Buffalo Shooting Puts 'Great Replacement' in Spotlight

There's really 2 versions of it floating around, one more extreme than the other
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 16, 2022 10:35 AM CDT
Latest Shooting Puts Focus on 'Great Replacement'
Police walk outside the Tops grocery store in Buffalo, NY, where a gunman killed 10.   (AP Photo/Joshua Bessex)

The phrase "great replacement" has been in wide circulation in the media since Saturday's mass shooting in Buffalo because authorities say the suspected gunman embraced it in a 180-page racist screed posted online before the attack. Lots of outlets are providing primers:

  • Definition: One hard-core version has been circulating for years on the fringes of the far right. "The theory posits that nonwhite immigrants are trying to replace white, native-born citizens in the US and Europe by flooding into those countries and having more children than the native population," per Vice. "Many adherents of this false, racist theory claim it's being orchestrated by a secret cabal of wealthy elites—often Jews." In its own primer, NPR notes that white supremacists in Charlottesville chanted, "The Jews will not replace us" in 2017.
  • 2nd version: Vice also reports that a similar version has emerged in more mainstream circles on the right. "There's what you could call a partisan variation of the great replacement theory, a partisan argument that sounds similar but isn't quite the same, that Democrats are letting in migrants to become Democratic voters and control the country that way," Mark Pitcavage of the Anti-Defamation League tells the outlet. "And then there's the broad great replacement argument itself, which basically is that nonwhites are coming in to replace whites. That's the one that's most connected to white supremacy and the most problematic."

  • Spread: The New York Times has an explainer on all this as well. The more extreme version "has become an engine of racist terror, helping inspire a wave of mass shootings in recent years." But "in sometimes more muted forms, the fear it crystallizes—of a future America in which white people are no longer the numerical majority—has become a potent force in conservative media and politics, where the theory has been borrowed and remixed to attract audiences, retweets, and small-dollar donations." The story notes that Tucker Carlson has discussed the latter frequently on his Fox show.
  • Carlson's view: “Demographic change is the key to the Democratic Party's political ambitions," the Fox host said on his show last year, per the Guardian. "In order to win and maintain power, Democrats plan to change the population of the country." The Hill has this quote from him: "I know that the left and all the little gatekeepers on Twitter become literally hysterical if you use the term 'replacement,'" he said. "But they become hysterical because that's what's happening actually. Let's just say it. That's true."
  • Stefanik: One politician taking heat in the wake of the Buffalo shooting is GOP Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, the No. 3 House Republican. Stefanik never used the "great replacement" phrase, but she put out a series of Facebook ads last year accusing Democrats of trying to flood the nation with undocumented immigrants as part of a "PERMANENT ELECTION INSURRECTION," per the Washington Post. Over the weekend, GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger tweeted that Stefanik "pushes white replacement theory" and that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy should be questioned about this. In response, a Stefanik spokesman said in a statement that "any implication or attempt to blame the heinous shooting in Buffalo on the Congresswoman is a new disgusting low for the Left, their Never Trump allies, and the sycophant stenographers in the media."
  • Gaetz: The GOP congressman tweeted previously that Carlson "is CORRECT about Replacement Theory as he explains what is happening to America." After the Buffalo shooting, he sought to clarify, saying he had "never spoken of replacement theory in terms of race," per the Times.
  • Origin: Kathleen Belew, an assistant professor of history at the University of Chicago, traces the origins of "great replacement" to a French novel from the 1970s called The Camp of the Saints, about immigration. "It's about the fundamental importance of the preservation and birth rate of the white race," she tells the New Yorker.
(More mass shootings stories.)

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