Exclusive: How Trump's 'Big Lie' and 'Great Replacement' conspiracy theories are merging

The Tops supermarket massacre in Buffalo on May 14 brought the resumption of an awful sequence of terror attacks that appeared to have tapered off with the onset of the COVID pandemic, when lockdown interrupted mass gatherings of people.

The years 2018 and 2019 brought a horrific spate of such shootings, both in the United States and abroad, that were carried out by white men motivated by the false belief that white people are threatened with extinction, a baseless theory known as “Great Replacement.” The massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in October 2018 was carried out by a man who blamed Jews for resettling refugees in the United States. The man who gunned down Muslims at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand in March 2019 said in a manifesto that he wanted to show people he called “invaders” that “our lands will never be their lands.”

The perpetrator of the Congregation Chabad synagogue shooting a month later in Poway, Calif. apparently claimed to have been “inspired” by the Christchurch shooting. Then, in August 2019, a 21-year-old man drove 658 miles from the suburbs of Dallas to El Paso and opened fire in a crowded Walmart. In his manifesto, the shooter justified the deaths of 23 people, mostly Latino, as “a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas,” and lamented that “the Democrat party will own America” through “pandering heavily to the Hispanic voting bloc.”

The attack carried out last weekend by an 18-year-old white man who drove 208 miles from his home in rural New York state to a grocery store in a Black community in Buffalo was predictable, but his rationale was not original; the shooter’s manifesto included passages lifted wholesale from the Christchurch document.

The social media reaction on the far right to the Buffalo shooting reveals that election denial narratives have become increasingly intertwined with “Great Replacement” promotion since Jan. 6, 2021. Notably, Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s increasingly embraced “Great Replacement” theory, alongside Republican lawmakers Elise Stefanik and Matt Gaetz, beginning in 2021, a time when the far right and GOP were retrenching after the failed insurrection. Manufactured hysteria over “critical race theory” and transgender students also provided new lines of attack against progressive efforts to promote racial and gender equity in recent years.

Posts by Ryan Sanchez, a southern California white supremacist who was active in the “Stop the Steal” protests at Huntington Beach in late 2020, are representative of how extremists in the un-sanitized digital space on Telegram received news of the Buffalo shooting over the weekend. Like his mainstream GOP counterparts, Sanchez amplified “Great Replacement” theory while at the same time deflecting responsibility.

On Sunday, Sanchez posted a news item about a large group of migrants crossing into Texas, but then shifted into damage control in response to the Buffalo shooting by sharing an article that linked to the shooter’s manifesto while at the same time arguing that the attack was counter-productive for the movement. Other posts followed, including a forward from a Proud Boy-linked account defending a white supremacist polemicist whom they claimed was falsely accused of generating a meme used in the shooter’s manifesto, and an argument by Sanchez that President Biden was cynically exploiting the situation by traveling to Buffalo to highlight the attack.

On Monday, Sanchez switched back to posts about border crossings, using the words “invasion” and “invader.” One post explicitly promoted vigilante action, with Sanchez writing that he didn’t think “it would be hard to stop them from crossing, you’d just be facing one invader at a time,” while invoking an ancient Greek battle.

Commenters responded in the thread with explicit threats of violence, including “machine gun fire.”

Another commenter expounded on a baseless conspiracy theory based on white conservative anxieties that closely echoes arguments made in the past by both Carlson and the El Paso shooter.

“Democrats have to import new voters who rely on welfare,” the commenter wrote. “This is because they sterilize themselves & kill many of their own children in the womb. This is the only hope they have at appearing to have any kind of majority consensus. So that when they steal an election they can point to all of their new voters as proof that they didn’t cheat.”

By mid-day on Tuesday, Sanchez had removed the comments.

The link between the baseless assertion that the 2020 election was stolen and the false claim that white people are being replaced is not as tenuous as one might think, according to Samantha Kutner, a researcher who is working on a book about the Proud Boys.

“My grandfather, who passed away last year, he called me when 9/11 happened and he called me on January 6th,” Kutner told Raw Story. “He said, ‘Make no mistake, this was an effort to maintain white supremacy.’ If you think about January 6th from the context of ‘Great Replacement,’ the Proud Boys who stormed the Capitol weren’t just fighting Democrats to halt the electoral process. They genuinely believe Democrats are going to push for immigration policies that disempower white men.”

Nick Fuentes, a leader of the America First or “Groyper” movement, brought explicitly white nationalist messaging into the election denial movement in late 2020. His rhetoric expanded on the baseless claim that the Democrats were stealing the election by also appealing to anxiety among white people who feel that they are losing their country.

During a “Stop the Steal” rally in Atlanta on Nov. 20, 2020, Fuentes railed that communities were once “safe,” “orderly,” “cohesive” and “prosperous” have “been stolen from us” and that globalists are “bringing the Third World here” from Mexico, China and India.

Fuentes, who used his Telegram channel to explicitly promote “Great Replacement” following news of the Buffalo shooting, has cultivated relationships with the GOP leaders since Jan. 6. Rep. Paul Gosar, a prominent election denier from Arizona, spoke at Fuentes’ America First Political Action Conference in 2021. Earlier this year, Gosar returned to the event, along with Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McEachin and Arizona state Sen. Wendy Rogers.

After calling for the execution of political enemies, Rogers explicitly endorsed Fuentes and his followers at the conference, saying, “Nick and the other patriots in attendance at AFPAC: Keep doing what you’re doing what you are doing.”

While providing legitimacy and platform to Fuentes, Rogers and other GOP allies, alongside Carlson, are effectively mainstreaming extremism.

Hours after the massacre, Rogers posted on Gab and Telegram: “Fed boy summer has started in Buffalo.”

While deflecting blame from far-right politicians and media figures promoting “Great Replacement,” Rogers’ post implies the shooting was a false flag by a federal asset to create justification for a law enforcement crackdown on conservatives.

“It really does appear that pro-insurrection conservatives seem to be getting news from InfoWars, a hub for conspiracy theories,” Kutner said. “It’s also convenient for them, similar to the false claims after January 6th that antifascists were the real aggressors who stormed the Capitol. It’s all to deflect responsibility.”