French writer Renaud Camus coined the term “great replacement” in a 2011 book, The Great Replacement, which claimed Muslims in France, due in part to having a higher birthrate than whites, were destroying French civilization and culture.
The great replacement theory “posits that elites are plotting to use immigration and the demographic shifts it causes to dilute the political and cultural influence of white, ethnically European Christians.” The theory also has Nazi-like overtones in suggesting the purity of white America is being sullied by people of color from foreign lands who will reproduce in such large numbers they will replace the nation’s white majority (“white genocide”). According to some on the far right, the Democratic Party is scheming to flood the country with immigrants who will vote with them to defeat Republicans.
This fear of replacement predates Camus’ book. In the late 19th century, upper-class Americans began to fear the arrival of what they considered inferior Catholic and Jewish immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe and sought immigration restrictions, which Congress first imposed in the Immigration Act of 1924. Most were removed by the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965.
Jews are seen by some exponents of the theory as leading an effort “to promote mass (non-white) immigration, intermarriage, and other efforts that would lead to the ‘extinction of whites.’”During the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, white supremacist protesters chanted, “You will not replace us” and “Jews will not replace us.”
Several politicians and media personalities have endorsed or repeated the idea. Tucker Carlson, for example, has promoted the conspiracy theory on his Fox News show Tucker Carlson Tonight, claiming, for instance, that President Joe Biden was intentionally trying to replace the population with people from the third world. Similarly, Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL) has claimed that an “attempted cultural genocide” was occurring in the U.S. and that the left wanted to “replace America.” French presidential candidate Éric Zemmour also promoted the conspiracy during the 2022 election.
Fears of the white race’s extinction, and replacement theory, in particular, have been cited by several perpetrators of mass shootings between 2018, 2019, and 2022. While Camus has stated his philosophy is nonviolent, analysts including Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center say the idea of white genocide has “undoubtedly influenced” American white supremacists, potentially leading to violence.
Sources: Samuel Breslow, “What is the great replacement theory and what does it say about Jews?” Forward, (May 16, 2022).
“Great Replacement,” AJC.
“Great Replacement,” Wikipedia.
“‘The Great Replacement:’ An Explainer,” ADL.