The danger posed by a majority that sees itself as under threat

I have mentioned before how many negative trends that I observed in Sri Lanka over the decades, I now see playing out in the US. The mass killing in Buffalo illustrates one such situation that is rife for bigotry and that is when the majority community in a nation sees itself as under threat from the minority. This is because feeling threatened engenders a sense of grievance and a need to strike back in self-preservation while at the same time, being in the majority means that they have all the power and the means to attack members of the minority.

In Sri Lanka, politicians have long been able to whip up animosity against minority groups by saying that the majority Sinhala Buddhists were in danger of being eliminated. The fact that they constituted about 70% of the population and that this was highly unlikely to happen on simple statistical grounds did not prevent such fears from seizing the imagination of some people in the majority and we saw periodic acts of violence against the minorities. The targets varied over time suchas the minority Tamils who made up just about 20% of the population. But the chauvinists pointed to the fact that the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu shared ethnic features with Sri Lankan Tamils and thus, taken together, they constituted the larger group that, in their fevered imagination, would one day take over the country and suppress the Sinhala Buddhists. More recently, fears have been raised about Muslims, who make up just about 5% of the population, arguing that their relatively high birth rates were part of a long-term devious plot to become the majority. That both of these claims have not a shred of evidence in support and were preposterous purely on demographic grounds was dismissed.

In the US, this paranoid fear is taking the form of the ‘great replacement’ theory that argues that there is a deliberate plan by shadowy elites to make white Christians the minority by various means. While it is true that demographic changes are such that the relative size of white Christians is decreasing, the idea that this is some part of a conspiracy is preposterous. Kathleen Belew, an assistant professor of history at the University of Chicago, looks at the origins of this belief and says that obsession about birth rates is a key element.

The idea is simply that many different kinds of social change are connected to a plot by a cabal of élites to eradicate the white race, which people in this movement believe is their nation. It connects things such as abortion, immigration, gay rights, feminism, residential integration—all of these are seen as part of a series of threats to the white birth rate. One thing you’ll notice in the manifestos and in the talking points, really going back through the twentieth century, is this focus on the reproductive capacity of white women in maintaining the white race as a nation.

The “great replacement” comes about relatively recently from “The Camp of the Saints,” a novel that depicts a surge of migrants that usurps European culture. But it’s really the same ideology as the New World Order conspiracy, the idea of the Zionist occupational government—which is how people talked about this in the nineteen-eighties and early nineties. We see versions of this going all the way back to the eugenics movement in the early twentieth century, the writings of Madison Grant, and things such as “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” All of these are the same set of beliefs packaged with the cultural context at the time.

It’s not just about passive demographic change, and the news stories we see pretty often about when a county or a city or the nation will no longer be majority white. It’s about an apocalyptic threat perpetrated by what these conspiracists think of as a cabal. They see, for instance, abortion as a scheme to lower the white birth rate. They see residential integration as a scheme to lower the white birth rate. They see feminism as a scheme to keep white women out of the home and lower the white birth rate.

The evil élites are typically rendered as Jewish, and I use that word “cabal” knowing that it tends to invoke an idea of Jewish élites. But this movement is also generally distrustful of all kinds of élites. Sometimes it’s about the United Nations as the élites trying to wage this war on the white birth rate. Sometimes it’s about global outsiders. But there is a heavy current of anti-Semitism that links the idea of the manipulative élite with Jewish conspirators.

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor analyzes in particular the Buffalo killer’s manifesto and it clearly reveals this weird belief that hard-working white people are somehow the ones discriminated against in the US while Blacks bask in undeserved privileged luxury.

The shooter is alleged to have posted a hundred-and-eighty-page “manifesto” avowing white-supremacist beliefs. In the hate-filled text, he denounced immigrants and Black people as “replacers” of white people. The notion that white people are being replaced has recently moved from the fringe of far-right politics to mainstream Republican Party politics. The Fox News personality Tucker Carlson has helped to popularize the ideology, and it has dovetailed seamlessly with the rhetoric of the Republican Party, which has insisted on describing the arrival of migrants at the southern border—seeking entry into the U.S. as asylum seekers—as an “invasion.”

The shooter rationalized his vicious attack by trying to fit it into this grand, esoteric conspiracy of white replacement through immigration. His manifesto, by contrast, is filled with crudely racist memes about Black Americans. In fact, for all his denunciation of “replacers” in the manifesto, an archive of his posts on the messaging platform Discord, from the past six months, barely mentions immigrants. Instead, he writes prolifically and disparagingly about Black people, whom he incessantly describes with racial slurs. In a search of archived posts beginning in 2021, the word “immigrant” appears twelve times, “replacement” eighteen times, “replacer” twenty-two times, but “blacks” and the N-word each appear a hundred times.

He searched by Zip Code for the largest Black population close to where he lived, in order to “kill as many blacks as possible.” His research led him to a grocery store, on the city’s East Side, along the Jefferson Avenue commercial corridor, running through the heart of Black Buffalo.

In his manifesto, the Buffalo shooter writes, “Blacks are the most privileged race in the US and many western countries. But yet they say they are the most oppressed. What other race is given trillions of dollars of White taxpayer money to succeed, but yet fails and asks for more? What other race actively destroys their communities like they do?”

Trump coddled avowed white supremacists during his Presidency, and his open stoking of racial animus unshackled the Republican Party from norms long held in mainstream politics.

The conservative hysteria that seeks to envelop American history in a shroud of innocence and ignorance—and thus refuses to acknowledge the roots of racial inequality, residential segregation, underemployment—is a convenient justification for never having to use the power of the state to address these issues. It also perpetuates the delusion that segregation is a choice and that Black neighborhoods suffer greater inequities because of something intrinsic to the people who live in these communities. This is not just wrong; it is dangerous.

(Incidentally, I am glad to see that many reporters and analysts are refraining from mentioning the killer’s name, referring to him instead as ‘the Buffalo shooter’, thus depriving him of any notoriety that he may have been seeking.)

What started out as a fringe belief among the KKK and other white supremacist groups seems to have become mainstream, thanks to the Republican party and Fox News that have adopted it. Polls suggest that up to a third of Americans now believe in it. That is astounding. So we should not be surprised that there will be the occasional person who decides to do something about it on a personal level by going on a murderous rampage, even though what they do does not change the demographics at all. The sad fact is that the extremely easy availability of weapons that can kill many people in a very short time means that there is little that can be done to anticipate and stop such people before they do damage.

Although the people who hold such views may not realize this, the very existence of such a fear shows how many privileges they currently enjoy simply by being a member of the majority. Otherwise why fight the change? The fear of losing the privileges of being in the majority community, however irrational, seems to be enough to cause some people to lose their minds.


  1. moarscienceplz says

    One thing I am am very dismayed at is the media’s focus on this creature as if he crawled out from under a rock just a few months ago. He had thousands and thousands of dollars worth of body armor and weapons and ammo. Where did an eighteen year old get all this money? From his rich parents, almost certainly. In giving him all this dosh did they ever ask him what he was spending it on? Did they ever ask him what his interests were, or what he did with his friends?
    Why aren’t the media focusing a laser beam on the parents?

  2. xohjoh2n says

    @2 Yes, because whenever anyone does something bad you should immediately go after their whole family and burn their village to the ground.

  3. TGAP Dad says

    …Blacks bask in underserved privileged luxury.

    I think you meant to say “undeserved”.

    [Thanks! I have corrected it. -- Mano]

  4. Pierce R. Butler says

    Apparently this highschooler used correct spelling, good grammar, and competence in composition -- parallelism in rhetorical questions, above -- to post “A”-level screeds (if one ignores the actual content). Not what I would have expected, given his apparent primary interests and his poor understanding of the world’s social dynamics, but this arguable anomaly goes unaddressed in the New Yorker article linked to above.

    I suspect he either plagiarized or had assistance in his writing, though he could have been a bright student gone bad.

  5. Pierce R. Butler says

    jenorafeuer @ # 6 -- Thanks for filling that in.

    Does social media in general encourage copy-catting, or do the psychopaths have that tendency to start with?

  6. jenorafeuer says

    Pierce R. Butler@#7:
    I don’t know that social media ‘encourages’ copy-catting so much (and honestly, places like 4chan kind of count as anti-social media); after all, the term ‘dittohead’ dates back to the 1980s. Social media’s made it a lot easier to get that sort of enclosed audience that cuts themselves off from the wider society, but it’s been an active project of actual media companies (see Fox News) since, well, not long after Nixon resigned and some of his supporters blamed his resignation on the fact that the media actually reported on what had happened at Watergate.

    In many ways, though, one of the worse parts of the recent shooter’s manifesto was one of the original parts where he went into great detail about his equipment and planning, how to do it and how much it cost. He wasn’t just being a copycat: he was actively making it easier for the next generation of copycats as well.

  7. sonofrojblake says

    Polls suggest that up to a third of Americans now believe in it. That is astounding

    How is it astounding? More than a third of Americans believe the earth is 10,000 years old. A third of Americans are provably thick as pigshit. If you told me a third of Americans believe the moon was made of Playdoh and was put there by da Jooz, I wouldn’t find that in any way surprising. Your astoundment threshold is pretty low.

    The sad fact is that the extremely easy availability of weapons that can kill many people in a very short time means that there is little that can be done

    Wow. You talk about Sri Lanka a lot, but you have gone completely native USAian, haven’t you? I mean, how fatalistic is that? “Hey, guns are just available, y’know, whatchagonna do?”, with a shrug. How about BAN THE FUCKING GUNS. It’s not like they grow on the trees.

    Watch the first minute and a half of this (or all of it, eh).

    The UK did it. Australia did it. I’m not holding up either of these countries as paragons of not-thick-as-pigshit people (see: Brexit and Alexander Johnson as Prime Minister), but we have a remarkable lack of shooting massacres here despite having some pretty virulent racists and nutjobs knocking about, and Australia bows to I think nobody in their enthusiastic, unembarrassed embrace of genocidal racism, and if you disagree, ask a Tasmanian aborigine… oh, you can’t, they’re all dead. And yet the shooting massacres that do happen are remarkable for their incredible rarity, compared to the US where in order to make the news you have to get your kill count into double figures and/or have some other gimmick, like racism or something.

    Serioiusly: does anyone remember the San Jose shooting? This time last year. I don’t remember hearing about it. Or the one in Boulder in March last year. Or the one in Dayton in 2019. I *do* remember the one in El Paso, but that guy made it about race, so he got on the news. Note I’m only even bothering to list the ones where the dead are in double figures. Virginia Beach, May ’19? Thousand Oaks, November ’18? Again, I remember the Pittsburgh synagogue one from October ’18, but again he made a point of being racist.

    Meanwhile, the last mass shooting in the UK with a kill count in double figures was twelve years ago. Before that, you have to go back to 1996, the incident that did for handgun availability in the UK, and before that to 1986, the incident that did for assault rifle availability. I listed seven incidents in the UK from the last 3.5 years, and I’ve only listed three incidents in the UK and we’re already back before my wife was born. If you include the nonsense in Northern Ireland, there are two more in the 1970s, and then we’re back before even I was born in the sixties for a total of five. If you don’t see this comparison as massively fucked up and a great reason to seriously control guns, you have entirely drunk the NRA Kool-aid.

  8. Pierce R. Butler says

    jenorafeuer @ # 8: Social media’s made it a lot easier to get that sort of enclosed audience that cuts themselves off from the wider society, but it’s been an active project of actual media companies (see Fox News) since, well, not long after Nixon resigned …

    Good points. I remember predicting political-clique isolation even before Nixon’s fall, at the advent of cable TV (the Repubs, primarily through Nixon’s VP Spiro Agnew, went into attack mode against news networks all along, but could do very little about it during a three-channel national-journalism oligopoly).

  9. Mano Singham says

    sonofrojblake @#9,

    When I I write that it is the easy availability of guns that make such tragedies inevitable, I was pointing to the cause. Surely it follows from that that eliminating that cause is necessary to prevent them, without it having to be spelled out?

  10. says

    The cops laughably claimed they “had no idea”, no doubt because they actively chose not to look. The murderer had a history of making threats against his old high school, and they obviously weren’t lurking on and monitoring the white supremacist site.

    This rise of violent white racist ideology was known fifteen years ago, and nobody did anything about it except monitor Black groups.

  11. leszekuk says

    One question that’s occurred to me is why the terrorist shooter isn’t dead? If he’d been a black kid shooting up a white neighbourhood, I very much doubt the cops would have been kind enough to disarm and arrest him, he’d be a stain on the concrete. I wish it were somehow possible to hold not just bigots like Tucker Carlson responsible, but also the Murdochs, father and son, who have done so much to poison race relations in the US. I lived there a couple of decades but am now back in the UK, and do not recall anything as unsettling as the current hate. I feel like we’re closer to the 1930s than we’d like to think.

  12. tuatara says

    Satire from The Onion.

    Congress Placed On Lockdown After Deranged Man Enters Senate With Gun Control Measures

    WASHINGTON—Sending members of Congress ducking under their seats and covering their ears, the U.S. Capitol building was reportedly placed on lockdown Tuesday after a deranged man entered the Senate chamber with gun control measures. “It was terrifying—apparently he had written up hundreds and hundreds of pages detailing his plan to enact strict measures to regulate as many guns as possible,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), who confirmed that the suspect, a middle-aged man brandishing a large manila folder, was tackled by Capitol police officers after walking onto the Senate floor and announcing he was armed with a proposal. “It was horrifying. You could tell he had planned the entire thing out. For a minute there, I really thought it was the end for these shootings. I’m just thankful he was caught before the gun lobby got hurt, or even killed.” At press time, authorities had asked the media to refrain from sharing the deranged man’s writings to avoid inspiring any copycats.

  13. Mano Singham says

    tuatara @#14,

    Thanks for that. Funny but also sadly too close to the truth.

  14. tuatara says

    Luckily for me Mano I watch the USA from afar, but what is occurring there at present troubles me a great deal. The USA has such a large influence on the world and I worry what the ‘crazy’ will lead to.

    Simple gun control was put well out of reach to the USA since the jinni, that is the second amendment to the US constitution, was released and subsequently fed by the capitalist system of power (it is after all capital that wields power in the USA). The only effective gun control left to the USA would appear to be cessation of the production of cartridge propellent and/or ammunition, then wait for the existing supply to be used up. It doesn’t bode well.

    A good guy or two without a gun can often deal with a bad guy without a gun. Once they all have guns a deadly result is inevitable. As far as I know, guns were specifically invented to kill people. It is stupid to think that guns do not kill. But the second amendment is stupid.

    Here in Australia it took a massacre of 35 people over the two days of 28–29 April 1996 by a deranged maniac armed with assault rifles for the powers to see that unfettered gun ownership leads to these events. Thankfully enough political will surfaced at the time to allow the Australian government to take the hard decision to outlaw these weapons for the general public. There are of course those here who claim the massacre was a false flag operation, enacted to strip the Australian people of their freedom [freedom to shoot each other it would seem]. Fatalities due to gun violence almost disappeared here almost overnight.
    I don’t like little Johnny Howard much, by I applaud his legacy on gun control.

    the USA has some specific conditions that preclude gun control. I don’t know what to suggest for such an intractable problem. Making fun of it seems the only sane response.

  15. says

    I don’t know what to suggest for such an intractable problem

    Sunset gun ownership based on age. Of course it’s intractible because we choose to let it be.

  16. tuatara says

    Sunset gun ownership based on age.
    Won’t that require a willingness in your citizens who own guns to actually give them up?
    Who would enforce this sunset on those who refuse to? The federal government at whom the second amenment appears to be aimed?
    Perhaps the police? Sorry but I don’t see it ending peacefully.

  17. tuatara says

    And wouldnt the people in the USA who would willingly relinquish their second amendment right to their AR15 be the very same people who already dont own one?

  18. says

    I didn’t say it’d be popular.
    But your rushing to the defense of the status quo does illustrate the problem. “Ooh its impossible because of made up reasons which I am prepared to make up infinitely.” I was just luring you out.

  19. John McElhinny says

    Marcus @#20

    Many gun restrictions would, in fact, be broadly popular (though perhaps not your specific suggestion). They haven’t happened, and won’t happen in the foreseeable future for three main reasons:

    The Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Second Amendment precludes any large scale reductions in gun ownership by the public. Given the makeup of the court, and that any change to the Constitution can be blocked by thirteen states, means that this is here to stay for a while.

    The Republican Party rejects any gun reforms. It is not only immune to the shock of tragedies caused by firearms, but uses them as fund-raising tool. While they represent the views of a minority of the country, they are increasingly willing to use undemocratic means to obtain and retain control in states and at the national level.

    The Democratic Party is generally in favor of gun restrictions, but is unwilling to or afraid of enacting them when in power, at least at the national level. Public opinion is there, but hasn’t moved them to act. Getting elected Democrats to act may be possible, but anything they do will to be undone by the Court or Republicans as soon as they take back power.

    This is not a defence of the status quo. These are not “made up reasons.” This is the reality. The intractable problem is not identifying solutions, it is enacting them. I’m at a loss for how to do that.

  20. tuatara says

    Marcus, aside from the points by John McElhinny above, which I am really surprised that you needed spelled out, you have, at a guess, millions of gun owners in the USA who’s belief is that their god has granted them the right to own an AR15, because you know god wrote the US constitution. They will never cede their gun ownership. It will be pried from their ‘cold dead hand’.
    But hey, I thought you were smart and could see the obvious ‘reasons’ that might promote in me the idea that the gun problem is intractible over there in the USA. If you think that is me ‘rushing to the defense of the status quo’ then you are welcome to make that incorrect assumption.

    Here in Oz gun ownership itself was not outlawed. Semi-automatics were outlawed and gun licensing was tightened so that, unlike in the great USA, a disturbed teenager cannot just pop into their local Walmart and buy a rifle.

    So yeah, I am just inventing reasons that have no basis in reality. FFS.

  21. Holms says

    #20 Marcus
    Wow, you’re so clever. “Look at you, pointing out why my idea can’t possibly work! Exposed!”

  22. lanir says

    I don’t know how anyone could think this “great replacement” thing makes any sense. Sure, it probably sounds compelling in a conversation within an echo chamber. But so does just about any other idea that doesn’t directly contradict itself. That’s a pretty low bar.

    For something to be worth getting all hot and bothered about it has to be a thing in the real world. Not the world in the tv screen. The one where you do dishes or decide whether today is laundry day or if it can wait until tomorrow. The world where you plan to have enough money in your account to pay the bills, make sure you have gas in your tank so you can drive to work and make grocery lists so you don’t get home after buying 3 boxes of cereal only to find you’ve forgotten to grab any milk.

    What does “replacement” look like in the real world? Have you directly witnessed anyone get replaced? What did that look like? Does it maybe look just exactly like someone losing their job because their boss is too greedy or incompetent (or both) to keep them employed? I feel like that’s how this idea is sold to the gullible. You’ll get replaced at work by someone with different skin pigmentation than you. But this is all incredibly simplistic. Does your boss just stop being greedy and/or incompetent once the new person is hired? Uh, no. So not only does the person being blamed for the problem not cause it, they would have to deal with the same problems you did. They might just get “replaced” in turn.

    But… I think there actually are real world examples of a “great replacement” that one can point to. They’re not where Tucker Carlson and the other white nationalists expect them to be though. Just like if they want to know what an invasion really looks like, they don’t need to look to the southern border of the US. They can just look at news from Ukraine. In the same way, there’s no “replacement” of any sort in the US. It’s just not happening, no one is gearing up for it, it’s just not here. Where is it happening? Palestinian lands. Israeli settlers (not jewish, Israeli: as in partisan hacks of a country, not an ethnic or religious group) are slowly replacing Palestinians on the West Bank from what I understand.

    The only times this has happened in the US that I can think of have been some time ago and they certainly didn’t happen to white people. The Trail of Tears and similar tragedies enacted upon native americans would definitely count, as would the Japanese internment in WWII. Oh and as a side note? That “greatest generation” thing? As far as I can tell they pissed themselves over epicanthic folds and proceeded to lock up an entire generation of asian americans with no justification but rampant racism. Not high on my list of “eras in history we need to revisit,” not unless the point is to fix a whole lot of messed up stuff.

    I doubt anyone reading needed to look at this idea that closely to realize it was wrong. It’s bonkers. But it’s like a fractal kind of bonkers. The closer you look the more bonkers it seems. The only way this can stand is if it gets no criticism whatsoever and lives solely in the echo chamber of people agreeing to it. It make as much sense as having real world fights where people get hurt over which noble house you support in Game of Thrones.

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