Before his racist rampage in Buffalo on Saturday, the alleged gunman left behind a document denying membership in “any organization or group.” Still, a 180-page screed leave little doubt that 18-year-old Payton Gendron belongs to a global fraternity fixated on the idea that White people are being intentionally replaced, the Washington Post reports.
The idea has gained currency on popular right-wing television programs and in Congress. The theory, known as the “great replacement,” has turned white nationalism into an international call to arms. The apocalyptic vision has accumulated followers during the coronavirus pandemic.
“You don’t find this philosophy just on the fringes of the Internet and among the most extreme groups anymore,” said psychology Prof. Milan Obaidi, who has studied “great replacement” rhetoric and the violence it has provoked. “It’s becoming mainstream. You see established politicians in Europe and the U.S. touting similar ideas.”
French presidential candidate Valérie Pécresse referred to the “great replacement” on the campaign trail in the winter. Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) highlighted its tenets in a congressional hearing last year. Tucker Carlson, the most-watched host on Fox News, has championed the ideology, which holds not that immigration is reshaping demography and politics and that a cadre of elites is engineering population changes for political gain.
Nearly 1 in 3 Americans say they are extremely or very concerned that “native-born Americans are losing economic, political, and cultural influence in this country because of the growing population of immigrants,” says polling from the Associated Press and NORC.
Gendron, who wrote that he grew concerned about declining White birthrates and the “genocide of the European people” via 4chan, the anonymous online message board, is only the latest exponent of the “great replacement” to turn to violence.
His role models have left a trail of destruction stretching from Norway, where Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people, including 69 at a summer camp, on a single day in 2011, to Christchurch, New Zealand, where Brenton Tarrant killed 51 at a pair of mosques in 2019. Both men promoted their ideology in hate-filled writings arguing that violence was necessary to preserve Western civilization.
Gendron, accused of opening fire at a supermarket in a mostly Black area of Buffalo, killing 10 and injuring three more, wielded an assault weapon that appeared to display a racial slur and the names of earlier mass shooters.
The gunman broadcast his attack on the live-streaming service Twitch, using a GoPro camera mounted on his helmet. He assembled a to-do list on the messaging platform Discord and weighed in on discussions of guns on the aggregation and discussion platform Reddit with a username referring to a meme that parrots Black vernacular.