Great Replacement Theory: An Ethno-Nationalist Justification For Violence

(New York, N.Y.) — Prior to killing 10 and wounding three in a Buffalo, New York, grocery store this past weekend, the alleged gunman spent hours writing a 180-page online manifesto outlining his motivations for the attack. One of the central ideas espoused was the Great Replacement Theory, an ethno-nationalist conspiracy theory that non-European black and brown immigrant populations are being brought into the country by nefarious forces and “reverse-colonizing” and eradicating what is portrayed as white-dominant hegemonic culture in Western countries. This theory has spread among white ethno-nationalists, including those who often falsely claim only to seek to highlight the distinctiveness––rather than the outright superiority––of the white identity. And it has been used as justification for horrific violence to defend against this alleged “reverse-colonization.”

The Buffalo shooter’s alleged manifesto warned of white genocide from cultural, racial, and ethnic replacement brought on by immigration and perceived high fertility rates among immigrants. The shooter viewed his attack as a statement against “the replacers” that “the White Man is fighting back.” He also issued a warning to “non-whites on white lands” to leave while they can because “as long as the White man lives you will never be safe here.” These ideas stem directly from the Great Replacement Theory.

While multiple versions of the Great Replacement Theory are not new, the French writer Renaud Camus popularized the conspiracy theory in his 2012 book, Le Grand Remplacement (“The Great Replacement”). It has since become a rallying call for violent white nationalists who believe they are ensuring the survival of their own race. In recent years, the Great Replacement Theory has been used to justify other ethnically motivated violent attacks by those who claim a duty to protect their race and perceived European identities. In the October 2018 Tree of Life synagogue attack in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, attacker Robert Bowers blamed Jews for assisting immigrants he blamed for violence and threatening society. In the March 2019 attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, Brenton Tarrant viewed his assault on two mosques as fighting back against religious and ethnic others.

The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) has identified multiple virulent white nationalist groups in North America and Europe that subscribe to variations of the Great Replacement Theory. Some of these groups use ethno-nationalism to disguise their bigotry through patriotic and self-preservationist language, promoting the notions they are protecting the average hardworking individual and the broader national identity. Others subscribe to neo-Nazi ideology and refuse to hide their overt beliefs in racial superiority. Both camps have birthed violent extremists.

To read CEP’s resource White Supremacy Groups In The United States, please click here.

To read CEP’s resource European Ethno-Nationalist and White Supremacy Groups, please click here.

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