buffalo’s shooter not only sought inspiration from Christchurch, but plagiarized large sections of that manifesto. The story was rehashed: the proud white race, having built society, was now under attack by sinister forces seeking to destroy it and use liberal democracy as a Trojan horse in order to replace white citizens with hordes of immigrants that would be more pliable and controllable.
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This idea is part of the Grand Replacement conspiracy theory that I outlined in a recent episode of The Muckrake Podcast. It has its origins in France with Renaud Camus, a reactionary who believes a system of “reverse-colonization” is underway that will ultimately destroy “Western Civilization.” Camus’s ideas have gained traction because they play along the same lines as the anti-Semitic Protocols of the Elders of Zion narratives favored by the Right Wing. In all of these authoritarian power grabs, the concept is depressingly similar. White supremacy is the defining force in the world, but is under attack by Jews and foreign threats working in tandem with internal liberal traitors in order to marshal large populations of color to do their bidding to destroy the rightful order.
Unfortunately, as we have been discussing here, the Right Wing is embracing fully an authoritarian agenda that would roll back all the progress of the 20th century in favor of a new regime dedicated explicitly to an agenda for, by, and in the benefit of white, wealthy, evangelical men. In order to achieve that, a whole host of conspiracy theories are necessary to legitimize the actions necessary. Replacement Theory is most definitely one of the narratives needed.
Again, as has been discussed, the pipeline for these conspiracy theories is rather straightforward. Fringe elements online and in the orbit of provocateurs like Alex Jones of InfoWars disseminate narratives and, after having tested them with viewers and listeners, personalities like Tucker Carlson lift them into the mainstream conversation and legitimize them for Republican politicians. Soon, the overtly racist, homophobic, sexist fringe is in a full-scale conversational loop with lawmakers and public figures. That loop continues and grows in ferocity and intensity until the GOP’s base is absolutely convinced they are under attack and any means are necessary to fend it off.
We are seeing a culture war turned hot. These shootings are not isolated incidents and the shooters are not “lone wolves.” They are part of a larger movement that has come to dominate one of the two major parties in the United States of America. Our obsession with firearms is part of the problem, no doubt, as is our nonexistent mental health safety net and worsening alienation, but the pressing matter is that white men radicalized by Right Wing talking points are picking up their AR-15s and massacring innocent people because they believe they are fighting an invisible war.
The GOP tells them this. Right Wing personalities tell them this. White supremacists using social media sites like Facebook tell them this every single day. They are told they are under attack and that their families and loved ones are doomed unless somebody does something. In each of these manifestos you see this in literally so many words.
Somebody. Has. To. Do. Something.
This is not about political one-upmanship or trying to score points off a tragedy. This is about diagnosing a very real and very pressing problem that no one really seems to want to name. For years now, as political and social conditions have worsened, people have sort of offhandedly wondered whether the culture war could turn tragic. Well, we already know our answer, and simply paying attention provides all the evidence we need. This is a long, long line of interconnected attacks that spring from the same origin.
God help us if we keep denying what is a very obvious fact.