Monday, May 16, 2022

The Great (Republican) Replacement Theory

The seeds of the latest mass murder by a right- wing white nationalist in Buffalo were planted years ago and continue to grow, encouraged by an entrenched subculture of racism and fascist violence.  Here are some thoughts on the killer and his motivators:

Amanda Marcotte, Salon:

The alleged shooter who killed 10 people and injured three others in a Buffalo supermarket is 18-year-old Payton Gendron, who appears to have target a busy location in a predominantly Black neighborhood. As has become far too common with these kinds of mass murders, Gendron reportedly live-streamed the massacre on video, and apparently also published a manifesto that echoes many of the paranoid right-wing talking points one can hear every day streaming from the mouths of Fox News hosts and Republican politicians: a series of scurrilous lies about "critical race theory," George Soros and the "great replacement."

Now a familiar refrain will commence. No doubt we will be hear a great deal of umbrage in the coming days from Republican leaders and right-wing pundits. "How dare you blame us?" they will proclaim, in almost hysterical terms, acting shocked, shocked, that anyone would suggest that their words have had horrible consequences. The point of this fake outrage will be to make it too emotionally exhausting to hold them accountable, and to reinforce the ridiculous victim complex that fuels the American right as it increasingly slides into fascism. But let's not mince words: These folks share the blame. They have been encouraging violence, and violence is what they got.

Erika D. Smith, Los Angeles Times:

[R]oughly 3 in 10 [Americans] think additional immigration will cause native, presumably white, Americans to lose their economic, political and cultural influence.

Unsurprisingly, Republicans are more likely than Democrats to share these views, according to the poll. One reason is that irresponsible conservative pundits keep touting the “Great Replacement” theory as an explanation for everything from the loss of manufacturing jobs in the Midwest to a spike in deaths from overdoses among white people addicted to painkillers.

As Tucker Carlson said on Fox News last April: “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.”

It’s a lie, and it’s ridiculous and it’s dangerous, especially in the era of social media.

What’s clear is we can’t keep treating acts of white supremacy as one-off crimes committed by supposed lone wolves suffering from mental health problems. We also can’t keep giving a pass to conservative pundits and Republican politicians who directly or indirectly encourage adherence to the “Great Replacement” theory or any other tenet of racism or extremism."

Talia Lavin, Rolling Stone:

Once you understand an obsession with racial composition and white fertility to be the driving engine of Republican politics, a number of seemingly disparate movements begin to fit together into an ugly whole. Some aspects are obvious: The anti-immigrant movement that has seen U.S. refugee admissions at historic lows and asylum seekers marooned in purgatorial camps in Mexico continues to dominate the right-wing airwaves. Historic levels of gerrymandering are ensuring that a diversifying populace remains beholden to the views of a white minority — alongside openly antidemocratic restrictions on voting and changes in election administration [snip]

When the rhetoric of an entire movement devolves into Manichaean demonization of their political foes; when demographic shifts are represented as apocalyptic; and when a party can appeal to nothing but the consolidation of white power, it is an inevitability that such rhetoric will leave bodies in its wake. The Republican Party caters chiefly now to those who claim that to be born the wrong color is an act of genocide, and act with appropriate fervor. There has never been a lone wolf when it comes to racist terror in the United States; it suffuses every aspect of our politics and policy, and in latter years the mass howl of fear at change comes from a jaw that drips with blood. As long as we fail to recognize the wellspring of racial animus that animates the right wing in this country, the corpses will continue to accrue. 


Eugene Robinson, Washington Post:

What we need to talk about is how politicians and thought leaders on the right are using the vile poison of replacement theory to further their own selfish ends — garnering campaign donations and votes, boosting television ratings, achieving fame. And we need to talk about how most of this demagoguery is coming from people who should know, and probably do know, that what they are telling potential killers, such as Payton Gendron, the man in custody after the Buffalo shooting, is complete fiction. [snip]

The replacement-theory grifters know that they are stoking the anxieties some White people feel about the nation’s increasing diversity. They also know that they are playing with tropes that have long been popular among unapologetic white supremacists, including those who infamously marched through Charlottesville bearing torches. And they must realize by now that some impressionable White people will take this rhetoric seriously — and act on it.

The accused Buffalo killer took pains to choose a location where he knew the victims would be people of color. Blame him for what he did. But also blame the prominent right-wing voices that egged him on. 

They're not "lone wolves," as Lavin explains above.  We must not let these murders and the murderers pass without understanding who and what they are, and in what poisonous political muck they have taken root.

BONUS:  More here, here, and here

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