National Security

Buffalo shooting pushes ‘great replacement theory’ into national spotlight

A mass shooting at a Buffalo grocery store that left 10 people dead has placed a national spotlight on a far-right conspiracy theory espoused by the suspected shooter.

The so-called “great replacement theory” asserts that there is an intentional effort to replace white Americans with people of color by encouraging immigration.

Payton Gendron, the 18-year-old suspect in Saturday’s attack, cited the theory in a manifesto he published online, while authorities say he intentionally planned the attack in a location with a significant Black population. Eleven of the 13 victims killed or injured were also Black.

Gendron’s writings made reference to other mass shooters seemingly motivated by white supremacy, including Dylann Roof, who in 2015 killed nine Black church parishioners in Charleston, S.C, according to The New York Times.

The suspect also referenced Brenton Harrison Tarrant, who killed 51 Muslims during prayer services in New Zealand, and claimed that Tarrant “had radicalized him the most.”

The specific theory traces back to a 1970s French novel “The Camp of the Saints,” Kathleen Belew, an assistant professor of history at the University of Chicago, told the New Yorker.

“It’s about the fundamental importance of the preservation and birth rate of the white race,” she said, noting the theory can be applied to different immigrant groups.

“So the elements that are consistent across time are the idea that the white race can be threatened by intermixing and the idea that there is some kind of evil, élite force interested in eradicating it.”

The theory has entered mainstream U.S. discourse through Fox News host Tucker Carlson, whose discussion of it has sparked calls for advertiser boycotts of his primetime program.

“I know ​​that the left and all the little gatekeepers on Twitter become literally hysterical if you use the term ‘replacement.’ If you suggest 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,” Carlson said on his show in April 2021.

“But they become hysterical because that’s what’s happening actually. Let’s just say it. That’s true,” he told his viewers.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said in a tweet in September that Carlson “is CORRECT about Replacement Theory as he explains what is happening to America.”

Other GOP lawmakers have indicated their belief in the theory, though sometimes in a less direct manner. 

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) has not explicitly voiced support of the conspiracy by name, but her 2021 campaign advertisements suggested Democrats were pushing for more immigration in an effort to outnumber Republicans. 

“Radical Democrats are planning their most aggressive move yet: a PERMANENT ELECTION INSURRECTION,” one of the ads said, according to The Washington Post. “Their plan to grant amnesty to 11 MILLION illegal immigrants will overthrow our current electorate and create a permanent liberal majority in Washington.”

After the Buffalo shooting, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) asked his followers on Twitter if they knew “@EliseStefanik pushes white replacement theory?”

“Here is my replacement theory:  we need to replace @EliseStefanik @GOPLeader @RepMTG @CawthornforNC and a number of others,” Kinzinger said in another tweet on Sunday, referencing Stefanik, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R) and North Carolina Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R). 

Kinzinger, a regular critic of pro-Trump Republicans, added that “the replacement theory they are pushing/tolerating is getting people killed.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Chip Roy (R-Tex.) pushed back on the conspiracy via Twitter on Sunday, saying he would be “perfectly happy to have ‘brown’ people” come to his state to replace “race-baiting leftists.”

“Hey race-baiting leftists, I am much more opposed to liberal white ‘replacements’ coming to Texas & perfectly happy to have ‘brown’ people you all like to endanger for your political games legally come,” Roy tweeted. “Tell you what, how about you leave & we swap in 10 ‘brown’ people!” 

Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) responded to Roy’s tweet, writing, “You are such a f—ing weirdo.”

Rep. Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.), who represents Buffalo, called the conspiracy “racist nonsense that cynical politicians have used to foment division in America.”

“What truly needs to be replaced in this country is ignorance and hate, which is driving division, perpetuating lies, and killing our neighbors,” Higgins said in a statement, according to the Post. 

A poll from The Associated Press–NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that one in three U.S. adults believes that there is an active push to replace U.S-born people with immigrants for electoral reasons. 

Tags Adam Kinzinger Brenton Harrison Tarrant Brian Higgins Buffalo buffalo shooting Chip Roy Dylann Roof great replacement theory mass shooting Matt Gaetz Tucker Carlson
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