On July 22, 2011, a car bomb exploded in the government quarter of Oslo, Norway, killing eight people. The man who planted the bomb then took a ferry to the island of Utoya, where a youth camp was being held. He opened fire and killed 69 more, mostly children, in the deadliest attack in Norway since World War II.

That same year, far-right French nationalist Marine LePen began telling her followers that the enemies of France were attempting to subjugate the country, not through force of arms but by replacing the population with immigrants. In 2015, Donald Trump began his ascent to the U.S. presidency by spouting similar rhetoric about the United States.

On August 11-12, 2017, white supremacists from across the United States converged in Charlottesville, Virginia. Skinheads marched through the street, carrying tiki torches and chanting, “Jews will not replace us!”

A few months later, white-nationalist protestors marched through the streets of Warsaw, a Polish city notorious for the genocidal crimes Nazi soldiers inflicted upon imprisoned Jews. They carried signs reading, “We Want God,” “Clean Blood,” “White Europe” and “Pray for an Islamic Holocaust.”

In 2018, a gunman entered the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and murdered 11 people. He had claimed a Jewish group was inviting invaders who wanted to exterminate the white people.

The following year, a gunman entered two separate mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, livestreaming his rampage as he gunned down 51 Muslims while they worshiped. 

A few months later, when families were out buying notebooks and colored pencils for the upcoming school year, a gunman entered a Walmart in El Paso. Deriding the “Hispanic invasion of Texas,” he opened fire and killed 23 people. 

In February 2022, an 18-year-old white supremacist entered a grocery store in a predominantly African-American neighborhood of Buffalo, New York and killed ten people. 

These events are all connected. In each case, the perpetrators promoted the Great Replacement Theory, a component of Identity Theology. 

Both have deep roots in anti-semitism and are sparking a global rampage of far-right nationalism and white terror. The Great Replacement claims that the “white race” is facing an extinction event due to low birth rates, assimilation and increased immigration from non-white countries. 

Like many conspiracy theories, the Great Replacement begins with anti-semitism, which has a deep history among people groups who are now considered to be “white.” There are many different strands of anti-semitism that converge in the long development of the Great Replacement. 

One of the most insidious pieces of anti-semitic literature in modern history was “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” The 1903 text, a complete forgery, first appeared in Russia and was quickly disseminated worldwide. 

By 1933, when Adolf Hitler came to power, it had been circulating around Germany. Many readers believed the text’s claims, which purported to be a record of a meeting between high-ranking Jewish leaders conspiring for world domination via control of the banking system and the press. 

Ultimately, according to the text, these Jews were plotting a global war, financed through Jewish banks allegedly charging high interest. The war would end civilization and allow an underground Jewish plot to take over the world. 

When a global war did break out in 1914, those who believed the claims of “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” including Hitler, blamed it on the Jewish people.

By the end of the war, America’s Ku Klux Klan was resurrected as a “respectable” society for middle-class white Protestants. It was, in short, a social club. 

No longer branding itself as the “Invisible Empire” whose soldiers rode through the Deep South terrorizing formerly enslaved people, the Klan hosted community picnics and promoted prohibition as part of “100 Percent Americanism.” 

By “100 Percent Americanism,” they meant white Anglo-Saxon Protestants. Jews, Catholics, African Americans, Hispanics, and other non-white, non-Protestant groups need not apply. A particular emphasis was placed on the exclusion of Jews, given the claims made in “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” which became a near-sacred text to the Klan. 

Identity theology began to develop within the Ku Klux Klan during the 1920s and became solidified by the mid-twentieth century. At the same time, far-right nationalism in parts of Europe, especially France, was leading to the promotion of a conspiracy theory known as the Great Replacement. 

At the heart of the Great Replacement were claims identical to those made in “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”: an underground cabal conspired for world domination by controlling critical aspects of society, including banks and the press. 

Klan leaders in the United States began incorporating the Great Replacement into their belief system during the Civil Rights Movement, a time when white anxiety was on the rise. 

As African Americans made gains that allowed them access to mainstream society, many white Americans, not just those affiliated with white supremacist groups, easily believed the far-right claim that African Americans were ultimately seeking the elimination of the white race. They did not need to use force of arms. They merely needed to continue assimilating into public life while maintaining a high birth rate. 

The assimilation of African Americans, coupled with high birth rates, according to the belief, would wipe out white culture and overwhelm the white population to the point of extinction. Identity theology asserts that this campaign of forced assimilation and promoting low birth rates among white people is being master-minded by a secret Jewish cabal.

The Great Replacement spent decades on the fringes of conspiracy theories. It occasionally made inroads as politicians debated immigration or far-right pastors preached against abortion. It slowly gained influence, especially within Jerry Falwell’s Religious Right, as he promoted an anti-immigration, anti-abortion, xenophobic agenda for America. 

When Donald Trump descended the escalator at Trump Tower in June 2015, he promoted the Great Replacement in his speech. Announcing his candidacy for President of the United States, he gave implicit permission for white supremacists to emerge from the shadows and openly resist what they claim is the genocide of the white people.

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