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Werleman’s Worldview: How the Extremist Great Replacement Theory Went Mainstream

CJ Werleman says Fox News has become the media arm for white domestic terrorism and would-be right-wing terrorists around the world

Site of a mass shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York 15 May 2022. Photo: UPI/Alamy

Werleman’s WorldviewHow the Extremist Great Replacement Theory Went Mainstream

CJ Werleman says Fox News has become the media arm for white domestic terrorism and would-be right-wing terrorists around the world

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On the morning of April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh, a former US Army soldier, parked a rental truck full of fertilizer and diesel fuel in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, before getting out, locking the door, and driving away in a getaway car. 

Moments later, he ignited a fuse, which in an instant turned the rental truck into a 7,000-pound bomb. The blast blew off the building’s entire north wall, killing 168 people, and making it the largest mass-casualty terrorist attack in the nation’s history.

Prosecutors pointed to the dystopian, neo-Nazi novel The Turner Diaries, written in 1975 by William E. Pierce as the primary source of McVeigh’s radicalization. It tells of a liberal-dominated future America, where racial and ethnic minorities gain power at the expense of the white race, and then enact anti-white laws.

It has become the foundational book to the “Great Replacement” or “white genocide” conspiracy theory, and a source of radicalization for Anders Breivik, who murdered 77 students in Norway in 2011; Dylann Roof, who gunned down 9 worshippers at a black church in South Carolina in 2015; Robert Bowers, who murdered 11 Jewish worshipers at a synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018; Patrick Crusius, who murdered 23 Hispanic shoppers at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, in 2019; and Brenton Tarrant, who massacred 52 Muslim worshippers at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2019.

Two decades earlier, McVeigh told the Buffalo News that he hoped his bombing of the US federal building in Oklahoma City would inspire “brothers in arms,” including white supremacists and right-wing militias, to follow his lead and carry out mass-casualty attacks.

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On Saturday, 18-year-old Payton S. Gendron did exactly that when he walked into a crowded supermarket in Buffalo, New York, armed with an assault rifle and wearing tactical gear. He shot 10 people to death, before being arrested and taken into custody. His alleged manifesto, which was posted online prior to the attack, claims he specifically targeted the supermarket due to its location in a predominantly black neighbourhood, saying, “Zip code 14208 in Buffalo has the highest black percentage that is close enough to where I live”.

According to his “research,” the self-described white supremacist came to believe white Americans are at risk of being “replaced” by people of colour, and that low birth rates among white populations around the world are a “crisis” that “will ultimately result in the complete racial and cultural replacement of the European people,” he wrote.

The “Great Replacement” conspiracy mirrors the “Crusader-Zionist” conspiracy, which posits US and Israel are plotting to abolish Islam and subjugate the global Muslim population. It helped radicalize thousands of young Muslim men in Western countries to travel to Iraq and Syria during to join the terrorist group ISIS.

But whereas the “Crusader-Zionist” conspiracy and its adherents are found only on the dark corners of the Internet, the “Great Replacement” conspiracy is beamed into the living rooms of tens of millions of Americans by Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News during prime-time television viewing slots.

A recent New York Times analysis of 1,150 episodes of Tucker Carlson’s evening program found he has mentioned variations of the “Great Replacement” conspiracy in more than 400 episodes since 2016. Last April, he claimed, without evidence that the Democratic Party are deliberately migrating “more obedient voters from the third world” to “replace the current [white majority] electorate” and help them win elections – discourse that essentially mimics the replacement conspiracy.

But it has driven Carlson to the top of the television ratings heap. His show is now the highest-rated cable news program in primetime. Last year, Rupert Murdoch told shareholders his star had contributed to a 40% increase in subscriptions for its online news platform – Fox Nation.

The “Great Replacement” conspiracy mirrors the “Crusader-Zionist” conspiracy, which posits US and Israel are plotting to abolish Islam and subjugate the global Muslim population

It explains why many of his colleagues are mimicking his recipe for success by parroting “Great Replacement” tropes, including Laura Ingraham, who claims Democrats “want to replace you, the American voters, with newly amnestied citizens and an ever-increasing number of chain migrants”. She also likens immigration to an “insurrection that seeks to overthrow everything we love about America by defaming it, silencing it, and even prosecuting it”.

Put simply, the “Great Replacement” conspiracy, which has become the primary driver of white domestic terrorism, has moved from the fringes of the Internet to mainstream cable-television news due to the full corporate support it receives from Murdoch and Fox Corp, earning its CEO Lachlan Murdoch praise from white supremacists, including KKK leader David Duke.

In other words, Fox News has become the media arm for white domestic terrorism and would-be right-wing terrorists around the world, with Rupert Murdoch totally down with that.

But while the gunman in Buffalo didn’t mention Fox News or Tucker Carlson by name, he didn’t need to – because the “Great Replacement” has become a mainstream belief among today’s Republican Party and the conservative movement, writ large.

Last year, Republican Congressperson Matt Gaetz (R-Florida) tweeted an explicit endorsement of the racist conspiracy, saying, “Tucker Carlson is CORRECT about Replacement Theory as he explains what is happening in America”.

His congressional colleague Scott Perry (R-Pennsylvania) said during a committee hearing that “for many Americans, what seems to be happening, or what they believe right now is happening, is, what appears to them is, we’re replacing national-born American — native-born Americans, to permanently transform the landscape of this very nation”.

The conspiracy was built into former US President Donald Trump’s appeals to “build the wall”. It’s a conspiracy now believed by nearly 50% of Republican voters, according to a recent poll, which also found roughly 75% of them receive most of their news from Fox News and the even more extreme right-wing cable networks One American News and Newsmax.

The conspiracy is also the number one belief among the right-wing insurrectionists who attacked the US Capitol on January 6, with one survey showing 75% of them believe the Democratic Party is trying to replace white voters with non-white migrants to hold onto power.

That tens of millions of Republican Party voters sympathize with the insurrectionists means the US is now confronted with a “large mass of kindling waiting for an incendiary moment,” says renowned terrorism scholar Professor Robert A. Pape.

“It’s crucial that political leaders grasp this new empirical reality and that aspiring leaders weigh in on it,” warns Pape. Citizens and journalists should ask every candidate running for office a simple question: ‘Some people are saying that the use of force is justified to retore Donald Trump to the presidency—what are your thoughts on that?’”

Equally, corporate sponsors and media consumers should pose a similar question to Rupert Murdoch and the executives at News Corp: “Your anchors and hosts are claiming the progressives and the Democratic Party are secretly plotting to replace white Americans with non-white immigrants – what are your thoughts on that?”

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