Payton S. Gendron, who is white, repeatedly returned to the conspiracy in his 180-page online manifesto that white Americans are at risk of being replaced by people of color by immigration, interracial marriage and eventually violence, The New York Times reported Saturday. Almost all of the victims in the mass shooting were Black.
Gendron, 18, referred to “racial replacement” and “white genocide” in his writings, according to the Times. The first page included a symbol known as the sonnenrad, or black sun, which was once used by German Nazis but has been adopted by white supremacist neo-Nazis, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
In an interview on CNN Saturday night, Rep. Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.), who represents Buffalo, called the mass shooting part of a planned, “organized” effort to attack the minority community within an “element in our society that is blatantly racist, and they’re violent.”
The horrific crime “points to an effort to exact domestic terrorism that is racially motivated,” he added. “That threat to our community in Buffalo and western New York is a threat to the nation.”
This is a “problem that’s pervasive and growing,” he warned.
“This was pure evil,” Erie County Sheriff John Garcia said of Gendron, who traveled some 200 miles from his home in Conklin, New York, to carry out the attack. “A straight-up racially motivated hate crime.”
The “great replacement” rhetoric was once considered an extreme-right belief, but has edged toward the mainstream with winks from politicians and outright support on right-wing programs, including Carlson’s.
Just a week ago, Carlson was dubbed in an MSNBC column the “No. 1 champion” of the racist ideology ― someone who repeatedly warns of invasions of “illegals” and has insisted that President Joe Biden wants to “change the racial mix” of the nation.
In September, Media Matters reported that Carlson launched a “dedicated campaign to insert the ‘great replacement’ conspiracy theory … into mainstream Republican discourse.”
The conspiracy motivated white nationalists who marched in 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia (who were described as “very fine people” by then-President Donald Trump). “Jews will not replace us,” marchers chanted.
The conspiracy has been cited as motivation in several racist mass shootings, including the killing of 20 people in an El Paso store in 2019 and the killing of 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018.
“It is the most mass-violence-inspiring idea in white supremacist circles right now,” Heidi Beirich, co-founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, told the Times.
About 60% of extremist murders in the U.S. between 2009 and 2019 were committed by people espousing white supremacist ideologies like the replacement theory, according to the ADL.
“A racially motivated hate crime is abhorrent to the very fabric of this nation,” Biden said in a statement Saturday after the shooting.
“Any act of domestic terrorism, including an act perpetrated in the name of a repugnant white nationalist ideology, is antithetical to everything we stand for in America,” he added. “Hate must have no safe harbor. We must do everything in our power to end hate-fueled domestic terrorism.”