Guerrero: White terrorists have “Tucker Carlson Syndrome”. Millions of people are vulnerable
In nearly 700 pages of writing on the Discord messaging app, a person who identified himself as Payton Gendron, the 18-year-old suspect in Saturday’s mass shooting at a Buffalo, NY, grocery store, described his motives. He expressed a reluctance to kill people: “What I want now is something to pass or someone to do something so that I don’t have to kill these people.” The attack killed 10 people and injured three; 11 of the victims were black.
The Discord writer, according to transcripts of posts I reviewed, had been radicalized to believe that white people’s survival depended on eliminating people of color, whom he called “replacements.” He planned to try to shoot the victims twice in the head to minimize their pain.
Mental illness did not cause his monstrous actions. The mass bloodshed is the logical conclusion of embracing the “replacement” theory, a white supremacist and anti-Semitic fiction espoused by some prominent Republicans.
Jean Guerrero is the author, most recently, of “Hatemonger: Stephen Miller, Donald Trump and the White Nationalist Agenda”.
The GOP has been sidetracked all week. On Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called the killer “deranged,” while avoiding questions about his party’s promotion of his worldview. Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who has done more than anyone to embrace the replacement theory, attributed Gendron’s ideology to a “sick mind.”
But Gendron’s beliefs are not uncommon among conservatives or Republicans. Carlson has used his most-watched show hundreds of times to popularize the lie that Democrats are trying to “replace the current electorate… [with] more obedient Third World voters. An Associated Press and University of Chicago poll this month found that a third of American adults now believe some version of this propaganda. To call “Tucker-Carlson syndrome.”
What varies according to the different versions are the imaginary puppeteers. Carlson and politicians such as Representative Elise Stefanik, the third Republican in the House, blame the Democrats. Gendron and other users of 4chan, the digital sewer where the vitriol spewed out by Carlson accumulates, blame the Jews.
How did replacement theory become so normalized? Yes, it has been legitimized and used politically by Carlson and other crooks. But it’s important to understand what makes people vulnerable to lying. Gendron’s purported Discord logs offer clues. They are much more detailed than his 180-page “manifesto,” which was partly copied from the writings of another white terrorist.
The basis of his thought lies in the conviction that demographic change means death. “Diversity is white genocide,” he wrote.
This mistake, increasingly common among conservatives, confuses population growth and change with population erasure and cultural decay. “We have allowed the weak to intersect with the strong, and that is dangerous,” the alleged shooter wrote. He was obsessed with the declining white birth rate and wrote of photos of biracial kids, “Don’t bring in the mixed race guys.”
The myth of demographic change as white misfortune has a long history here dating back to the anti-miscegenation laws of the 1600s, laws which continued to exist into the 1960s. Such laws gave the Nazis a model for the persecution of Jews. In 1946, a United States Senator from Mississippi, Theodore Bilbo, warned in a speech that “miscegenation would destroy the white race.”
The obsession with racial purity gained scientific luster in the early 20th century, when Francis Galton, an anthropologist, spearheaded the eugenics movement by promoting the idea that the human species could be perfected through to selective breeding. Galton was inspired by his half-cousin Charles Darwin, whose theory of natural selection he misunderstood. In “The Origin of Species”, Darwin writes: “the more diverse the descendants, the better their chances of success in the battle for life”.
The quest for racial purity has led to policies limiting immigration from non-white countries as well as the legalization of sterilization of those who are classified as “unfit”, such as those perceived as idiots or lunatics. Black and brown women were disproportionately sterilized in the 1970s.
The horrors of Nazism caused these ideas to lose some mainstream appeal after World War II. But they were resurrected in the 1990s when white supremacist and nativist John Tanton republished an English translation of the French dystopian novel “Le camp des saints” to influence the immigration debate. Describing the destruction of the white world by brown refugees, the book inspired the architect of President Trump’s immigration policy, Stephen Miller, and French writer Renaud Camus’ influential book “The Great Replacement,” another key text for replacement paranoia.
These ideas have spread with the acceleration of the Internet and will take root in many other people like Gendron, who in his so-called Discord messages called himself a “supporter of eugenics”. He has self-radicalized during the pandemic through online racist misinformation portraying black people as genetically inferior to white people. Although this lie is not new, it is gaining popularity with each new evangelist, among them Jared Taylor, another prominent American white nationalist who influenced leading Republicans, including the Republican frontrunner in the gubernatorial recall race. from California in 2021, talk show host Larry Elder.
The Buffalo gunman, inspired by the live broadcast of a surrogate believer who slaughtered 51 Muslims in New Zealand, live-streamed his attack to encourage copycats. He idolized the anti-Mexican terrorist who murdered 23 people in El Paso. What these men have in common is not mental illness, but a Western cultural pathology: the creed of white supremacy, which demands white racial purity and views our diversity as a declaration of war.