Replacement and Violence: White Supremacy and American Fascism
Tucker Carlson's espousing of "Replacement Theory" is an echo of America's racist and fascist past, and it should not be ignored
Tucker Carlson is perpetually in the news because he insists, week-to-week, in escalating his already disturbingly dangerous defense and embrace of opinions that are either explicitly fascist and racist or carefully, intentionally tiptoeing around those margins. In just the past month he has admitted, on his own show, that the Right will elect a fascist as their leader because Democrats will force their hands, defended the January 6th Coup as a necessary and rightful attack on government, and now, repeated the white supremacist lie of “Replacement Theory,” that claims the Democratic Party is intentionally and purposefully importing people of color into the United States as a means of unseating white people from power.
“Now,” Tucker said, “I know that the left and all the little gatekeepers on Twitter become literally hysterical if you use the term ‘replacement,’ if you suggest that the Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate, the voters now casting ballots, with new people, more obedient voters from the Third World. But they become hysterical because that's what's happening actually. Let's just say it: That's true.”
What Tucker espoused was not just racist or white supremacist in nature, it was the very stuff of white supremacist terrorism and active neo-fascism in the modern world. These beliefs power terrorist movements that are the biggest danger to your safety and mine, that are actively coalescing around the world, and will, depending on the person, tell you, in so many words, their intention is to destroy the government of the United States, plunge the country into a second civil war, and realize an explicitly fascistic white ethnostate in its ruin.
One of the great misunderstandings of this moment is that any of this is new. Donald Trump obviously represented a degeneration of what we call the “status quo,” but he was representative of a larger systemic rot in American culture and politics. That he is no longer president is not proof that that disease has been cured or even particularly stalled. That disease has infected the body of America since its founding and has flared up, in new and different ways, whether it was the uprising by slaveholders in the 19th century, the paranoid, oppressive actions of the Cold War, or in the horrific development of American fascism in the 20th century, a development that serves as a prescient precursor to this crisis we find ourselves in now.
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The history of fascism is an incomplete story without beginning in America in the early 20th century, where white supremacy constantly agitated for control over immigration. Writers like Madison Grant and Lothrop Stoddard published screeds that warned of a future where people of color would soon outnumber whites, destroying a “great culture” and sending the world into an apocalyptic spiral. They were incredibly popular books and earned Grant and Stoddard seats at the table in US leadership, where they advised politicians of the day in how to define our immigration policy and helped give rise to nascent eugenics programs that sought to purify the gene pool to ensure a future utopia of white supremacy.
America was the cradle for this thought and partnered with Great Britain in raising the pseudo-science and its racist roots to prominence. These ideas would eventually find root in Germany, where economic and political turmoil had given rise to racist madman Adolf Hitler, who read these tomes, studied America’s prejudiced past and present, and decided to turn his nation into a laboratory meant to bring these new ideas into fruition and forge a new future based on racism, exploitation, and the destruction of liberal democracy.
Though stories we tell ourselves position Hitler as a man removed from America, the links are legion. Hitler admired the US and its racism, the way it had committed genocide against the indigenous people, the enslavement of Africans, the establishment of a stratified, racist society post-Civil War, and wanted nothing more than to partner with the United States in defending white supremacy from the threat of people of color. Germany hosted thinkers like Grant and Stoddard, invited American eugenics leaders to Germany to oversee their own program.
This thinking, the white supremacist paranoia of Grant, Stoddard, and now men like Tucker Carlson, is the exact same mindset that powered the Third Reich and unleashed one of the most destructive and repulsive powers the world had ever seen.
It would be damning enough if that were the full extent of the relationship between America and Nazi Germany, but bold-faced Nazism became incredibly popular stateside in the years prior to Pearl Harbor. The Depression that helped usher the Nazis to power also tormented the US, meaning that young men were left jobless, aimless, and allowed to stew in their rage and disillusionment. Thousands of them embraced fascism, including joining fascist movements like the German-American Bund, who established training camps around the country and hosted a rally in Madison Square Garden that attracted over 22,000 supporters), the Silver Shirts, and the America First Committee.
The America First Committee was incredibly popular and national hero Charles Lindbergh came to represent its public face and flirted with a run at the presidency. Lindbergh openly advocated for not just neutrality in the nascent war, but a partnership with Hitler to defend “the treasures of the white race.”
“It is time to turn from our quarrels,” he wrote, “and to build our White ramparts again…a Western Wall of race and arms which can hold back either a Genghis Khan or the infiltration of inferior blood.”
Lindbergh gained traction as he highlighted the struggle against people of color and the threat of losing the white world, painting a portrait of a major conspiracy being perpetrated by Jewish puppetmasters who controlled the media, liberal traitors who destroyed the country from the inside out, and people of color who were sources of potential violence wherever they might be found. It was the same conspiracy theory we’re still dealing with today under a different name.
If Pearl Harbor never happened and American support for the war not taken off, it’s hard to tell what would have happened. But one thing is for sure: white supremacist paranoia, the idea of replacement, and literal fascism, were as American as anything else and increasingly welcome among a percentage of the population.
To grasp what is at stake, and what is being perpetrated here, we must move beyond the history of these movements and theories, which extend throughout the arc of “Western Civilization,” and focus on their intent. White supremacist paranoid conspiracy theories are about more than fears, projected anxiety, and narratives that get out of hand.
This is about violence.
Preventative, legitimized violence.
White supremacy is a philosophy of control of the many by the few and the defining characteristic has been the willingness and eagerness of those at the helm of white supremacy to create narratives that give them permission to carry out violence and oppression. In this mindset, if there is an imminent threat, if there is a plan to carry out violence, then the need to carry out violence and oppression is not about plunder, wealth, and power, it’s about protection.
Twisting the story of immigration and demographics into the threat of annihilation or replacement is about planting the seeds for actions that will stem the tide of overwhelming doom. To say there is an existential threat means the person being threatened could and, more importantly, should do something to protect themselves. This is the basis for these conspiracy theories but also the ultimate end.
What we are witnessing in this moment is yet another point in time where white, patriarchal, oligarchical supremacy is being tested in terms of cultural and political hegemony, and to counteract this fact, to head off its defeat in the democratic sphere, people like Tucker Carlson are intentionally saying an apocalypse is coming and whatever measures, whether it is dismantling democratic institutions, breaking every law, or visiting lethal force on people of color, is not only something to consider, it’s something to embrace wholeheartedly.
These are fictions, lies, illusions, all of them time-tested to allow the powerful to do anything necessary to continue or further their power.
What is so tragic is that we have seen all of this before and know exactly where it is going. To pretend like this is anything else than a new chapter in an already horrific story is to stand by and watch it unfold.
This Sunday, April 11th, 2021, Jared Yates Sexton will be hosting his bi-weekly livestream Bourbon Talk Political Q&A show at 8pm eastern. Among the topics he’ll be discussing are Tucker Carlson and the Right’s embrace of Replacement Theory, the history of American fascism, and any number of other topics. To ask yours, reply to this post and plan on tuning in.