Racist ‘Great Replacement’ Talk Is Mingling With Popular Right-Wing Conspiracy Theories

RALEIGH, USA - JULY 24: Supporters of World Wide Rally for freedom 3.0, anti-vaccine protesters rally against coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions in Raleigh, North Carolina, United States on July 24, 2021. (Photo by ... RALEIGH, USA - JULY 24: Supporters of World Wide Rally for freedom 3.0, anti-vaccine protesters rally against coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions in Raleigh, North Carolina, United States on July 24, 2021. (Photo by Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images) MORE LESS
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September 29, 2021 9:51 a.m.

We wrote yesterday about the “great replacement” conspiracy theory, which holds that the left is purposefully “importing” “obedient” people from abroad to beef up its voter rolls and replace white people. 

While the theory used to be relegated to the right-wing fringe, it’s now a fairly standard talking point among Republican Party elites and conservative pundits — as evidenced in recent commentary from Tucker Carlson, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) and others.

But there’s another measure of the conspiracy theory’s reach, researchers told us: its intermingling with other theories popular with the base. Talk of a “great replacement” now mixes freely with QAnon, Critical Race Theory paranoia, and conspiracy theories about the 2020 election and the dangers of COVID-19 public health measures.

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“It’s this real sense of incredible distrust and mistrust of the government,” said Marilyn Mayo, a senior research fellow at the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, explaining the link between the various theories, adding later: “There’s so much interconnectedness going on right now in what’s happening in the country.” 

“There’s a feeling in general of displacement,” Mayo said. “There’s a lot you read about white European civilization being the epitome of civilization, and that those are the people who came here, created America, and made this country great, and somehow that’s all going to be taken away.” 

The ADL offered an example of this crossover in a late-July report: QAnon promoter Ann Vandersteel, greeted with a standing ovation at Clay Clark’s “Health and Freedom Conference” in Tampa, began her remarks by telling the assembled thousands, “it is all connected.” 

“The banking crisis, the human trafficking crisis, the pandemics that we’ve seen over time, especially this shamdemic we’re in right now, the endless wars, the migration that’s taken place all over Europe that has just upended all those beautiful countries that are losing their nationality,” she said. 

Here’s another example: A June survey fielded by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago found that 8.1% percent of respondents believed both that “The 2020 election was stolen, and Joe Biden is an illegitimate president” and also that “Use of force is justified to restore Donald J. Trump to the presidency.” NORC surveyed 1,070 American adults and reported a 4.16% margin of error. But if that 8.1% figure is accurate nationwide, it would represent 21 million American adults

Now, the twist: Of those 8.1%, 

  • 63% believe in the great replacement: “African American people or Hispanic people in our country will eventually have more rights than whites.”
  • 54% believe in QAnon: “A secret group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles is ruling the US government.”

Stefanik, the third-ranking Republican in the House, demonstrated how to fuse the “great replacement” conspiracy theory and the election denial movement. 

The congresswoman released an ad earlier this month warning of a “PERMANENT ELECTION INSURRECTION.” 

“Their plan,” the ad declared, is “to grant amnesty to 11 MILLION illegal immigrants will overthrow our current electorate and create a permanent liberal majority in Washington.” 

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