The white supremacist mass shooter who targeted Black shoppers at a supermarket in Buffalo Saturday, after writing in a manifesto that he was doing so because whites were being purposefully replaced by people of color, was acting on a rich vein of conservative thought.
Right-wing pundits and politicians have for years accumulated money and power with the message that a liberal elite was systematically “replacing” white Americans in order to wrest power from Americas’ historic racial majority. The notion is commonly referred to as “great replacement theory,” “white replacement theory” or “white genocide,” and it’s been inspiring shooters and bolstering Republicans for years.
After the shooting, some major proponents of that assertion doubled down. Others claimed the attack was a staged “false flag” or the work of shadowy government insiders, a typical dodge.
‘It Is A FACT’
One of the highest-profile Republicans to voice a version of the replacement theory is Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), the third-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives.
Last year, Stefanik said in a campaign ad that Democrats wishing to provide a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants wanted to “overthrow our current electorate.” The policy amounted to a “PERMANENT ELECTION INSURRECTION,” Stefanik said.
After the shooting, responding to people pointing out the similarities between that ad and the shooter’s manifesto, Stefanik tweeted a statement saying she had “never advocated for any racist position or made a racist statement.” Then, she went right back to talking about Democrats’ plans to replace America’s electorate.
“It is a FACT that DEMOCRATS have been explicitly pushing for amnesty for years – specifically for political and electoral purposes👇” Stefanik wrote in a tweet, quoting another post highlighting a supposedly revelatory Center for American Progress article titled “Immigration Is Changing the Political Landscape in Key States.”
But the nine-year-old article did not support Stefanik’s rhetoric: It did not advocate for immigration reform as a means to “overthrow our current electorate,” as the congresswoman’s ad last year claimed, but rather because existing voters of color “care deeply about how both parties talk about immigration.”
Stefanik wasn’t alone: Blake Masters, the Peter Thiel-funded U.S. Senate candidate in Arizona, has long argued that Democrats want to replace the current electorate with immigrants.
In a Twitter video last October, Masters said Democrats were pursuing immigration reform to “change the demographics of this country” and “consolidate power so they can never lose another election.”
A few hours after the Buffalo shooting, Masters posted a video of an interview with Ben Shapiro, in which Masters said he was “bold enough to admit the obvious, which is they’re doing this so that someday they can ‘amnesty’ these people and make them voters who they expect to vote Democrat.”
Out To The Fringes
One striking aspect of the replacement theory is the consistency with which it surfaces at many different levels of the right, from House leadership and mainstream media out to the racist fever swamps.
Take Fox News, whose hosts — most notably Tucker Carlson — have for years turned the idea of a “great replacement” electoral strategy into a mainstream talking point now accepted by one in three American adults.
The Biden administration, Carlson told viewers in one of numerous segments on the idea, was aiming for “the replacement of legacy Americans with more obedient people from far-away countries.” Specifically, he accused Biden of working to replace “people whose ancestors lived here” with “Americans newly arrived from the third world.”
Carlson in particular has grown increasingly carefree about invoking the “great replacement” on air. In April last year, after Carlson was accused of spreading a racist talking point, Fox Corporation’s Lachlan Murdoch said that, actually, Carlson was covering “a voting rights question.”
The next time Carlson was called out for the racist replacement talk, by the Anti-Defamation League, Carlson cut to the point: “Fuck them.”
This time, a Fox News spokesperson simply did not comment on Carlson’s propagation of the racist theory.
Others in the right-wing media ecosystem are similarly unapologetic: Joel Pollack, an editor at large at Breitbart News, wrote, “‘Replacement theory’ would be less of a problem if it did not offer a compelling explanation of why Democrats are trying to open the southern border to as many migrants as possible and offer them a ‘path to citizenship’ and voting. Note: no one ever provides a better explanation.” (Several Twitter users responded by quoting Emma Lazarus’ “The New Colossus” or citing the centuries-long history of immigrants resettling in the United States.)
Deny, Deny, Deny
Still others, confronted with the violent results of their daily rhetoric, simply denied reality.
That was the case with the prominent white supremacist Nick Fuentes, who first made a name for himself as a racist teenage Trump supporter attending the deadly extremist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017 — because, Fuentes said at the time, he was protesting “massive migration” and “cultural genocide.”
“New false flag,” Fuentes wrote on Telegram Saturday, responding to a news alert that the shooter had described himself as a white supremacist and anti-Semite.
Wendy Rogers, the far-right Arizona lawmaker who’s claimed in the past that “we are being replaced and invaded,” similarly refused to accept the reality of what happened in Buffalo.
“Fed boy summer has started in Buffalo,” she wrote on Telegram, seemingly implying that the shooting was the result of government action.