Sometime in May 2020, Payton Gendron, a 16-year-old in upstate New York, was browsing the website 4chan when he came across a GIF.
It was taken from a livestream recording made the previous year by a gunman as he killed 51 people and wounded more than 40 others at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. The killer had written a manifesto explaining that he was motivated by the fear of great replacement theory, the racist belief that secretive forces are importing nonwhite people to dilute countries’ white majorities.
Seeing the video and the manifesto “started my real research into the problems with immigration and foreigners in our white lands — without his livestream I would likely have no idea about the real problems the West is facing,” Mr. Gendron wrote in his own manifesto, posted on the internet shortly before, officials say, he drove to a Tops grocery store in Buffalo and carried out a massacre of his own that left 10 Black people dead.
The authorities say Mr. Gendron’s attack in May mimicked the massacre in Christchurch not just in its motivation but also in tactics. He reduced his caloric intake and cataloged his diet to prepare physically, as the Christchurch killer did. He practiced shooting. He wrote slogans on his rifle, as the Christchurch gunman did. He livestreamed his attack with a GoPro camera attached to his helmet, with the idea of inspiring other attacks by fellow extremists. Mr. Gendron’s screed ran to 180 pages, with 23 percent of those pages copied word-for-word from the Christchurch killer’s manifesto, according to an investigative report on the attacks released last month by New York’s attorney general, Letitia James.
That’s why it is alarming to see the great replacement idea espoused by political leaders around the globe, including Jordan Bardella, who this month was confirmed as the successor to Marine Le Pen as head of France’s leading far-right party. It has been cited approvingly by Viktor Orban, the prime minister of Hungary and darling of some American conservatives. Tucker Carlson of Fox News talks about it often. An alarming poll by The Associated Press-NORC this year found that about one in three American adults believes that “a group of people is trying to replace native-born Americans with immigrants for electoral gains.” Last year a poll found that 61 percent of French people believe that, too.
That the great replacement theory has gone mainstream is a victory for white supremacists and their cause. “White power activists in the 1990s thought that political action on their cause was not possible — that the door to that was closed. That’s not true anymore,” said Kathleen Belew, a professor at Northwestern and author of “Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America.”