What Is The “Great Replacement Theory”?

Tucker Carlson

The white supremacist dog-whistle was recently expressed by a top border guard.

A racist conspiracy theory that white Americans are being deliberately “replaced” by people of color is infiltrating further into the mainstream — and claimed yet more victims last weekend, when a white gunman shot 10 people dead and injured three more in a racist attack on a Buffalo supermarket.

The shooter, 18-year-old Payton Gendron, is believed to have targeted the mainly-Black area deliberately. He posted a 180-page manifesto online in advance, in which he outlined his rationale rooted in the white supremacist “great replacement theory.”

His words, which are not based in fact, echo a long-held theory perpetrated by hate groups, which holds that left-leaning elites are actively working to replace white populations in order to gain political advantage.

Katie discussed the conspiracy in light of the Buffalo massacre with Jonathan Greenblatt, head of the Anti-Defamation League. You can watch their full conversation below:

For more detail on this disturbing and increasingly prominent attack line, read on.

Where did the Great Replacement Theory come from?

The Great Replacement Theory, which has circulated since the early 20th century, claims that demographic changes which see white people form a smaller proportion of the overall population aren’t just a product of immigration — they’re driven by political will. 

The conspiracy theory was popularized by the work of French author Renaud Camus. In his 2011 essay “Le Grand Remplacement,” or “the great replacement,” Camus claimed that “replacist elites” are complicit in the replacement of white European populations by non-Europeans — like Arab, Berber, and Turkish populations, and sub-Saharan Muslims. It caught on with Western white supremacists, and quickly found its way into more mainstream consciousness in America and elsewhere. 

The ADL cites many examples of the horrific consequences of the Great Replacement Theory’s infiltration into public consciousness. In 2017, the chants “Jews will not replace us,” and “You will not replace us,” were repeated by white supremacist protesters on the University of Virginia campus the evening before the Unite The Right rally. In October the following year, white supremacist Robert Bowers wrote a post on the hate forum Gab espousing Great Replacement rhetoric, before killing 11 people in cold blood at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

White supremacist Patrick Crusius, who in 2019 shot 23 people dead and injured dozens more in a Walmart in El Paso, had previously written a manifesto referring to a “Hispanic invasion.” USA Today notes that Brenton Tarrant, who murdered 51 people at two Auckland mosques in 2018, had also published writings online in advance, titled: “The Great Replacement.”

Fox News host Tucker Carlson regularly regurgitates replacement theory rhetoric. On air last April, he said: “I know that the left and all the little gatekeepers on Twitter become literally hysterical if you use the term “replacement,” if you suggest that 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. But they become hysterical because that’s what’s happening actually. Let’s just say it: That’s true.”

Carlson tried to distance himself from the racist conspiracy following the horrific shooting in Buffalo — even though an investigation by the New York Times showed he’s peddled it over 400 times since 2016. Immediately after his denial, he launched into a tirade about Democratic plots to “import” immigrants to win elections — a cornerstone of the white supremacist theory. 

Carlson is far from unique as a public commentator. TV host Laura Ingraham has touted the theory more than once, claiming that “massive demographic changes have been foisted upon the American people, and they’re changes that none of us ever voted for and most of us don’t like.” She’s attacked Biden administration’s immigration policy specifically, alledging that it’s intended to foster an enormous pool of Democratic voters, adding: “every one of them [will have] two or three children.” 

Fox host Jeanine Pirro has also made a public declaration in support of the theory. In the wake of the El Paso shooting in 2019, she told Fox Nation host Todd Starnes that there “is a plot to remake America, to replace American citizens with illegals who will vote for the Democrats.”

An extreme, specifically anti-Semitic form of the conspiracy theory perpetuates the lie that a clique of political elites is deliberately working to replace white Americans and Europeans with non-white immigrants who’ll favor left-leaning politicians — all with the help of malevolent Jewish fixers who linger in the background.

Entering the mainstream

In a disturbing extension of the publicity the theory has historically enjoyed from right-wing media pundits and politicians, Border Patrol agent Brandon Judd, who leads the agents’ union, recently echoed the talking point on Fox News.

Asked by anchor Bill Hemmer why he believes President Biden has allowed “Virtually an open border,” Judd replied: “I believe that they’re trying to change the demographics of the electorate, that’s what I believe they’re doing.” USA Today notes that as Judd spoke, cameras zoomed in on footage of people of color who appeared to be crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. “They want to stay in power, and the only way to stay in power is to continue to stay elected,” Judd added.

The fact that these beliefs are being echoed by a taxpayer-funded federal employee with such critical responsibilities signals a dark new phase in the conspiracy theory’s life.