Confronting Tucker Carlson’s Hate
‘Replacement Theory’ and the Buffalo Shooting Suspect
Hi, Ari here, with a new piece on an old, significant topic….
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We are about a week out from the deadliest mass shooting of this year.
If it feels like many people have already moved on — the politicians and press and the “national conversation” — that’s a sad sign of how gun violence and homegrown terrorism are being normalized.
The racist rampage in Buffalo targeted innocent people in a predominantly Black neighborhood, and the defendant arrested on site shared a manifesto.
It asserted that he was “the sole perpetrator” and recounted how he said he turned to violence after learning about the “Great Replacement Theory.”
That racist conspiracy theory says ‘White people are being systematically replaced by immigrant minorities, as part of an organized plot to overwhelm their status and way of life, often with the help of Jewish people in power.’
Human rights advocates and journalists have tracked the growth of this theory. Other mass murders have cited it, like the 2019 New Zealand shooter who killed an astounding 51 people. I’ve also covered it on The Beat and in an earlier newsletter piece here.
Today I want to dig into how it’s spreading.
The conservative with the largest audience in America has been pushing this theory hard. Fox anchor Tucker Carlson has cited it on air over 400 times.
Some of the largest spikes in interest come in the days after he pushes it (as you can see above).
While it’s a French theory, last year he applied it to American politics by claiming:
“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.”
That claim is false, racist — and also dumb.
The assumption that you can project how people will vote based on their families’ country of origin is bigoted, and undercut by data.
The idea that current incumbent politicians would set immigration policies to bring people to a country, and then turn them into citizens (and voters), and then get those voters to shape future elections doesn’t make much sense. The U.S currently admits about 1 million legal immigrants a year. Even if you doubled that (which is not a proposal from either party) and it’s still under 1% of the population. That’s not exactly swinging national elections. But now we’re going down this French / Tucker rabbit hole.
To spread, conspiracy theories don’t have to be true. They just have to “work” as propaganda.
This one is clearly potent for both fringe criminals, and a mainstream conservatives, because it casts conservative White Americans as the “real victim” of an organized plot against their way of life.
Carlson has the freedom of speech to peddle this crap. But he is leading an institutionalized outrage machine that feeds a very dangerous derangement.
The bad news is that this stuff is being mainlined into conservative politics.
On the other hand, even Carlson, his employer and many Republicans don’t want to admit to embracing this French racist, anti-Semitic theory. Since the shooting, Carlson went on air claiming he doesn’t know what the theory even means (false), and that Democrats are the ones hyping it (misdirection and projection).
It’s a reminder that the facts can matter, ideas have consequences, and it’s still controversial for him to embrace this outright. To move this belief beyond criminals and neo-Nazis, its proponents have to further launder and mainline it. They have to rebrand it as an “acceptable policy debate.” And that’s where everyone else comes in. Our national discussions and debates are the collection of everyone’s individual participation. A single conversation, protest or town hall might seem “insignificant” to the point of vanishing, like one person cheering in a stadium. But when each person cheers, the crowd gets pretty loud. History shows a strong way to deal with hate and conspiracy theories is to confront them — not run or censor, but expose them for what they are, make it real and hard for people to choose sides, and continue engaging this at whatever level is relevant to your life and community.
P.S. Have you heard anyone you know cite Replacement Theory? Do you find it’s spreading? Tell me in the comments and I’ll reply per usual…
The closest I heard were those with torches in Charlottesville screaming "Jews will not replace us". I am 91 and saw and heard these things (as well as book banning and then book burning) when lived in the Free City of Danzig when I was an 8-year-old in 1938. It is beyond sad that at the end of my life I have to watch history repeat itself and especially do so in the land of what was a true democracy.
Thanks Ari for being an articulate journalistic voice in these unsettling times. America needs more people like you speaking out in defense of our evolving democracy and things like equality for all, justice, and frankly, a more humane way for us all to get along together. Sadly, what we've got is a toxic stew of lies, ignorance, institutionalized racism, greed, guns, "god", and a dangerously selective version of history that denies the atrocities committed in the western hemisphere from the day Columbus and his men landed here ( Manifest Destiny, colonialism, western expansion was the original great replacement in the Americas), but who needs books, facts, critical thinking when you've got propaganda and conspiracy theories.