Before he was indicted on charges of killing 22 people and injuring 26 others in an El Paso, Texas, Walmart in 2019, the identified gunman had been linked to a document posted online that referred to a “Hispanic invasion of Texas.” The motivation behind that horrific incident — that there is an intentional, global plan orchestrated by national and global elites to replace white, Christian, European populations with nonwhite, non-Christian ones — gets at the core of a recent three-part New York Times series on the rise and ideology of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson.
Carlson has repeatedly used the language of replacement to suggest or directly argue that Democrats are orchestrating “demographic replacement.”
In part one of the series, journalist Nicholas Confessore describes Carlson’s efforts to stoke “white fear” of immigrants and changing U.S. demographics as “recasting American racism to present white Americans as an oppressed caste.” In so doing, Confessore shows, Carlson has drawn repeatedly on the leading far-right conspiracy theory of demographic change, known as the “great replacement.”
Coined by a French scholar more than a decade ago, the term was quickly taken up globally by white supremacists, for whom the theory now provides a single, overarching framework for ideas that had already been percolating for years. Last September, Media Matters reported that Carlson spent a year embarking on a “dedicated campaign to insert the ‘great replacement’ conspiracy theory … into mainstream Republican discourse.” Carlson has repeatedly used the language of replacement to suggest or directly argue that Democrats are orchestrating “demographic replacement” to gain political power. The day before the September Media Matters report, Carlson told his viewers that President Joe Biden aimed to “replace ‘legacy Americans’” and “change the racial mix of the country” for political gain.
Decades ago, the American neo-Nazi David Lane had already popularized the idea of “white genocide,” arguing that white populations were dying out demographically because of immigration, abortion and violence against whites. This was in turn linked to antisemitic conspiracy theories, suggesting that an organized international group of Jewish elites was deliberately funding or otherwise supporting migration in an intentional effort to create multicultural societies. Lane’s phrase “14 Words” — “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children” — became a call to defend whites against what Lane called genocide.
While Lane was busy peddling antisemitic conspiracy theories about white genocide in the United States, a parallel white supremacist theory of demographic replacement emerged in Europe. Coined by the British author Bat Ye’or and published in 2005 in a book of the same name, the concept of “Eurabia” suggests that Muslims were deliberately working to replace white Europeans through immigration and high birth rates in order to broaden the territory of the caliphate. Ye’or argued that this would create a territorial space in which white Europeans are subject to Shariah and Islamic rule, forced to convert to Islam or surrender into subservient roles. The end result is a Europe that has been converted from a white, Christian civilization to an Islamic one.
Over the past decade, the “great replacement” concept has unified those American and European conspiracy theories into one overarching, dystopian conspiracy theory warning white Americans and Europeans of a frightening future of decline, degradation and chaos. It has helped to inspire a sense of shared mission among the global far right, who see themselves as facing a common demographic threat and a call to action to preserve and defend whiteness against an invasion of immigrants, Muslims or Jews who will eradicate or replace white nationals, Christians, Americans or Europeans.
When Carlson defended the notion of demographic replacement on air last year, the Anti-Defamation League called for him to be fired.
This is the concept that Carlson is taking up when he warns of a “great replacement” — as he did last April in arguing that Democrats were intentionally “importing more obedient voters from the third world" to "replace the current electorate” and secure their own power. But as Confessore details, Carlson also goes beyond conspiracy theories to foment anti-immigration fervor more broadly, using exclusionary, incendiary and dehumanizing rhetoric and language like a “flood of illegals” alongside descriptions of mass immigration as making America “poor and dirtier.”
Carlson isn’t the only Fox News figure pushing the great replacement theory. Laura Ingraham has warned viewers that “the Democrats want to replace many of you,” suggesting there is an “invasion of the country” and referring to Texas as a state that is “completely overrun” by an illegal invasion. And to be clear, the white supremacist underpinnings of the “great replacement” are nothing new. But as the country moves closer to the actual demographic changes that are manipulated in replacement and genocide conspiracy theories, invoking the idea of a “great replacement” as an existential threat on mainstream network news reinforces and legitimizes white supremacists’ fears and sense of urgency in a way that feels unique to this time.
When Carlson defended the notion of demographic replacement on the air last year, the Anti-Defamation League called for him to be fired, saying Carlson’s language was “not just a dog whistle to racists — it was a bullhorn.” Indeed, conspiracy theories about a “great replacement” have inspired multiple acts of mass terrorist violence, including the 2019 El Paso shooting, the killing of 77 people, many of them children, in Norway in 2011 and 51 Muslim worshippers in New Zealand in 2019, along with many others.
The terrorist who allegedly killed 13 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018 was motivated by white-genocide theories suggesting Jews were orchestrating the resettlement of refugees in order to create a multicultural society that would eventually eradicate whites.
These conspiracy theories — white genocide, Eurabia, the “great replacement” — that have been core to white-supremacist beliefs for decades have no place on mainstream networks that beam into millions of Americans’ living rooms each evening. And yet, here we are, with former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke praising Carlson, host of the most-watched show on cable news, for “finally” promoting the “great replacement,” and a white supremacist website describing him as “literally our greatest ally.”