This is the great replacement conspiracy animating the GOP. It’s an apocalyptic vision of sinister elites plotting to replace whites with subservient and subhuman people.
Trump, Tucker, and other Republican firebrands have galvanized a white-rage minority against an existential threat that is everywhere so anything is permissible from banning Mexicans, refugees, and trans people, to voter suppression, election theft, and deadly coups.
As a result, Trump’s followers think most Americans are the devil incarnate. But most Americans aren’t simply going to disappear.
So far-right extremists are taking cues from Trump, who acts like a strongman and endorses violence with sadistic glee. They have carried out massacres against people he demonizes: Blacks, Jews, Asians, Muslims, and immigrants.
These killers want to eliminate entire groups of people. Some publish manifestos to justify mass murder, lifting ideas and language from Trump and Tucker. The replacement killers are part of a spectrum of far-right terror under Trump: election violence, incels and “manosphere” ideologues killing women, school shootings by Trump fans, accelerationists seeking to destabilize society, and white nationalist violence.
Terrorism is inherent to Trumpism because he is an avatar of white backlash. Every time Blacks have made gains, there has been a violent white reaction: Reconstruction, the great migration, the Civil Rights movement, Obama’s election, Black Lives Matter. Trump rose to political prominence by spreading the racist birther conspiracy that Obama was not born in the United States. Then he doubled down on GOP smears that Obama is a Muslim Manchurian agent, personally responsible for terror attacks like the Pulse nightclub massacre in 2015.
This thinking, combined with Trump-bashing Obama and Democrats for letting in criminal hordes who kill regular Americans, is great replacement in all but name. He plants the idea in the minds of his followers there is a plot to replace whites with inferior people. Tucker then feeds the conspiracy, having mentioned great replacement in 400 shows. Trump’s red-cap MAGA movement weaves together various strands of vicious reactionary politics — racism, Islamophobia, nativism, transphobia, misogyny. The explosion of far-right violence is cut from the same cloth. The killers attack different groups that Trump demonizes, but more and more they justify massacres by pointing to great replacement.
Great replacement is the framework, but not the sole motive. Payton Gendron, who murdered 10 Black people at a supermarket in Buffalo on May 14, mentioned replace or replacement 76 times in his 180-page manifesto. But he also advocated for accelerationism, calling on followers to “incite conflict,” and used manosphere language, “Men of the West must be men once more.”
Gendron’s manifesto is another effect of Trumpism. Racist killers have adopted the viral tactics of Trump’s dark meme army, which catapulted him into the White House in 2016, and applied them to massacres. Each manifesto and livestream is designed to spawn more mass murderers who terrorize and polarize society.
This list of replacement killers covers the most notorious ones in recent times and begins with a massacre during the 2008 campaign with the killer motivated in part by his hatred of Obama.
On July 27, 2008, inside a Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee, Jim David Adkisson pulls a sawed-off shotgun out of a guitar case and opens fire as children performed the musical, Annie Jr. The unemployed 58-year-old killed two and injured six before congregants overpowered him. Inside his vehicle was a four-page manifesto that seethed with racist vitriol and presaged Trump. Adkisson said, “Liberals have attacked every major institution that made America great.” Like Trump, who as president called Democrats “un-American” and “treasonous,” Adkission called liberals “traitors” and “un-American.” Similar to Trump’s vow, “I alone can fix it,” Adkission believed himself the lone warrior who would fix the problem of evil liberals. “Someone had to get the ball rolling. I volunteered.” Most chilling, in a portent of the great replacement conspiracy that would be introduced in 2011 in a book by that name, Adkisson called for the wholesale slaughter of his enemies. “Go kill liberals … kill them in the streets. Kill them where they gather.”
On January 21, 2009, the day after Obama was inaugurated as the first Black president, Keith Luke goes on a rampage in Brockton, Massachusetts, killing two African immigrants and raping and critically wounding a third. Luke’s motive was textbook great replacement. After learning “about the demise of the white race,” from white nationalist websites, Luke hatched a plan to “kill as many non-whites as possible,” saying he was “fighting for a dying race.”
Obama’s first year in office saw a deluge of deadly far-right terrorism, much of it a mix of white supremacy, gun fetish, and anti-government sentiment. In April, a white supremacist killed three Pittsburgh police officers fearing an “Obama gun ban,” and in May, two sheriff’s deputies in Florida were killed by a National Guard soldier who was “severely disturbed” by Obama’s election.
A series of terrorist murders in 2009 established patterns for future far-right killers, particularly ones obsessed with great replacement. In February, Dannie Roy Baker, a former GOP volunteer who ranted “Washington D.C. Dictators” were conspiring to “overthrow us with foreign illegals,” opened fire on Chilean exchange students in Florida, killing two. In May, Shawna Forde, a border vigilante paranoid about immigrants “taking over” America, orchestrated a home invasion in Arizona to steal money to finance her anti-immigrant militia and murdered Raul “Junior” Flores, 29, and his 9-year-old daughter, Brisenia. Also in May, an anti-abortion extremist assassinated Dr. George Tiller, who performed abortions in Wichita, Kansas. In June 88-year-old neo-Nazi James von Brunn opened fire at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., killing a security guard. In a notebook left in his car, von Brunn ranted, “You want my weapons — this is how you'll get them. The Holocaust is a lie. Obama was created by Jews.” In August, an incel or involuntary celibate opened fire in a gym in Pennsylvania killing three women. He left a blog expressing deep hatred toward women and anti-Black racism.
Far-right terror attacks continued for the next few years, including a killing spree in 2011 by white supremacist David “Joey” Pedersen, who massacred four people in an effort to incite a racist revolution because “Western identity is being destroyed.”
August 5, 2012, Wade Michael Page kills six worshippers in a Sikh temple in Wisconsin. In the 1990s, Page was radicalized as a soldier stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, which had an active neo-Nazi scene. He then entered the white power music scene and eventually joined the Northern Hammerskins, “one of the most violent” skinhead groups in the country. Page was openly racist toward Jews, Blacks, and Muslims. While he did not explain his choice of target, it is believed he confused Sikhism, a 16th-century religion founded in Northern India, with Islam, which has occurred numerous times since the 9/11 attacks with deadly consequences.
April 13, 2014, Frazier Glenn Miller Jr., kills three people outside of two Jewish sites in Overland Park, Kansas. Miller, a Klansman who founded two different white supremacist militias, promoted great replacement conspiracies, writing, “Our race is drowning literally in seas of colored mongrels.”
May 23, 2014, in a “Day of Retribution” to “punish” all women, Elliot Rodger murders six people in Isla Vista, California. Rodger penned a 137-page manifesto indicating he plotted the bloodbath for more than a year. He stated, “My hatred and rage towards all women festered inside me like a plague. Their very existence is the cause of all of my torture, pain and suffering throughout my life.” In death, Rodger became the “patron saint” of incels who embrace violent misogyny, including murderers such as:
- Christopher Sean Harper-Mercer, an incel who killed nine people at Umpqua Community College in Oregon on October 1, 2015, and wrote in his manifesto that mass shooters are “people who stand with the gods,” starting with Eliott Rodgers.
- Alek Minassian, who minutes before killing 10 people on a crowded Toronto street with a cargo van on April 23, 2018, wrote on Facebook, “The Incel Rebellion has already begun! … All hail the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger!”
- Scott Beierle, who shot six women, killing two, at a yoga studio in Tallahassee, Florida on November 2, 2018, had previously posted an online video titled, “Plight of the Adolescent Male” in which he likened himself to Elliot Rodger.
June 17, 2015, hoping to spark a race war, Dylann Roof kills nine Black churchgoers holding a Bible study in Charleston, South Carolina — the day after Trump began his presidential campaign. Roof said in a manifesto that the white race has to “stop fighting for the Jews,” Hispanics are “our enemies,” and racial segregation was a “defensive measure.” Like Trump, Roof presented himself as the lone savior of a white America, saying, “Well someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world, and I guess that has to be me.” The viciousness of his words and actions have earned him admiration among far-right extremists with other mass killers citing Roof as one of their example.
October 14, 2016, the FBI foils a plot by three militiamen to kill hundreds of Somali-Americans in Garden City, Kansas. Calling themselves “the Crusaders,” the men labeled the Somalis “a threat to American society” and hoped a bloodbath would “wake up” people to “decide they want this country back.” Defense attorneys for the men described them as among Trump’s “lost and ignored” white working-class base and blamed his anti-Muslim rhetoric during the 2016 campaign as well as right-wing windbags Sean Hannity and Michael Savage for provoking their violent plot.
January 29, 2017, days after Trump took office and issued his first Muslim ban, Alexandre Bissonnette opens fire on worshippers at the Islamic Cultural Center in the Quebec City suburb of Sainte-Foy, killing six and wounding 19. Bissonnette offered a great replacement rationale for his attack, telling police,“the Canadian government was going to take more refugees, you know, who couldn’t go to the United States, and they were coming here. I saw that and I, like, lost my mind.”
February 22, 2017, Adam Purinton attacks two Indian engineers at a restaurant in Olathe, Kansas, yelling “get out of my country. He shot and wounded one man and murdered Srinivas Kuchibhotla. Purinton later said “he had just killed some Iranians.”
March 20, 2017, in another anti-Black murder, Army vet James Jackson murders Timothy Caughman, a 66-year-old Black man, by plunging a sword into him in Midtown Manhattan. Jackson traveled to New York to kill Black men so as to “deter white women from interracial relationships.”
May 26, 2017, Jeremy Christian stabs to death Ricky John Best, father of four, and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche in Portland, Oregon, after they come to the aid of two Black women, one wearing a hijab, being threatened by Christian. Weeks earlier, Christian had attended a rally by the pro-Trump Patriot Prayer in Portland where he threw a Nazi salute and yelled “Die Muslims.”
August 12, 2017, at the pro-Trump “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that drew hundreds of neo-Nazis and white supremacists, neo-Nazi James Alex Field drives his car into a crowd of anti-fascists, killing Heather Heyer and wounding 19 others. Afterward Trump says there were “very fine people” among the deadly white nationalists.
November 1, 2017, Scott Ostrem “nonchalantly” shoots dead three Hispanic people in a Walmart near Denver, Colorado. Ostrem “often expressed dislike for Hispanics to their faces,” according to a local news station. An employee at his apartment building said, “If he saw a Hispanic person, he would tell them to get out of his way.” One neighbor said Ostrem would say, “’This is America. You shouldn’t be here.”
December 7, 2017, posing as a student at a high school in Aztec, New Mexico, William Edward Atchison kills two students before committing suicide. The 21-year-old was said to have “a prolific life as a white supremacist, pro-Trump meme peddler who was most known for his obsession with school shooters.” An autopsy found Atchison had faint ink markings on his legs of a Swastika, “SS,” and “BUILD WALL.”
February 14, 2018, in what remains one of the deadliest school shootings ever, Nikolas Cruz kills 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and wounds 17 others. Cruz was “obsessed with race, violence, and guns,” revered Trump, and snapped a picture of a MAGA hat he placed on his mother’s remains at her funeral three months before the massacre. In a private Instagram chat group, filled with “hundreds of racist messages, racist memes and racist” videos, Cruz talked “about killing Mexicans, keeping black people in chains and cutting their necks,” shooting gay people in the back of their heads, and saying he hated “jews, ni**ers, immigrants.”
October 27, 2018, ranting against Jews for bringing in “hostile invaders to dwell among us,” which would lead to “certain extinction,” Robert Bowers attacks The Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, killing eleven. Bowers took his cues from Trump, who had been whipping his base into a xenophobic frenzy as the midterm elections approached that November by disparaging Central American migrants as an “invasion.”
The prior day, on October 26, the FBI arrested Cesar Sayoc, Jr., a “Donald Trump superfan” and white supremacist nicknamed the MAGA bomber. Sayoc took cues from Trump as well, mailing 16 letter bombs to prominent opponents of the president including Barack Obama, CNN, George Soros, and Hillary Clinton.
March 15, 2019, Brenton Tarrant perpetrates one of the deadliest individual terrorist attacks this century, killing 51 Muslims at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. Tarrant entitled his manifesto, “The Great Replacement,” ranting about immigrant “invaders” who would “result in the complete racial and cultural replacement of the European people.” This is one of the first explicit connections between mass murder of a hated group as part of a war on behalf of the white race. Tarrant also hailed Trump as “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose” and Dylann Roof as an influence. Trump gave a callback to Tarrant within a day, seething about an “invasion” at the Southern border during a White House ceremony.
April 27, 2019, John Earnest opens fire inside the Chabad Synagogue in Poway, California, killing a 60-year-old woman and then flees after his gun malfunctions. In a manifesto, Earnest cited Robert Bowers and Brenton Tarrant as inspirations and mentioned great replacement conspiracy, saying, “Sp*cs and ni**ers useful puppets for the Jew in terms of replacing Whites.”
July 28, 2019, Santino Legan shoots up the Gilroy Garlic Festival in California killing three before police kill him. Legan didn’t provide a motive, but clues indicate he may have been motivated by white supremacist ideology. He posted on Instagram, “Why overcrowd towns and pave more open space to cater to make room for hordes of mestizos and Silicon Valley white twats?” and encouraged people to read Might Is Right, a 19th century novel promoting Social Darwinism that is highly regarded among white supremacists today.
August 3, 2019, Patrick Crusius drives more than 600 miles to a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, where he slaughters 23 people and wounds 22 in “response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.” Crusius begins his manifesto, “I support the Christchurch shooter and his manifesto. … I am simply defending my country from cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by an invasion.” The Walmart killings establish viral massacres as a genuine phenomenon, and Crusius’s debt to Trump, his thinking, and white-power presidency are so blatant that he denies he was influenced by Trump.
March 16, 2021, Robert Aaron Long kills eight people including six Asian women at three separate spas in the Atlanta area following months of Trump stoking anti-Asian racism over the Covid-19 pandemic. Police who apprehended Long, expressed sympathy for him, saying the massacre was “a really bad day for him” and downplayed racism. A Korean newspaper reported that Long said, “I am going to kill all Asians” during his murder spree, and Long expressed incel-style feelings of vengeance, saying, “I wanted to stop the places and basically punish the people.”
June 26, 2021, in an incident echoing Keith Luke’s attack on Black immigrants, Nathan Allen murders two Black retirees, David Green and Ramona Cooper, in Winthrop, Massachusetts, before police kill him in a shootout. Allen called racism “healthy and natural” in a notebook entitled “The Allen Diaries,” filled with anti-Black and anti-Jewish diatribes. The name refers to The Turner Diaries, which is about a white nationalist revolution that has inspired numerous terrorists including Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.
December 27, 2021, acting on personal vendettas James McLeod kills five people across Denver. McLeod is associated with the “manosphere,” an ideology in the same orbit as incels and which promotes “anti-feminist and sexist beliefs blaming women and feminists for all sorts of problems in society.” His extensive writings were marked by white supremacy, anti-Semitism, opposition to abortion, as well as revenge-fantasy fiction in which he named two people he would go on to kill.
May 14, 2022, Payton Gendron kills 10 African-Americans at a supermarket in the Buffalo area. Like other replacement killers, Payton planned the massacre for months He wrote in his 180-page manifesto, “This is ethnic replacement. This is cultural replacement. This is racial replacement. This is WHITE GENOCIDE.” Among those he supported for taking “a stand against cultural and ethnic genocide” were Brenton Tarrant, Patrick Crusius, John Earnest, Robert Bowers, and Dylann Roof.
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