A racist ideology seeping from the internet’s fringes into the mainstream is being investigated as the motivation for a young man killing 10 people and wounding three others at the Tops Friendly Markets store in Buffalo, New York, on Saturday.
Eleven of the people shot were Black, according to CNN News. The victims range in age from 20 to 86, police said. Among them was a former police officer who tried to stop the shooter, the octogenarian mother of the city’s former fire commissioner, and a long-term substitute teacher.
And CTV News Canada is reporting that authorities say there is no mistaking the racist intent of the alleged shooter. Ideas from the “great replacement theory” filled a racist rant that covered 180-pages allegedly posted online by the white 18-year-old Payton S. Gendron.
Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said Sunday the attack was a racist hate crime and will be prosecuted as such.
“The evidence that we have uncovered so far makes no mistake that this is an absolute racist hate crime. It will be prosecuted as a hate crime,” he said. “This is someone who has hate in their heart, soul, and mind.”
The theory that fuels such hatred today
The racist ideology being used by mass murderers today has roots in French nationalism books dating back to the early 1900s, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
However, to give credit where credit is due, the theory’s modern use is attributed to Renaud Camus, a French writer who wrote: “Le Grand Remplacement” (which translates to “The Great Replacement”) in 2011.
Camus was influenced by French Author, Jean Raspail, whose 1973 novel, The Camp of the Saints, told a fictional tale of migrants banding together to take over France, the ADL said.
According to the ADL, “Camus believes that native white Europeans are being replaced in their countries by non-white immigrants from Africa and the Middle East, and the end result will be the extinction of the white race.”
The Replacement Theory
Just about all racially-motivated mass shootings over the past several years have been linked by one sprawling, ever-mutating belief now commonly known as replacement theory.
Simply put, the conspiracy theory says there’s a plot to diminish the influence of white people. And believers and conspiracy theorists say this is being achieved both through the immigration of non-white people into societies that have largely been dominated by white people, as well as through simple demographics, like the reduction in white births.
It is also believed that Jews are behind the so-called replacement plan: White nationalists marching at a Charlottesville, Virginia, rally that turned deadly in 2017 chanted “You will not replace us!” and “Jews will not replace us!”
A more mainstream view in the U.S. baselessly suggests Democrats are encouraging immigration from Latin America so more like-minded potential voters replace “traditional” Americans, says Mark Pitcavage, a senior research fellow at the Anti-Defamation League Center on Extremism.
But replacement theory, once confined to the digital fever swamps of Reddit message boards and semi-obscure white nationalist sites, has gone mainstream. The theory has created a fear in many white people that the future will become an America in which white people are no longer the numerical majority.
And this is a potent force in conservative media and politics, where the theory has been borrowed and remixed to attract audiences, retweets, and small-dollar donations to politicians.
The New York Times says that in “recent months, versions of the same ideas, sanded down and shorn of explicitly anti-Black and antisemitic themes, have become commonplace in the Republican Party — spoken aloud at congressional hearings, echoed in Republican campaign advertisements and embraced by a growing array of right-wing candidates and media personalities.”