He said he was “fighting for a dying race” and “fighting extinction” after his deadly rampage against Black people. He was caught before he could execute the next part of his plan: burst into a nearby synagogue and gun down “as many Jews as possible.”
A troubled student who spent hours surfing the internet, he was inspired by websites that “spoke the truth about the demise of the white race.” He plotted for months to kill Blacks, Jews and Hispanics, and he apologized to some of those he shot at because “They were whites.”
This sounds like Payton Gendron, who killed 10 Black people at a supermarket in Buffalo on May 14. Gendron threatened to shoot up his high school last year. He said “sorry” to a white person in the store after pointing, but not shooting, his assault rifle at them. Gendron said his murderous rage against Blacks, Jews, and immigrants was meant to prevent “white genocide.”
Except it is not Gendron. In 2009 another avowed white supremacist named Keith Luke went on an anti-Black killing spree.
The day after Barack Obama was inaugurated, Luke murdered two African immigrants and raped and shot a third immigrant in Brockton, Mass. He planned to “kill as many non-whites as possible” before attacking a synagogue. But he was thwarted after a shootout with police, to whom he later apologized because of their race.
Few connected Luke to the right at the time, even though the GOP led by Sarah Palin had spent months smearing Obama as a secret Muslim plotting against the United States, as a Black radical who threatens whites, as someone who “pal[s] around with terrorists.”
Palin was Trump before Trump. She was the bridge into the poisonous swamp of online conspiracism, Islamophobia, and nativism inhabited by demagogues like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Michael Savage for years.
In post-9/11 America, anti-immigrant sentiment was at a fever pitch. In 2007 alone, Beck, Lou Dobbs, and Bill O’Reilly bloviated about illegal immigrants on more than 400 shows. The result was a sharp rise in violence against immigrants, with Hispanics the victims of 64 percent of racist attacks in 2008. That year white high-school athletes murdered Latino immigrants in New York and Pennsylvania. Their killers yelled such things as, “Tell your Mexican friends to get the f*ck out of Shenandoah,” the Pennsylvania town where Luis Ramirez was beaten to death.
The common thread, from the murders of the Latinos to GOP attacks on Obama to Keith Luke, was “great replacement.” That is the white nationalist conspiracy that elites and globalists, code for Jews, are scheming to replace whites with inferior people: immigrants, Muslims, and Black people. Now, the term itself has been around only since 2011 when Frenchman Renaud Camus penned The Great Replacement. But the idea that white Americans are under threat from dark hordes has been the hobgoblin of prominent racists from Pat Buchanan today, who bellows about an “invasion of the West,” to Theodore Bilbo a century ago, a vicious Jim Crow senator from Mississippi who wanted to send Black Americans back to Africa.
The right was gripped by a great replacement mindset after Obama took office. The Tea Party movement was a just-add-Fox News white backlash against the first Black president. Its followers idolized Palin and echoed her “Take our country back” cry that is all but great replacement. There was an explosion of hate groups, an 800 percent increase during the first three years of Obama’s presidency.
Into this lynch mobocracy rode Donald Trump on a horse called birtherism. He shot off racist broadsides that Obama was an illegitimate president and a secret Muslim who doesn’t love America. Trump slimed Muslim Americans as deadly traitors, refugees as poisonous snakes, Mexicans as agents of drugs, crime and rape. And Trump openly encouraged violence by his supporters.
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Trump’s genius is fine-tuning demagoguery. He never says great replacement or “white genocide,” but his simple sinister tones make him indistinguishable from white nationalists and neo-Nazis obsessed with these conspiracies.
In light of Trump, Keith Luke takes on added clarity. It was a preview of what was to come. Luke’s rampage commenced an upsurge of terrorism during the Obama years: against Blacks, Muslims, Jews, immigrants, women, the government and abortion doctors.
Trump took far-right terrorism and unified it under the umbrella of great replacement. He has an ally in the Hindenburg of Hate, Tucker Carlson. An incendiary gasbag, Carlson has spewed great replacement ideas on more than 400 shows on Fox News and says it openly. The Republican Party is now the party of great replacement. Every issue is about great replacement and the extinction of regular white Christian Americans: abortion, critical race theory, transgender children, even the conspiracy that there is a baby formula shortage because undocumented babies are drinking it all up.
In Trump and Tucker’s America far-right extremists still target a wide range of groups. More and more they use great replacement and white genocide to justify it, sometimes issuing an explicit manifesto.
That’s what Dylann Roof did. He wrote a manifesto to justify murdering nine Black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 17, 2015 — the day after Trump kicked off his campaign. Roof’s mind is a venomous pit of racism, but he is rational. He sounded like Sarah Palin and the Tea Party, saying, “It is far from being too late for America … we could take it back completely.” When Roof’s manifesto is read side-by-side with Trump’s first speech, they form “a duet in racial grievance,” writes Jamelle Bouie.
Once Trump took office in January 2017, the floodgates of far-right terrorism opened. Trump supporters and followers of far-right extremist groups he inspired committed 25 murders that year. Many used Trumpian language, attacked members of groups he demonized and employed great replacement ideas. Then came the first explicit outburst that August in Charlottesville by torch-bearing white nationalists chanting, “Jews will not replace us.” The next day a neo-Nazi from their ranks killed anti-racist Heather Heyer in a car attack.
Deadlier great replacement massacres followed. The killers sounded like Trump, some praised him: Tree of Life synagogue, mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, Gilroy Garlic Festival, Poway Synagogue, the Walmart in El Paso, Buffalo supermarket and more.
There will be more. Republicans are a minoritarian party. Their positions are unpopular, some extremely so like banning abortion and covid denialism, they can’t win without voter suppression, and their base is a dwindling cult of violent white conservatives. All the party of Trump and Tucker has left to stay in power is dirty tricks and grooming teenagers to be racist mass murderers.