From our correspondent in the United States,
The 16-year-old Buffalo shooter was bored during lockdown in May 2020, when he started hanging out on 4chan’s “/pol/” (politically incorrect) forum. Two years later, on May 14, Payton Gendron got out of his car armed with a semi-automatic rifle and wearing a bulletproof vest, a GoPro camera strapped to his helmet. Methodically, he sows death in a supermarket in a black neighborhood, killing ten people and injuring three others, a horror that he broadcasts live on Twitch.
Online, he leaves a racist and anti-Semitic manifesto of 180 pages denouncing the “replacement” of the white and Christian population by minorities, in progress, according to him, in the United States. He is far from the first. Since 2018, at least five mass murderers have invoked this conspiracy theory to justify their action, while far-right terrorism reached its highest level in the United States in 2020. Meanwhile, discussions around this so-called “great replacement”, denounced as a “poison” by Joe Biden, have left the depths of the Internet to invite themselves into the public square. With the help of Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson and several Republican Trumpists.
Uninhibited racism under Donald Trump
Theorized in 2010 by far-right French author Renaud Camus, this “great replacement” was quickly exported to the United States, where it has ancient roots with the “white genocide” conspiracy theory. As early as 1916, in The Decline of the Great Race, the American eugenicist Madison Grant is worried about the decline in the birth rate in the wealthy class, mainly white. In the early 1980s, the neo-Nazi armed group The Order “popularized the idea that Jews ‘conspired’ to eliminate the white race”, recalls Carolyn Gallahera researcher specializing in militias and the extreme right.
From 2010, the alt-right, the internet generation of the American extreme right led by Richard Spencer and Nathan Damigo, propagated Renaud Camus’ theory with memes and infographics on 4chan and Reddit. With a culmination in Charlottesville, in 2017, when hundreds of demonstrators brandishing torches chanted “Jews will not replace us” (“the Jews will not replace us”). James Fields drives into counter-protesters, kills Heather Heyer and injures dozens of people. Donald Trump condemns “neo-Nazis and white nationalists” but, in the same sentence, assures that there are “good people on both sides”.
“It’s hard to overestimate Donald Trump’s role in making this idea (of the threat of a replacement) mainstream within the Republican Party,” says Carolyn Gallaher. Among the exits of the ex-president: it is necessary to build a wall vis-a-vis an “invasion”, the migrants of Central America are “rapists” and “criminals”, the refugees come from “shitty country” (“shithole countries “), Black Lives Matters protesters are “thugs” (gangsters), African-American footballers who kneel down as “son of a bitch”… “Donald Trump has created a space for everyone to feel free to publicly express their racism without even using coded language,” continues the researcher. Exit the threat of “international bankers”, make way for “Jewish financiers” and “George Soros”.
The Tucker Carlson Effect
The polemicists rush into the breach. In April 2021, Fox News star presenter Tucker Carlson accused prime time Democrats to seek to “replace current voters with new, more obedient people from the Third World.” Six months later, about the reception of Haitian migrants, he speaks of a “great replacement” orchestrated by the Biden administration. “Tucker Carlson did not create the phenomenon but surfed and amplified the wave”, judge Carolyn Gallaher. Many elected Republicans, from Matt Gaetz to Paul Gosar, have followed suit, with a light version of the “great replacement” electoral sauce.
If an orchestrated “replacement” of the white electorate is a conspiracy, the diversification of America is very real: the share of the non-Hispanic white population has fallen from 75% to 60% in thirty years, while that of the Hispanic population doubled (from 9 to 18.5%), as did that of the Asian population (from 3 to 6%), while that of the black population remained stable (around 13%). According to census bureau projectionsthe white population is expected to remain the largest group, but drop below 50% between 2040 and 2050.
Far-right terrorism at record levels
In 2019, FBI boss Christopher Wray warned: white supremacists are the “main threat” from within. Between 2015 and 2020, 333 terrorist attacks left 110 dead, according to figures compiled by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Over this period, far-right sympathizers are responsible for around 80% of attacks and casualties, with 73 incidents in 2020 – a record since the figures were compiled in 1994
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At least five shooters have explicitly cited the “great replacement” or “white genocide” theory to justify their actions: Robert Bowers (Pittsburgh Synagogue, 11 dead and 7 injured in October 2018), John Earnest (Poway Synagogue, California, 1 dead and 3 injured, in April 2019), Patrick Crusius (shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, 23 dead and 23 injured in August 2019) and Payton Gendron in Buffalo. Online, the latter says he was particularly influenced by the Australian Brenton Harrison Tarrant, who killed 51 people in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March 2019.James Piazza professor of political science and researcher at Penn State University, leaned over on the determining factors in far-right terrorism, with an extensive study covering the period 1970-2011. His conclusion: economic factors, often cited, have much less influence than political factors (who is in the White House, what is the rhetoric of the candidates?) and especially societal factors. “The social and cultural changes that have taken place in the United States in recent decades have catalyzed political extremism, both violent and non-violent,” he said.20 minutes. He cites in particular “the empowerment
In 2021, far-left terrorism (anarchists and antifa) increased sharply, to account for 40% of attacks, but only 3% of victims.