In a 180-page message posted online before the May 14 massacre in Buffalo, New York, the alleged gunman Peyton Hendron wrote that he wanted to “raise awareness among my white compatriots about the real problems facing the West.”

Problems, according to the alleged shooter? Mass immigration and white people lack children.

“This crisis of mass immigration and birth control,” wrote the 18-year-old white man, “is an attack on the European people, which, if not fought, will eventually lead to the complete racial and cultural replacement of the European people.”

Although he did not call it by its name, Hendron was referring to a far-right conspiracy theory known as the Great Substitution, which says that Western elites, particularly Jews, attract immigrants to replace whites.

In addition to the shooting in Buffalo, which killed 10 black people and injured three, extremism experts say racist theory has inspired attacks on ethnic and religious minorities in Christchurch, New Zealand, and El Paso, Texas.

French origin

The idea that non-white immigrants may eventually displace born-born white Europeans has its roots in 20th-century French ethnic nationalism. But the term itself was coined and popularized by the French Belarusian nationalist Reno Camus (unrelated to Albert Camus).

As he recently told the right edition Magazine “Conflict”.he first coined this expression in the 1990s in a small medieval village in the south of France.

There, near “gothic windows and gothic fountains,” were Muslim women in veils and men in jalal robes, he recalled. “I am, of course, used to seeing changes in people, like everyone else [the predominantly Arab and Black] suburbs, but there it was especially striking.

Camus said he later delivered a speech entitled “The Great Replacement” in a nearby town, and in 2011 he himself published a book of the same name in French.

Although the book has never been translated into English, the book helped launch a trans-European far-right network of extremist connections in the United States, according to Wendy Via, co-founder and president of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism.

“The ideas were picked up almost immediately, and they were compared to other ideas of white supremacy here in the United States and elsewhere,” Via said.

Describing it as a “simple fact” rather than a “theory”, Camus said that a big replacement is just a “change of people with a change in culture and civilization”.

Experts in the field of extremism say it is more than that.

“The big replacement theory is a conspiracy theory that claims that white people are being deliberately replaced by immigrants, migrants, Muslims, refugees around the world, which primarily affects Western Europe and the United States,” Via said.

American fans

The idea of ​​replacing whites gained popularity in the United States among white supremacists, who adopted it as a replacement for their theory of “white genocide” when in recent years they sought to rebrand themselves into white nationalists.

“The idea of ​​substitution is much easier to understand than genocide,” said Michael Edison Hayden, a spokesman for the Southern Center for Poverty.

Although Camus did not blame the Jews, American proponents of white supremacy adopted his phrase as an anti-Jewish slogan.

Many Americans first became acquainted with the term in 2017, when alternative law activists organized a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, at which activists chanted, “You will not replace us” and “Jews will not replace us.”

The rally was fatal when a neo-Nazi supporter crashed his truck into oncoming protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.

Link to violence

Camus denies that his words caused violence. But experts on extremism say the idea of ​​replacement has helped in recent years launch a series of deadly attacks by white supremacists on Jews, Muslims, Latinos and blacks.

Among them – the massacre of 13 believers in the synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018; the 2019 killing of 51 Muslims in two mosques in New Zealand; and the mass murder of 23 people, most of whom were Hispanic, at the Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, in 2019.

“It’s a significant impact on these types of attacks,” Hayden said.

Hayden noted that before the idea of ​​replacement gained popularity in recent years, most mass shootings in the country did not look ideologically motivated. For example, a gunman who took place in 2012 at a movie theater in Colorado suffered from a severe mental illness and had no known extremist beliefs.

Now the shooters have found an ideology to justify the violence, Hayden said.

“It works almost as much as terrorists of all kinds are able to find sociopaths or unstable people and fill them with a sense of purpose,” he said.

In his manifesto, Hendron wrote that he was most “radicalized” by Brenton Tarant, a shooter in the Christchurch mosques, whose manifesto of the 2019 massacre was called the “Great Replacement.”

“Brenton has begun my real study of the problems of immigration and foreigners in our white lands,” Hendron wrote.

Hendron added that he decided to take matters into his own hands after “learning the truth” on 4chan’s right-hand bulletin board, that “the white race is dying out, that blacks are disproportionately killing whites … and that Jews and elites stood for it.”

A search by Media Matters on the bulletin board found that users mentioned the terms “excellent replacement,” “white replacement,” or “genocide of whites” more than 90,000 times since July 2018.

Camus sought to distance himself from the Buffalo shooting and other attacks allegedly inspired by the great replacement theory.

A Twitter account apparently linked to Camus said on Sunday that neither the shooter from Buffalo nor the attacker at a mosque in New Zealand referred to Camus or his book, dismissing allegations that his book was a call to hate or a call to violence.

There is a mainstream

The idea of ​​replacement is no longer limited to the outer edges of the far right. Increasingly well-known conservative TV presenters and politicians are facing accusations of using it as a stencil to condemn “mass immigration”.

FILE – Tucker Carlson, host of Tucker Carlson Tonight, poses for photos at Fox News Channel, New York, March 2, 2017.

One notable figure accused of promoting the conspiracy is conservative Fox News presenter Tucker Carlson. Matt Hertz, a senior researcher at left-wing Media Matters, said Carlson began discussing the idea regularly in 2019.

“It was the main conspiracy theory of white supremacy that he suddenly talked about on his Fox News show, and then suddenly other Fox News presenters did the same thing. And then Republican politicians,” Hertz said.

Last year during a segment, Carlson said Biden’s “mass immigration” policy was designed to “change the country’s racial mix.”

“Politically, this policy is called a great replacement – the replacement of inherited Americans with more obedient people from distant lands,” Carlson said.

In comments Monday night, Carlson said the shooter from Buffalo was mentally ill and not politically motivated, and that “the big replacement theory comes from the left,” where activists and politicians are pushing for a demographic shift for political supremacy.

During a visit to Buffalo to pay tribute to the victims of the shooting, President Biden said he condemned “those who spread lies” about replacing whites. The White House has previously rejected speculation that it is promoting an “open borders” policy.

According to Hertz, other Fox News presenters, such as Sean Hannity and Laura Ingram, have accused Democrats of seeking to attract immigrants to replace Americans for political gain.

After the Buffalo shooting, Republican Congresswoman Eliza Stefanik criticized Democrats and some Republicans for promoting a racist theory. She denied the charge.

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