Monday, May 16, 2022

The dubious and dangerous idea of the 'great replacement theory'

The Buffalo supermarket shooter is an adherent of the so-called Great Replacement theory. According to authorities, the killer of 10 felt compelled to drive more than three hours to shoot innocent Black people indiscriminately with a high-powered rifle because white Americans are being “replaced” by people of color, according to an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times.

In many ways, this truly ugly conspiracy theory has some roots right here in the Golden State of the 1990s.

That’s when Republicans, desperate to hold on to political power, were spreading fear and paranoia about millions of Mexican immigrants wanting — how dare them! — resources and rights, and the inevitable decline of the state’s white population.

These were the formative years of Stephen Miller, the Santa Monica native who grew up to become President Trump’s repugnant, immigrant-hating senior advisor.

Of course, the real origin of the “Great Replacement” theory is much older and inextricably linked to antisemitism, in that white supremacists blame Jews for nonwhite immigration. Hence, the chants of “Jews will not replace us” and “You will not replace us” by racists with tiki torches the night before the Unite the Right rally in Virginia in 2017.

The version of the theory making the rounds now posits not just that America is becoming more diverse, which is absolutely true, but that some secret cabal of elite Democrats is conspiring to bring in immigrants in any and every way possible to “replace” white Christian people and reshape American politics into some sort of secular, multicultural liberal image. Like California.

Never mind that Latino voters often sway conservative, as we saw in the 2020 presidential election, when Trump got a bigger share of that demographic’s electorate than he did in 2016.

It never stops.

“Diversity is not a strength,” Gendron wrote, according to snippets of the manifesto that authorities say he uploaded and are now floating around online. “Unity, purpose, trust, traditions, nationalism and racial nationalism is what provides strength.”

We now know from that manifesto that Gendron traveled some 200 miles from his rural hometown to reach that supermarket in Buffalo because it was in a neighborhood with lots of Black people, authorities said.

Alongside racist, anti-immigrant rantings, the manifesto laid out how he planned to kill as many Black people as possible, authorities said. That he would shoot the security guard near the entrance before firing upon Black shoppers. That he had studied the floor plan and knew each aisle. What he would eat for lunch.

The FBI is investigating what happened as a “hate crime and racially motivated violent extremism.” Erie County Sheriff John Garcia called the motive for the mass shooting “pure evil.”

It’s also a widespread, white supremacist ideology that has gone mainstream.

Late last year, a poll from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that about a third of American adults believe an effort is afoot to “replace” U.S.-born Americans with immigrants.

In addition, roughly 3 in 10 think additional immigration will cause native, presumably white, Americans to lose their economic, political and cultural influence.

Unsurprisingly, Republicans are more likely than Democrats to share these views, according to the poll. One reason is that irresponsible conservative pundits keep touting the “Great Replacement” theory as an explanation for everything from the loss of manufacturing jobs in the Midwest to a spike in deaths from overdoses among white people addicted to painkillers.

As Tucker Carlson said on Fox News last April: “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.”

It’s a lie, and it’s ridiculous and it’s dangerous, especially in the era of social media. And yet, it never stops — even here.

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