Before he murdered 22 people at an El Paso Walmart in 2019, a Texas man was linked to a document posted online that referred to a “Hispanic invasion of Texas.” The motivation behind this horrifying incident — that there is a deliberate, global plan being orchestrated by national and global elites to replace white, Christian, European populations with non-white, non-Christian ones — is the focus of a recent three-part New York Times series on the rise and ideology of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson.
Carlson has repeatedly used replacement language to imply or directly argue that Democrats are staging a “demographic replacement.”
In the first part of the series, journalist Nicholas Confessore describes Carlson’s efforts to foment “white fear” about immigrants and changing demographics in the United States as “recasting American racism to portray white Americans as an oppressed caste.” In doing so, Confessore reveals, Carlson has repeatedly drawn on the leading far-right conspiracy theory of demographic change known as the “big surrogate.”
The term was coined by a French scholar just over a decade ago and was quickly embraced by white supremacists around the world, for whom the theory now provides a single, overarching framework for ideas that have been seeping through for years. Last September, Media Matters reported that Carlson spent a year launching a “dedicated campaign to introduce the ‘Great Replacement’ conspiracy theory … into mainstream Republican discourse.” Carlson has repeatedly used replacement language to imply or directly argue that Democrats are orchestrating “demographic replacement” to gain political power. The day before Media Matters’ September report, Carlson told viewers that President Joe Biden aims to “replace the ‘old Americans'” and “change the racial mix of the country” for political gain.
Decades earlier, American neo-Nazi David Lane had popularized the idea of “white genocide” by arguing that white populations were demographically dying out due to immigration, abortion, and anti-white violence, which in turn has been linked to anti-Semitic conspiracy theories that organized a International group of Jewish elites intentionally finance or otherwise support migration to intentionally create multicultural societies. Lane’s phrase “14 words” – “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children” – became a call to defend white people against this genocide.
While Lane was busy promoting anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about the white genocide in the United States, a parallel theory of white supremacist demographic replacement emerged in Europe. Coined by British author Bat Ye’or and published in a 2005 book of the same name, “Eurabia” suggests that Muslims are deliberately working to replace white Europeans through immigration and high birth rates in order to expand the territory of the caliphate. Ye’or argues that this will create a territorial space where white Europeans will be subject to Sharia law and Islamic rule, and will be forced to convert to Islam or surrender to subservient roles. The end result is a Europe converted from a white, Christian civilization to an Islamic one.
Over the past decade, the concept of the “Great Replacement” has unified these American and European conspiracy theories into an overarching, dystopian conspiracy theory that warns white Americans and Europeans of a frightening future of decline, degradation, or chaos. It has helped inspire a sense of shared mission among the global far-right, who face a shared demographic threat and a call to action to preserve and defend the white against an invasion by immigrants, Muslims or Jews who they will eradicate or replace white nationals, Christians, Americans or Europeans.
When Carlson defended the idea of on-air demographic replacement last year, the Anti-Defamation League called for his dismissal.
That’s the concept Carlson is seizing upon when he warns of a “great substitute” — as he did last April when he argued that the Democrats were deliberately “importing more obedient third-world voters in order to bolster the current electorate.” “replace” and secure your own power. However, as Confessore points out, Carlson also goes beyond conspiracy theories to fuel anti-immigration fervor more broadly, using exclusionary, inciting, and dehumanizing rhetoric and language such as a “flood of illegals” alongside descriptions of the mass immigration that America “poorer and dirtier”.
Carlson isn’t the only Fox News character pushing the grand replacement theory. Laura Ingraham has warned viewers that “Democrats want to replace many of you,” suggesting an “invasion of the country” and calling Texas a state “completely overrun” by an illegal invasion. And to be clear, the white racist underpinnings of the “big replacement” are nothing new. But as the country moves closer to actual demographic shifts being manipulated in replacement and genocide conspiracy theories, invoking the idea of a “grand replacement” as an existential threat in mainstream network news reinforces and legitimizes the fears and sense of the White supremacist urgency in a way that feels unique to this time.
When Carlson defended the idea of the on-air demographic replacement last year, the Anti-Defamation League called for his dismissal, saying Carlson’s language is “not just a dog whistle for racists — it’s a megaphone.” In fact, conspiracy theories about a “grand surrogate” have inspired several acts of mass terrorist violence, including the 2019 El Paso shooting, the 2011 killings of 77 mostly children in Norway, and 51 Muslim believers in New Zealand in 2019, among many others .
The terrorist who allegedly murdered 13 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018 was motivated by white genocide theories that suggested Jews were orchestrating the resettlement of refugees to create a multicultural society that would eventually eradicate whites .
These conspiracy theories — white genocide, Eurabia, the “great substitute” — that have been at the core of white supremacist beliefs for decades have no place on the mainstream networks that beam into the living rooms of millions of Americans every night. And yet here we are: with former KKK leader David Duke praising cable news host Carlson for “finally” promoting the “big replacement,” and a white supremacist website promoting him describes allies as “literally our greatest.”