A racist mass shooting that left 10 dead in Buffalo, New York, has drawn national attention to a concept that has alarmed extremism experts for years: the ‘replacement theory’ or ‘Great Replacement’. .
The attack targeted black people and the man accused of the shooting allegedly wrote a nearly 200-page hate-filled document, as well as hundreds of pages from a personal diary posted online before the shooting, which quoted the theory extensively of the plot.
Racist belief was the shooter’s main motivation, according to experts who studied the documents. Authorities have been working to permanently link this case to the suspectPayton Gendron, 18 years old.
Before and since the attack, political commentators have argued over what exactly the replacement theory is. They wonder if the concept that has matured on extremist websites and chat rooms is really the same as the talking points used by mainstream conservative pundits and politicians.
To understand this idea and its connection to hate crimes, one must examine what the replacement theory is – starting with what it is not.
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What Replacement Theory is NOT
There is a broad consensus among demographers that the racial and ethnic composition of the American electorate is changing. It always has been. Broadly speaking, if demographic trends continue, experts expect white Americans to become less than the majority of the population by the middle of this century.
Legal and illegal immigration, combined with generally higher birth rates among nonwhite American residents, means the country is moving toward a majority nonwhite electorate. Brookings Institution demographers used census data to believe that white people will become less than 50% of the US population around 2045.
Whites will still be the largest single racial group, but they will outnumber non-white voters, according to census forecasts.
Predictions aside, the fact that demographic change exists in America is not what replacement theory is.
This involves another crucial step.
What is EST Replacement Theory
The ingredient that transforms a widely agreed statistical phenomenon in a fallacious conspiracy theory is the claim that these demographic changes are being orchestrated – specifically for political gain.
According to the replacement theory, the evolution of the racial composition of the country is not a natural or organic process but an organized effort by a powerful and shadowy group.
For many proponents of the theory, that shadowy group is the Democratic Party and other liberals, aided by an imaginary Jewish cabal, said Marilyn Mayo, senior fellow at the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism.
“Instead of saying non-white people come here and replace white people, the language used is ‘We have a border invasion’ and that this liberal administration and the Democrats are letting in these immigrants from third world countries for the purpose of to change the demographics of this country,” Mayo said.
There is no evidence of this happening.
In the months leading up to the Buffalo shooting, high-profile figures reiterated that allegation.
who promotes replacement the theory?
Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, who hosts one of primetime television’s highest-rated shows, made repeated claims about the replacement in recent months, according to the Anti-Defamation League. Border Patrol Union President Brandon Judd pushed the theory during a TV appearance on Fox.
Neither they nor the provocative Ann Coulter or others have provided any evidence that an organized effort is underway to change the American electorate.
Nor has any evidence been found on white supremacist websites, forums, and chat rooms where this theory has gained traction. The replacement theory sits alongside other pseudoscience and refuted racist and hateful tropes that have not been embraced by mainstream conservative pundits.
Racist extremists who marched through Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017, chanting “The Jews will not replace us“, a replacement theory mob motto, has provided no evidence for their claims that they are systematically replaced.
Would a political side benefit if the replacement theory were true?
There is much discussion about the importance of demographic change in political terms. Pundits have long debated the idea that people of color are more likely to vote for left-leaning political candidates.
Take the Sunshine State, said Allen Orr, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
“In places like Florida, a lot of Hispanic people, and some even Latinos, vote Republican,” Orr said. “So the concept that immigrants only vote for one party is ridiculous.”
Even if white Americans become less than the majority of the population, they cannot become less than the majority of voters, said William Frey, a demographer and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
Frey said the assumption that voting results will be immediately altered by the changing racial makeup of the population is too simplistic. Whites, especially older whites, are statistically much more likely to vote in elections than Hispanics in their 20s and 30s, for example, he said.
People who enter the country illegally may never be able to vote in elections, he said.
“In the short term, I don’t know if these changes make a big difference to the election,” Frey said. “Turnout rates in all elections tend to be highest for people in their 50s and 60s, and not at all high for the 18-20 and 20-34 age group, which is the group that has become the most ethnically diverse.”
Electoral district boundaries mean that non-white populations may still not be equally represented.
Did the presumed The buffalo shooter believes in replacement theory?
Law enforcement officials have remained tight-lipped about the slew of documents the man accused of the Buffalo shooting may have posted online before the offensive. Experts who studied the documents told USA TODAY they had no doubts they were written by him.
They include a rambling document, much of which was copied almost verbatim from a similar document posted by a racist mass shooter, and hundreds of pages of messages posted on the Discord instant messaging platform.
These documents make it clear that the author was obsessed with the replacement theory. The main document includes the word “replace” 32 times. In the Discord log, the author details his twisted reasoning for an attack and cites racist mass shooters inspired by the theory as inspiration.
“Based on these documents, there is no doubt that the replacement theory was the main contributing factor to the attack,” said Kesa White, a researcher who tracks extremists at the Laboratory for Research and Innovation on Polarization and Extremism (PERIL) from American University.
Where does replacement theory comes from?
White supremacists have discussed the idea of a concerted effort to “replace” voters in majority white countries in Europe, North America and Australasia for decades.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, the theory has its roots in early 20th-century French nationalism and the books of French author Maurice Barres. French writer Renaud Camus popularized the term in a 2011 book “Le Grand Replacement”.
In this country, the concept of a white “replacement” has been refined by a modern race of white supremacists which are less concerned with promoting pseudoscience about white superiority and more with convincing white people they are under threat, Mayo said.
“It’s basically saying this country is going to change dramatically,” Mayo said. “Many even go further and say it will lead to the destruction of the country on some level.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Grand Replacement Theory: What It Means, Where It Came From