Fact-checking Tucker Carlson
A racist French conspiracy theory is spreading in the U.S.
Hi, Ari here — my new piece is about a racist conspiracy theory suddenly gaining traction on the American Right. Click here to sign up for my entire newsletter:
Racism isn’t just for racists
There is an elaborate conspiracy theory gaining traction right now on the American right.
It's a white supremacist claim that non-white immigrants will “replace” the current electorate.
The argument is racist, it is increasingly influential, and it is pitched as propaganda for people who do not consider themselves racist or extreme; who may strenuously avoid attending Neo-Nazi and insurrection events; who would reject some of the uglier bigotry coming out of the right wing these days.
That matters, because proponents of this “Replacement Theory” are trying to launder and dress up a hateful dogma in a kind of pseudo-intellectual “policy” framework. They are peddling warnings about the supplanting of white people as some kind of “policy” discourse. They are trying to stoke division and hate by race and region, while claiming otherwise.
There’s a long history of bigots using junk science, or invoking “logical and empirical” arguments, to mainline views that boil down to racism, anti-Semitism and assorted bigotry. These efforts aim to broaden the appeal and reach of ideologies that may not otherwise find as much traction, offered in their unvarnished form.
“Jews will not replace us. You will not replace us.”
Many Americans’ first brush with this theory probably arrived with the infamous Charlottesville Rally in 2017.
Neo-Nazi protesters chanted “Jews will not replace us!,” and “you will not replace us,” in a harrowing scene. Trump touted people in that crowd by claiming some of them were “good people.”
That introduction was not the peak, however.
This theory is peaking now, in 2021, with more online interest in America than ever before:
Google’s rich data shows this giant spike in 2021, showing after Trump left office, “replacement theory” has garnered more attention and interest this year than ever before.
Several spikes come in the days after Fox News coverage, like a recent segment where Tucker Carlson said:
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.
Replacement Theory itself is actually from abroad. It’s the work of a conservative French author, Renaud Camus, who warns against minorities and Muslims overwhelming the white French population of France.
It’s been invoked by mass murders and right wing activists and now, increasingly by Fox News anchors and some U.S. Republican officials.
So a foreign argument about a foreign country, spun by a French guy who lives in a literal castle, like some kind of cartoon villain, seeps into fringe discourse and is laundered into mainstream conservative thought.
To burn things in further, conservative thought leaders like Carlson are already claiming there’s an unfair reaction to this theory, teeing off the Right’s current fixation with trolling and “triggering” and claiming its members are always the beleaguered, affronted group in any conversation.
Carlson recently said on Fox that liberals “become literally hysterical if you use the term ‘replacement.’ This is a purposeful resettlement! It's going to be millions of illegal immigrants into the United States.”
This is not a development to be ignored
History shows many dangerous movements do not turn on mobilizing a majority to act on behalf of avowed racism and bigotry. They actually do something quite different. They may start with that “core,” but they build out with junk science, theories and claims to convince people that certain groups are inferior as an empirical “fact,” or certain policies are actually an earnest effort to improve and protect society.
The ideas matter. If they didn't, those Neo-Nazis probably wouldn’t bother quoting faraway authors to begin with. It is very literally a war of ideas.
For those of us who believe in civilization and equality, it is better to pay attention, to face this directly, and to win the war of ideas — and thus forestall any other alternative.
P.S. I recently did a full segment on replacement theory on The Beat. If you’re curious, check it out here.
I am 88 yrs old and have been a political junkie for at least 70 of them I can't remember a time when the Republican party has sunk to the low that they are in now. It's becoming crystal clear that they realize that their only chance to win anything is to tell lies and to put up as many obstacles as the can to block the voters that they fear. Tucker Carlson is a disgrace and FOX is certainly not a "NEWS" station if they allow it to go on. ALL of us are immigrants if we actually look at our parentage ... and we should be proud of the diversity.
I’m really grateful you covered this on the Beat. It needs to be talked about more. I feel we are in the heat of things now. It frightens me to be honest. Thank you Ari. ✌️