As reports continue to pour in of the Buffalo shooter’s embrace of white nationalist rhetoric in a lengthy manifesto detailing his plans and rationale for carrying out Saturday’s horrific attack, many point to figures on the right who make similar viewpoints that help such racism become widespread. .
Saturday’s shooting left 10 people dead and others injured in a majority black neighborhood after an 18-year-old suspect allegedly opened fire intending to kill as many black people as possible. It was just the latest in a long series of attacks inspired by far-right rhetoric on issues of race and immigration.
In a manifesto verified by multiple media outlets as belonging to the shooting suspect, the 18-year-old clearly links his goals to reversing a trend white supremacist conspiracy theorists have coined the “white replacement theory.” In short, the conspiracy spreads the false belief that Democrats are trying to supplant white Americans with Hispanic immigrants and other people of color in an attempt to radically change the voting population of the United States.
Pundits have long pointed out that the theory inspired numerous far-right attacks, including the Christchurch mosque massacre in New Zealand in 2019, in which 51 people were killed, as well as the shooting at a shopping mall in El Paso. Texas, later that same day. year in which 23 people lost their lives.
Now, the theory is firmly back in the center of the discourse, as the alleged Buffalo shooter is said to have expressed how he became radicalized both on far-right message boards like 4chan and other white supremacist websites, as well as on the manifesto released online by Brenton. Harrison Tarrant, the man convicted of the New Zealand shootings.
While the Buffalo suspect appears to have explained that he was radicalized online, the real-life words of leading conservative figures are being re-examined in the wake of the shooting.
At the top of that list of purveyors of similar theories is Tucker Carlson, the Fox News primetime host who, according to The New York Times has tackled the demographic “replacement” issue, in his own words, in hundreds of episodes totaling more than 50 hours of content.
“I know that the left and all the little gatekeepers on Twitter get literally hysterical if you use the term ‘replacement,’ if you suggest that the Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate, the voters who vote now, with new people, older voters. obedient third world But they get hysterical because that’s what’s really happening. Let’s just say it: that’s true,” she said in an explicit example from an episode of his show in September.
Many left-leaning commentators, as well as journalists covering the far right, called on Fox to address Carlson’s comments.
The network has repeatedly defended its primetime star, and a network spokesman on Sunday pointed to the host’s previous conviction of “political violence” on his show.
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But hate and misinformation experts agree that the rhetoric Carlson and other Republican-aligned figures have adopted is playing into those racist beliefs that are creeping into the mainstream.
Others in the conservative political sphere who have faced similar criticism recently include Elise Stefanik, chair of the House Republican Caucus, as well as Arizona Senate candidate Blake Masters, who shared a clip of himself denouncing alleged plots by the Democrats to bring “tens of millions of people.” ” of undocumented immigrants in order to give them the right to vote just hours after the shooting in Buffalo.
Others on the far right have flirted with the figures and rhetoric of white nationalism for longer. Earlier this year, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene was heavily criticized for attending a conference hosted by a white nationalist, Nick Fuentes, who is one of the main promoters of the replacement theory belief, and other members of Congress such as Paul Gosar have attended his and similar events in the past as well.
An expert on black identity and anti-racism, Dr. Matthew Oware of the University of Richmond, said the independent that the rhetoric that Mr. Carlson and others spread is based on “instilling fear” and exploiting pain in society for their own benefit or to explain away the ills of society.
“Until we find ways to address the pain felt by people in our society (and other societies), we will continue to see acts of racial, religious, homophobic and misogynistic violence around the world. I think we need to ask hurt people why they feel hurt and why they take their anger out on specific types of populations,” Dr. Oware said in an interview.
About Carlson, Dr. Oware noted that the Fox News host was capitalizing on a much older anger that also existed during the Obama presidency.
“The racism that he says existed before him and has been in American society for quite some time. When Barack Obama was president, Dylann Roof (another white youth) killed several black people in a church in South Carolina,” he explained. “Racist anger existed before Carlson. Tucker is just capitalizing on it.”
Many disagree on how to deal with the rhetoric increasingly spread by the extreme right. Some, notably the liberal group Media Matters, have pushed for Carlson to be taken off the air or for Fox News to lose advertising money from companies that don’t want to be associated with such messages.
Dr. Oware responded that removing the platform was not the answer: “I strongly believe that Tucker Carlson should NOT be kicked off his show or that his rhetoric should be censored in any way. He is racist, xenophobic and abhorrent, for sure. But he must be challenged in every way possible, not silenced. Silly ideas should be undermined with factual evidence, not simply dismissed or shouted at.”
“Tucker’s ideas should be addressed whenever possible, so he (and others) know his rhetoric will always prove false,” he continued.
Others, like the Anti-Defamation League, gave exactly the opposite answer and are calling on Democrats to pass legislation aimed at combating white supremacist beliefs on the airwaves and online.
“This was yet another predictable attack by an outspoken white supremacist who absorbed hateful conspiracy theories online and then turned to violent action, this time targeting primarily black victims. We cannot be complacent in the face of this continuing grave threat to national security. More must be done, now, to push back the racist and anti-Semitic violence proposed by the far right,” ADL President Jonathan Greenblatt said Sunday.
He added: “We need our elected leaders at all levels to have the political will to pass meaningful legislation that will hold anyone involved in spreading white supremacist conspiracy theories accountable and stop potentially violent terrorists before they are killed. commit a crime.”
Carlson remains the most-watched cable host in America, even among younger demographics. Fox, by and large, also remains on top of rival networks CNN and MSNBC in the ratings wars, even as its competitors have grown increasingly vocal about the right-leaning bias of the network’s opinion hosts.
On Sunday, CNN media correspondent Brian Stelter did not directly address the network he frequently criticizes, but on Twitter he noted, via retweets, that the right-leaning cable channel had refused to mention the manifesto. of the shooter on his MediaBuzz show, as well as Carlson’s post on Twitter. from May 1 laughing at the Times investigation into his use of rhetoric that could be seen as explicit embraces of “white replacement theory”.
The network previously suspended another anchor, Jeanine Pirro, in 2019 for comments questioning the patriotism of a black Muslim congresswoman, Ilhan Omar.