Why are there so many mass shootings in Europe and the USA? One reason is that unstable elements on the far right are stirred up by The Great Replacement Theory (GRT). Mass shootings are an extreme reaction to it, but it also has many other, more slippery but still dangerous effects.
It originated when Renaud Camus, in 2012, wrote that French society was under threat. He was afraid that non-white, Muslim immigrants would quickly become so numerous that traditional French society would be replaced by something more cosmopolitan.
Expressed one way, this could be a welcome for exciting new foreign foods and music, caused by the fact the world is getting smaller and its people more mobile. Expressed neutrally, it would be a reflection of increased immigration as a result of earlier times, when the French colonised other countries and encouraged their citizens to learn French and think of France as a kind of mother country. Expressed in right wing terms, it becomes an invasion of hostile forces, which need to be resisted, first with votes and then with rifles.
Sometimes it is mixed with racism – the submerging of the white race under a tide of ‘lesser breeds’. Sometimes it is mixed with a complex paranoia that sees an ‘elite’ somehow organising this replacement. The ‘elite’ might be ‘the political class’ or the usual mixture of freemasons, Jews, communists etc. It depends how old fashioned the speaker’s ideas may be.
Sometimes it is a purely cultural issue, about food, music, language etc, with no racism attached. There are many versions and they vary from simple anti-immigrant rhetoric to something much darker. The greatest danger, of course, is that the darker, unstable, paranoid forces will manipulate and exploit the innocent concerns of the former.
Steve Bannon was President Trump’s chief strategist and approved of a novel considered the “bible of the racist right”, in which white men heroically take up the struggle for the survival of the white race. Trump then casts himself as a hero of the downtrodden and ignored. He denies he is racist and publicly rejects support from the Ku Klux Klan, but its members vote for him as hero to prevent mass immigration from Mexico. Then a white supremacist guns down 22 people in El Paso. Within 14 days, police prevent seven other people from carrying out copycat shootings.
Cause and effect can be complicated, but a national mood has grown in many countries which allows the GRT to seep like a poison into pubic debate and private fears. For example, the Identitarian movement insists it is the right of “peoples of European descent” to defend their own culture and territory. They don’t see attacks on immigrants as offensive but defensive. They are the victims of an attack by hostile exterior forces. If they can find a citizen who has genuine concern about immigration and its effects on housing or employment, they can try to exploit that concern and move it further to the right, nudging it along with crafty Facebook postings and tweets about unemployment and being patriotic.
That muddies the waters of political debate and allows something dangerous to masquerade as mainstream thought. It makes extreme views appear to be moderate argument and sucks the innocent into contexts they do not fully understand.
There are several defences against this.
One is to use fact checking sources to look at any argument about immigration.
in particular https://fullfact.org/immigration/ or
Another is to check the source and reliability of any claim on the internet. Here are a few sites to help:
But beware – many right wing propaganda machines are now very skilled at appearing to be a respectable source, using fake accounts and referring to each other so they seem to have support in the community. A recent parliamentary report saw this as a major threat to democracy.