I guess today we all get to learn about “replacement theory”, which isn’t a legitimate theory but more a reactionary conspiracy theory held by kooks. You know, big name, rich kooks like Tucker Carlson.
The “great replacement” theory has been a favorite of Carlson’s for some time now. This particular paranoid hypothesis is deeply rooted in neo-Nazi and other white nationalist circles. A cabal of rich Jewish people, the theory holds, has conspired to “replace” white Christian Americans with other races and ethnic groups in order to gain political and social control. Carlson doesn’t actually say “Jews,” and generally blames the sinister plan on Democrats, socialists or unspecified “elites,” but otherwise has kept the conspiracy theory intact. (Antisemitism remains the mix by singling out individual Jewish people especially Soros, as the alleged ringleaders.) It’s not like Carlson only invokes this narrative on occasion. As Media Matters researcher Nikki McCann Ramirez has documented, Carlson is obsessed with this idea that the people he calls “legacy Americans” — a not-so-veiled euphemism for white Christians of European ancestry — are under siege from shadowy forces flying the banner of diversity. He uses anodyne terms like “demographic change” to make the point, but has gotten bolder more recently, using the word “replacement” to make it even clearer that he’s borrowing his ideas from the white-supremacist fringe.
According to a New York Times analysis, in fact, Carlson has invoked the “great replacement” theory in over 400 episodes of his show, one of the most popular cable news shows in the country.
We have to remember, though, that it’s not just Carlson — getting him canceled wouldn’t change the fact that he has a huge audience of gullible Average Americans who all lean racist. He ought to be fired, of course, but we’ve got to somehow reach those people whose brains he has tainted. Before they kill us.
Five years ago, when white supremacists walked down the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, chanting “Jews will not replace us!” and carrying tiki torches, few people understood their intent – the fact that they were referring to replacement theory. The idea seemed outlandish, even incomprehensible; at the time, it was a fairly obscure rallying cry, based around a 2012 book by French novelist Renaud Camus fearmongering about a nonwhite-majority Europe, absorbed into the fetid stew of white-supremacist cant, where it acquired a vicious antisemitism. For many white supremacists, it is Jews who are orchestrating the “reverse colonization,” as Camus put it, of white countries, in order to more easily manipulate a nonwhite and therefore more malleable general populace. In Gendron’s manifesto, after explaining in detail why he picked the particular supermarket he did — it was in a majority-Black neighborhood with a majority-Black clientele — he felt the need to explain why he did not choose to attack Jews. “[Jews] can be dealt with in time, but the high fertility replacers will destroy us now, it is a matter of survival we destroy them first,” he wrote, before listing his weaponry in detail with price points included — a manual for future murders. While Gendron’s choice to engage in mass slaughter puts him on the radical fringe of those who enforce their beliefs with bullets, and his overt antisemitism differs slightly from vaguer blame of “elites,” “Democrats” and “globalists,” his fixation on white birthrates and demographic change are neither fringe nor particularly unusual. The gnawing fear of a minority-white America has utterly consumed conservative politics for the past half-decade, creating a Republican party whose dual obsessions with nativism and white fertility have engendered a suite of policies engineered to change the nature of the body politic. What unites murderers like Gendron, and the long list of white supremacist attackers he cited with admiration, with the mainstream of the Republican party is the dream of a white nation.
The Washington Post chose to talk about a Southern Democrat, Theodore Bilbo, a Mississippi senator who pushed the same notion. I don’t think it was to place equal blame on both parties (especially since a Southern Democrat in the 1940s was equivalent to any Republican in the years since Reagan) but to point out that even the most conservative people in the country found him repugnant.
But while the great replacement theory has inspired horrific violence in the past five years, it’s a lot older than that. More than 70 years ago, a U.S. senator published a book warning of the same destruction of White civilization.
Theodore G. Bilbo, a Democrat, had twice been governor of Mississippi before he served in the U.S. Senate from 1935 to 1947, when “the growing intolerance among many whites toward public racism and anti-Semitism” led to his fall, according to an account in the Journal of Mississippi History.
An equal-opportunity racist, he addressed some of his letters with slurs against Italians and Jews, depending on the recipient. But the bulk of his loathing and fear was reserved for Black Americans, as spelled out in his 1947 book “Take Your Choice: Separation or Mongrelization.”
Despite the fact that he was despised, though, the only thing that expelled him from the senate was oral cancer and death. I can’t sit here and wish the same would happen to Carlson — cancer is too evil.
I can sit here and say that “replacement theory” is stupid. It draws on the conceit that your personal immortality is built on your children, that biology is destiny, that when you procreate, you are creating little copies of yourself who will have the same goals as yourself. It doesn’t work that way, as anyone with kids can tell you. As I explain to students every year, mitosis is a process that allows a cell to perpetuate itself and make identical copies. We don’t reproduce by mitosis, though, but by meiosis…and what meiosis does is generate diversity, and the fusion of two gametes produces more diversity. There is no white race that is going to be preserved if you repudiate miscegenation. That reduces the pool of genes your progeny can draw from, and isn’t going to help you propagate, it’s just going to delay the mingling of your genes to a later generation which can see the folly of your racist schemes.
Also, I don’t share much in common culturally with the kinds of white people who believe in “replacement theory”. I sure hope my kids don’t marry any of them!
Unfortunately, the Republicans of today have picked up the banner of “replacement theory” and are running with it. It’s just another example of conservatives losing touch with reality.