Another mass shooting in America cites the Great Replacement conspiracy theory as motivation

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Dave Hahnhttps://conspiracyskepticism.blogspot.com/
Dave Hahn recently defended his PhD disseration this past November the title of which is “Appeal to Conspiracy: A Philosophical Analysis of the Problem of Conspiracy Theories and Theorizing. He is an adjunct professor at SUNY Geneseo where he teaches a conspiracy theory and skepticism course and lives in Buffalo, NY.

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Several weeks ago, an individual parked his car at a grocery store that served a predominantly African American neighbourhood and began shooting. Using a civilian version of an infantryman’s weapon he targeted his victims based on race going so far as to refrain from killing one individual because he was white. The massacre occurred 2.8 miles from my home, but the chain of consequence does not begin there. It also doesn’t begin 300km from the scene at the individual’s home (I will not name the person nor any of the others that follow an ancient practice called damnatio memoriae). The story of the shooter begins with the propagation of a conspiracy theory we know as the “Great Replacement.”

In a previous article, my fellow writer at The Skeptic, Thiago Vahia Malliagros, goes into depth concerning the theory. To summarise his article, the Great Replacement (or as Malliagros explains he encountered it as the “Eurabia” conspiracy) is the belief that white people are being replaced by minorities and immigrants. The replacement is taking place by either being outbred by the other groups or through a mass immigration program. In parts of the world that are harder for people fact check, white people are being actively murdered. The conspiracy theory is as false as the Flat Earth theory (or any other massive conspiracy theory); but like any other conspiracy theory, the lack of veracity or support is not going to stop someone from believing in it.

The Great Replacement conspiracy theory is so obvious and upfront with its racism that I find it hard to imagine how someone hears it for the first time and agrees. There will always be some individuals that adhere to extremist beliefs; that is an unfortunate aspect of civilisation. We, as a society, are never going to be rid of every extremist. This kind of racist theory is shocking. Hearing someone use the phrase “great replacement” gets the same kind of puzzled look that I would give to hearing someone say they needed to finish their alchemical experiments. I would be more confused than anything because I wouldn’t believe that I heard them correctly. Yet, belief in this theory is much more common than we think, it’s been typically hidden behind shadows and dog whistles.

This theory has become one of my star examples for why conspiracy theorising is dangerous (anti-vaccination theories being the other). The Buffalo murderer believed and endorsed it, it was the motivation for his actions according to the 150 page manifesto which explained his ‘reasoning’ for the murders. He was not alone though, his manifesto plagiarised the mass murderer in Christchurch, New Zealand; who had travelled from Australia to commit his crime. The Christchurch shooter also inspired the El Paso, Texas Walmart murderer who copied the same manifesto for his own. The New Zealand shooter was inspired by the manifesto of the Oslo Norway mass murderer from which it was plagiarised in large parts. In each of these four atrocities the motive was the same, and each built off the previous. We know because we have read their words explaining why they did it.

We can add two other events to this list as well: the 1999 London Nail bombings and the 1991 Oklahoma City bombing. The influence for these two events was a work of fiction, “The Turner Diaries” (don’t search for it, it is not only horribly offensive but it’s also terribly written—if you are curious just check the Wikipedia page for it). Written by a Neo Nazi, the novel details the supposed consequence of a world where leftists, immigrants, and minorities have taken over the United States. This work was such an inspiration that the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City and the Regjeringskvartalet in Oslo were demolished with the exact type of bomb described in the book that is used to destroy the FBI headquarters in Washington DC. I am no doubt omitting crimes committed by believers in the theory but including them all would be like listing the number of mass shootings in the US—it would be the article itself.

Infamously, my country does not lack in mass shootings. Between the time I pitched this article and received a reply, we had another shooting only this one was of primary school kids in Texas. During the writing of the first draft and this final there have been four others. The motive for these murders is varied and that does not lessen the impact on the survivors—the Buffalo massacre needs to be focused on because the motivation needs to be discussed openly and called out for what it is.

The first point I want to discuss is that their chant, their slogan, “They will not replace us;” or as it went the night before the Charlottesville riot—a riot that was allegedly about defending the statue of the general that lost the American Civil War (yes we have those for various reasons), “The Jews will not replace us.” The chant is very telling because the “they” here is no the people that they want to keep out. It’s even more racist than you think. The fear is that “they” (the Buffalo shooter believed it was literally the Jews) will replace us; but it’s not Jewish immigration that is the fear. The conspiracy is alleging that “they” are using immigrants as the weapons of replacement. The conspiracy theory is that the Slavic immigration into the UK is part of a coordinated effort by the conspiratorial puppet masters. The Muslim immigration into New Zealand, that the Australian Christchurch murderer was so concerned with, was at the behest of a group of masters. The immigrant groups according to these people have no agency. They are not acting of their own free will to better their own lives either through escaping oppression or seeking out better economic opportunities; they are being directed to take away the jobs and homes of White Christians of European descent. While this is an absolutely terrible view of the world, it is not the worst part of this theory.

The worst part, the second aspect that I want to stress, is that this theory is everywhere. One of the minor problems with the six examples above, is that they serve as archetypes that others can point at to say, “Hey I’m not a racist, the Buffalo murderer was a racist, I don’t believe in that theory…” What they really mean is that, they wouldn’t put it like that but…

Listeners to Alex Jones would have heard the theory but they wouldn’t have heard it called replacement theory. He doesn’t use those exact words but in his defensive sounding “coverage” of the Buffalo shooting (May 15th-16th) he spends a good deal of time claiming that he predicted it, but what he “predicted” was that leftists/globalists were going to start a race war. Jones is a niche listening experience. If you have his voice in your ear you already believe a host of other conspiracy theories. It is very difficult to stumble on to Alex Jones’s show because he and his show have been expunged from all relevant social media.

a microphone close up

You will still encounter replacement theory coming from the mouth of Tucker Carlson whose show is the number one rated news show in the US—and unlike Jones—he’s used the exact words. On the 8 April 2021 episode of his show, he explicitly uses the phrase, explains that liberals get upset about it, but that we should “just say it: it’s true.” It is not his only reference to replacement theory but it is time that he’s used it by name.

Politically, Nigel Farage, UKIP, and Brexit were supported by believers in the replacement theory—and in a throwback to the original Kalergi Plan, they consider white people from the Slavic nations to be the “replacers.” In the US, the anti-immigration policy held by former president Trump and his supporters was about protecting America from immigrant invaders and building a wall between the US and all of the “Mexican countries” to the South. In my congress we have elected officials like Steve King and Elise Sefanik have endorsed racial conspiracy theories in the immigration debate.

I feel that I am over-generalising a bit. Immigration is a complex issue. Immigration policies have an effect on numerous other social policies and not everyone who wants to take a look at the number and origin of the immigrants believes that white people are on the decline. It is just that the more vocal a person is on this issue the more that we need to take a look at what it is that they are saying. Having a strict immigration policy can be a debatable political position, but one based on racism cannot be.

I’ve discussed the “Overton Window,” and while I used the example of vaccination, we should consider it with regard to the current great replacement theory. The Overton window helps us understand how such an extreme action was taken and how they found this theory in the first place. These murderers didn’t have to confine themselves to the dregs of the internet to find the replacement theory. It’s endorsement by politicians and national news figures have shifted the window so that “white genocide” is no longer the fringe belief that it once was.

When the racially motivated mass murderer walked into the grocery store, he believed his action was defensive. In the conspiratorial worldview, the war was already being waged, and his people were losing. Oslo, Christchurch, El Paso, and more, these crimes were committed because the perpetrators looked around and thought they saw evidence that what Jones, Carlson, Farage had been telling them was true. The far-right echo chambers they frequented not only cement their position but enhance it. The only thing left for them to do was act hoping to wake up all of the people around them into who fail to see the true struggle. The pre-emptive strikes according to their manifestos was supposed to begin the counterattack.

The current threat is that these are not isolated incidents. The danger is that the people who advocate this conspiracy theory have not backed away from it, even in the wake of the very real blood that is has spilled. In the wake of a the Buffalo massacre, Carlson went on a defensive rant claiming that the real problem was censorship. Rather than denying the great replacement theory, Jones decided to amp it up by positing race-war-based lockdowns, which is the real intent of the globalists who false-flagged the shooting. What these two voices have in common is that they have not backed off the theory. Neither of them said that the Buffalo shooter was wrong, that his motive was incorrect, or even that he grossly misunderstood their claim. They shifted, they dodged, and that should speak volumes to the rest of us. Their unwillingness to declare that these race-based murders were wrong gives the next killer the idea of tacit support. The effect of this is to nearly guarantee that another murder will take place. The conspiracy theory scares white Christian nativist into action while also terrorising the immigrant and minority groups that who are accused of doing the replacing. When we in the skeptics’ movement talk about the dangers of conspiracy theorising, we don’t usually mean that the danger is going to be measured in bodies.

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