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People and Planet: The Great Replacement Theory’s role in recent hate crimes

It has always existed on the internet, of course, but typically came from sources no one took too seriously: 4chan users, Discord groups, grown men living in their mothers’ basements. There were few, if any, chances for these ideas to take hold as they weren’t socially acceptable. To the vast majority of the population, they were shameful.

Then Donald Trump was elected, validating these extremists and pumping harmful conspiracies into the mainstream. Racially motivated violence and murder has always existed in our country, but now it was blatant in the words of the most powerful man in the country that this violence was no longer decidedly wrong, but up for debate at the least.

On Saturday, May 14, 2022, 10 Black shoppers and employees were shot and killed in a supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York. The perpetrator of the attack was an 18-year-old white man who had left a 180-page manifesto behind on Google Docs citing “The Great Replacement Theory,” a right-wing fringe belief that white people are being “replaced” by non-white immigrants moving into traditionally white neighborhoods and spaces, thus diminishing white influence on society.

And, like most abhorrent and racist conspiracy theories, those subscribing to this theory also believed that Jewish people are behind it.

The shootings in Buffalo are but one of many instances of the theory resulting directly in violence against minority groups. 

One recent example of this is the 2018 shooting that occurred at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, killing 11 and injuring six more. When apprehended, the shooter said that he wanted, “all Jews to die” because they were “committing genocide against his people.” 

Such attitudes towards Jewish people have existed since the Middle Ages with the myth of blood libel and their persecution during the crusades.

On March 15, 2019, 51 Muslims were murdered in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand by a white man who also left behind a manifesto, cited alongside The Great Replacement Theory in both the Buffalo shooting and the shooting that occured in a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, in August of 2019. 

The shooter in El Paso who killed 21 and injured 25 more drove 650 miles to the store frequented by people from both sides of the border.

Prior to this, he left a 2,356 word manifesto on an extremist message board online in which he referred to an “invasion” of Hispanic people in the United States, yet another instance of violence and murder inspired by both the Great Replacement Theory and the Christchurch murders.

The vastness of the internet is a very new aspect of society and thus is hard to truly harness. However, regardless of how difficult, it is the duty of services like 4chan, 8chan, Reddit, and Discord to provide adequate oversight to prevent the further online radicalization of white supremacists. 

Meg Diehl is a freshman studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. What are your thoughts? Tell Meg by tweeting her at @irlbug.

Meg Diehl

Assistant Opinion Editor

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