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The Great Replacement

Tiki torch–wielding white supremacists marched through Charlottesville, Virginia, on 11 August 2017, chanting, “You will not replace us,” and, “Jews will not replace us.” For Americans, these were puzzling slogans. But for Europeans, this formulation of the idea that white Christian identity is being threatened by ethnic diversity and multiculturalism had become a common refrain on the far right. Contentious Fox News host Tucker Carlson often refers to it live on air. It is normal for an ethnic group to fear the loss of dominance in a changing society.

United Nations projections indicate that over the next 50 years, the populations of virtually all countries of Europe as well as Japan will face population decline and population ageing. The new challenges of declining and ageing populations will require comprehensive reassessments of many established policies and programs, including those relating to international migration. Replacement migration refers to the international migration that a country would need to offset population decline and population ageing resulting from low fertility and mortality rates. The United Nations estimate of the average net total number of migrants in Europe around 1997 was 950,000 per year. This level would be about half the long-term average net number of migrants required to prevent the total population from declining; one third of the number required to prevent the workingage population from declining; and about 4 per cent of the number required to maintain the potential support ratio at its 1995 level.

The official net immigration recorded in France was an average of 76,000 per year for 1990-1994 and an average of 39,000 per year for 1995-1998. Thus, the number of migrants needed to prevent a decline in the total size of the population would be comparable to the past experience of immigration to France. Furthermore, the number of migrants that would be needed to keep constant the size of the population of labour-force age is about double the level experienced in the early 1990s. However, the number of immigrants needed to keep the potential support ratio at its 1995 level would be vastly larger than any previously experienced migration flow, 20 to 40 times the annual numbers of the last 10 years. Furthermore, more than two thirds of the resulting population in 2050 would be composed of post-1995 immigrants and their descendants.

The Camp of the Saints (Le Camp des Saints) is a 1973 French novel by author and explorer Jean Raspail. The novel depicts a setting wherein Third World mass immigration to France and the West leads to the destruction of Western civilization. The basic plot is that a fleet of 100 ships with upwards of 800,000 migrants sails from India and lands in southern France, which basically collapses and allows the migrants to take over. The teeming billions of the so-called Third World - driven by unbearable hunger and despair, the inevitable consequences of insensate over-population - descend locust-like on the lush lands of the complacent white nations. A new (2017) introduction by Leonard Payne provides a cultural analysis. People who read the novel, anxiously searching to apply labels of racism, imperialism, supremacism, fascism etc, will be quickly satisfied. Steve Bannon, advisor to Donald Trump, is a fan of this book.

The infamous Norwegian anti-Muslim terrorist Anders Breivik brutally murdered seventy-seven people in 2011 in Norway's worst terrorist attack ever. His 1,500-page fascist manifesto promoted the "Great Replacement" worldview that Muslim immigrants posed a danger to Western societies. In October 2018, the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh was devastated when a white supremacist brutally executed eleven innocent Jewish congregants in a horrific act of anti-Semitic terrorism (it was the single deadliest attack exclusively targeting Jews ever to happen in the United States). The shooter later told police that he was inspired to commit these murders because Donald Trump was not doing enough to stop immigration. "Open your Eyes!" the shooter posted on social media in a disjointed anti-Semitic and Islamophobia manifesto. "It's the filthy EVIL Jews Bringing the Filthy EVIL Muslims into the Country!!"

In March 2019, a heavily-armed white supremacist walked into two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand and slaughtered fifty-one innocent Muslim worshippers while broadcasting on Facebook Live for the world to see. After the Christchurch mosque massacre, authorities found the white supremacist's seventy-four-page racist manifesto called "The Great Replacement," which railed against Muslims and the idea that brown Muslim folks were ultimately going to "replace" white people.

Rep. Steve King [R-IA] in 2016 said "Cultural suicide by demographic transformation must end." On 14 March 2017, King on Breitbart radioclaimed: "`We're watching as Western civilization is shrinking in the face of the massive, epic migration that is pouring into Europe.... They're importing a different culture, a different civilization--and that culture and civilization, the imported one, rejects the host culture. And so they are supplanting Western civilization with Middle Eastern civilization and I say, and Geert Wilders says, Western civilization is a superior civilization -- it is the first world."

From telling CNN's Anderson Cooper that "I think Islam hates us" to calling for a "complete and total shutdown" of Muslims entering the United States, the Trump presidency only made the xenophobic specter of Islamophobia grow. By 2021 it was resurfacing in its country of origin, where far-right pundit Eric Zemmour is propagating the theory on TV and social media.

But what is the great replacement conspiracy theory and how did it originate? It was in his 2011 book “Le Grand Remplacement” that Renaud Camus — no relation to Albert — first coined the term “the great replacement”, which became a rallying cry for the far right worldwide. Rooted in racist nationalist views, the great replacement theory purports that an elitist group [implicitly Jews] is colluding against white French and European people to eventually replace them with non-Europeans from Africa and the Middle East, the majority of whom are Muslim. Renaud Camus often refers to this as “genocide by substitution”.

Native “white” Europeans, he argues, are being reverse-colonized by black and brown immigrants flooding the Continent. “The great replacement is very simple. You have one people, and in the space of a generation you have a different people.” He writes in the book "Individuals, yes, can join a people, integrate with it, assimilate to it... But peoples, civilizations, religions — and especially when these religions are themselves civilizations, types of society, almost States — cannot and cannot even want to . . . blend into other peoples, other civilizations.”

Though he refuses to admit his words incite hatred or violence, this is precisely why Twitter suspended his account at the end of October 2021. Less than a week later, on November 4, Camus was tried for a second time in the southwest of France for inciting racial hatred after posting offensive comments on Twitter in 2019. He appealed a January 2020 verdict against him, and the court's decision would be announced on January 20, 2022. For the time being, his two-month prison sentence had been suspended.

Notions of the theory date as far back as 1900, when the father of French ultra-nationalism Maurice Barrès (1862-1923) spoke about a new population that would take over, triumph and “ruin our homeland”. Maurice Barrès was a nationalist and an anti-Semite, and therefore naturally an anti-Dreyfusard as well. In an article for daily newspaper Le Journal, he wrote: “The name of France might well survive; the special character of our country would, however, be destroyed, and the people settled in our name and on our territory would be heading towards destinies contradictory to the destinies and needs of our land and our dead." At the time Barrès was writing, anti-Semitism was extremely mainstream. Barres’s novels, where they exhibit xenophobia, racial animosity, and an exaggerated nationalism, belong to that component of French culture and politics that was sympathetic to the rise of fascism in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s. Barrès spoke about the idea of racial purity, which is why the theory of population replacement became so popular among the Nazis, for example.

This view was conveyed most bluntly in a 1959 letter from Charles de Gaulle to his confidant Alain Peyrefitte, which advocated withdrawal from French Algeria: "It is very good that there are yellow Frenchmen, black Frenchmen, brown Frenchmen. They prove that France is open to all races and that she has a universal mission. But [it is good] on condition that they remain a small minority. Otherwise, France would no longer be France. We are, after all, primarily a European people of the white race, Greek and Latin culture, and the Christian religion." De Gaulle declared that Muslims, “with their turbans and djellabahs,” are “not French.” He asked, “Do you believe that the French nation can absorb 10 million Muslims, who tomorrow will be 20 million and the day after 40 million?” If this were to happen, he concluded, “my village would no longer be called Colombey-les-Deux-Églises, but Colombey-les-Deux-Mosquées!”

The 500 or so people who arrived from the Carribean on the HMT Empire Windrush ship on 23 June 1948 were part of the first recruitment for Britain’s under-staffed public services. The day they landed, a group of Labour MPs warned prime minister Clement Attlee that “an influx of coloured people domiciled here is likely to impair the harmony, strength and cohesion of our people.” In 1955, Winston Churchill declared his intention to “Keep England White”. In 1964, Conservatives campaigned in an election in Smethwick with the slogan “if you want a nigger for a neighbour, vote Labour”.

Enoch Powell’s 1968 Rivers of Blood speech alleged that immigration had caused a “total transformation to which there is no parallel in a thousand years of English history.” On 20 April 1968, Powell, a leading member of parliament from the Conservative Party said that if immigration to Britain from the country’s former colonies continued, a violent clash between white and black communities was inevitable. “As I look ahead,” Powell said, “I am filled with foreboding; like the Roman, I seem to see ‘the River Tiber foaming with much blood,’” an allusion to a line in Virgil’s Aeneid. He said it would not be enough to close Britain’s borders — some of the immigrants already settled in the country would need to be sent “home.” If not, he declared, attributing a quote to one of his constituents, “in this country, in 15 or 20 years’ time, the black man will have the whip hand over the white man.” Leave.EU, one of two main Brexit campaigning organizations, declared Powell’s “Rivers of Blood” speech "the most important speech in postwar history.”

After World War II, the French far right needed a new discourse to move back into the mainstream. Shifting away from biological racism towards cultural racism, the notions of the replacement theory gained ground in the 1970s and 1980s. The Nouvelle Droite (New Right) and some French intellectuals were trying to find ways to move away from the margins. Over the years, these ideas spread among the far right, which was becoming more and more mainstream in France, eventually paving the way for Camus to publish his book on the topic without being disregarded as too radical. Renaud Camus didn’t invent anything. He put concepts together and coined the phrase, but his theory is part of a much broader context that contributed to the reshaping of the far right in France.

The replacement theory has made its way all around the world, becoming very popular among identitarian movements in Europe and the alt-right in the US. For Mondon, this was made possible by the way the far right adapted their stance on racism. Rather than speaking of racial or ethnic hierarchies, the discourse focused more on cultures and cultural power.

In an intervieiw on French right-wing TV channel CNews, Camus claimed his theory wasn’t about race but about defending civilization. Racism is still a taboo. No one wants to admit that they’re racist and nobody wants to be called a racist. The people who watch that interview and who may fall for this moral panic, this idea that they’re going to be replaced ethnographically don’t want to be called racist and will say they’re defending civilization. In the end, this works in their favor, because “it makes people feel good about themselves while allowing them to be prejudiced and racist, all while protecting their own privilege,” according to Mondon.

Camus has also sided with Eric Zemmour, a far-right pundit who was expected to announce his candidacy for the upcoming French presidential elections. In fact, Zemmour had long been inspired by Camus and has propagated the replacement theory in his own books, “Le Suicide Français” (The French Suicide) and “Destin Français” (French Destiny). But while Zemmour has made openly homophobic claims, Renaud Camus had a brief history as a gay icon in the 1970s and 1980s. He wrote for the French LGBT+ weekly magazine Gai Pied as a columnist and published an autobiographical novel in 1979 called “Tricks”, which gave detailed accounts of one-night stands with men in nightclub bathrooms and grimy apartments across the US and Europe.

This unholy alliance is also key to understanding how theories like the great replacement spread so easily. “People in the far right are happy with contradictions,” Mondon says. “People who are deeply anti-Semitic can ally with people who are Jewish because they share the same Islamophobia and that trumps it all.” For the far right, being contrarian is a strength, not a weakness. “It shows that they are willing to go beyond these contradictions to win on the racialist agenda,” Mondon explains. “This is the end game for them.” So despite the fact that the great replacement theory is conspiratorial, seeing as only 9.6 percent of the French population was made up of immigrants in 2018, it is a tool to get into a position of power. And for someone like Zemmour, that is the end game.

The United States was initially from Europe, but it is not Europe. America is full of immigrants, much of what makes America American. The Native Americans stoutly resisted the English, who in turn resisted in influx of alien races such as the Irish, Italians, Poles and Jews. Each group in turn was soon raised to the status of "honorary white" to provide reinforcements against the next influx of "the other".

The official United States estimate of (documented) migrants into the United States from 1990 to 1996 is about 1.1 million per year. Thus, the past regular inflow into the United States is well above the number of migrants needed to prevent a decline in the total population or in the working-age population. In the absence of migration, it would be necessary to raise the upper limit of the working-age to 66.9 years to obtain a potential support ratio of 3.0 in 2050, and to about 74 years in order to obtain in 2050 the same potential support ratio observed in 1995 in the United States, which was 5.2 persons of working age per each older person past working age.

Francis Wilkinson wrote: "The U.S. is in the midst of a demographic transition unlike any in history. No nation with a white European ethnic majority has evolved to become a nonwhite-majority nation, a shift the U.S. is on track to achieve by mid-century. Certainly no nation has done so after half a millennium in which white Europeans and their American kin colonized much of the (nonwhite) world, and dominated global economics and warfare."

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Page last modified: 06-12-2021 10:05:12 ZULU