Warning: Graphic content
The hate-filled manifestos behind the El Paso and Christchurch terror attacks have one thing in common: an extreme conspiracy theory of looming "White Extinction". And falling fertility rates, contraception — and immigration — are all part of the impossible scheme.
When Patrick Crusius walked into the El Paso Walmart and opened fire yesterday, he believed he had cause to do so. He had fallen into the embrace of a right-wing extremist conspiracy theory that has taken social media by storm: that there is a plot to eradicate whites from the planet.
Crusius is believed to be the source of a four-page manifesto attached to a website post just minutes before the attack unfolded.
SUM OF ALL FEARS
The "White Replacement" conspiracy is simplistic: that there is a secret cabal of elites slowly but surely working to destroy the caucasian race.
But it also embraces ideas that falling fertility rates among white Americans, abortion, contraception, gay-rights and feminist movements as all being part of this all-pervasive plot.
White women, the conspiracy theory argues, are not having enough children. And this is the inspiration behind another white nationalist trope, the 14 Words: "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children," it declares.
The accused Christchurch gunman was so taken by this fear that he wrote about it in his manifesto.
"In their minds, in this clash of civilisation, white men are in a weaker position because their women are not doing the work of reproducing," New York University professor Arun Kundnani told the New York Times.
"They are saying, 'Look, Muslims have got their women where they need to be, and we're not doing a good job at that.'"
So, right-wing extremist groups are using this as an excuse to roll-back women's rights.
And attack "foreign invaders".
NOT IN MY BACKYARD
The "White Replacement" conspiracy theory is born out of the United States' previously predominantly white rural landscape.
In the past 30 years, that has been changing.
Predominantly Muslim African and Middle Eastern immigrants have been swelling in rural populations.
"I think of America, the great assimilator, as a rubber band, but with this — we're at the breaking point," a leader of a conservative Minnesota think tank recently told the Times. "These aren't people coming from Norway, let's put it that way. These people are very visible."
That's producing anxiety.
A fear that such non-white immigrants will overwhelm and displace what was a predominantly white United States.
Deputy Director of Extremism at Media Matters Cristina Lopez said "fear mongers" had embraced this message: "You'll see Tucker Carlson talking about how 'this town doesn't look the same as it used to look' ... "There's a lot of fear and victimisation behind it. They convince audiences that every non-white population is a risk."
Now, social media is spreading the conspiracy theory of "White Replacement" — that the rest of the world was engaged in a subversive plot to out-populate the caucasian race.
In 2016, extremism expert at the International Centre for Counter-terrorism JM Berger wrote that he believed one novel could be traced as the cause of at least 200 murders: The Turner Diaries.
It was written in 1978 by neo-Nazi William Luther Pierce, under the nom de plume Andrew Macdonald. It told of a dystopian future where whites were oppressed in the United States, but win back their supremacy through an armed revolution and embark on a worldwide racist crusade.
Berger warned the novel espoused the "necessity of immediate, violent action and concrete suggestions about how to go about it".
When Timothy McVeigh bombed an Oklahoma City federal office block in 1995, he cited The Turner Diaries as inspiration.
Another source of legitimacy and inspiration is a 2012 book by French fringe philosopher Renaud Camus. He says western culture faces extinction through falling birthrates.
"The 'Great Replacement' theory doesn't refer to threats to jobs, but rather the skin colour of the population," writes Jacob Davy, research manager at anti-hate campaign group ISD.
"National identity should not be tied to ethnicity, and we need politicians and frontline practitioners to champion this."
Social media mentions of "The Great Replacement", according to Time magazine, have risen from 120,000 in 2014 to 330,000 in 2018.
"We are being replaced," Belgian politician Dries van Langenhove posted during this year's election campaign in support of his far-right Vlaams Belang party. It planted the seed of an idea which rapidly evolved into anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim hate speech.
Another example was the #whitegenocide hashtag. It was used to promote the claim that the South African government was killing white farmers and seizing their land.
It eventually won the attention of US President Donald Trump.
"I have asked Secretary of State @SecPompeo to closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killing of farmers," he tweeted.
Subsequent investigations found the claim to be baseless. In fact, homicide rates against white farmers were at a 19-year low.
What has changed are demographics and the tone of political debate.
"Politicians have used fiery rhetoric to discuss migration in a way which closely mirrors the language employed by extremists," Davy says.
"President Donald Trump was among the 10 most influential figures referenced in English-language Twitter conversations surrounding the 'great replacement' theory."
He blames this on a lack of willingness by politicians of all colours and directions to openly discuss and acknowledge common concerns around the societal change.
"Migration has left a vacuum, which extremists fill to their advantage," Davy writes. "They have tapped into anxieties that remained unaddressed by the moderate middle, and therefore monopolise the debate as a result."