The responses were uniformly curious in one regard, however: None of them—not a one—mentioned the “Great Replacement,” the far-right conspiracy that, according to the killer’s 181-page manifesto, was the primary reason he walked into a grocery store 200 miles from his home specifically to kill Black people.
Nor did any of them acknowledge in any fashion the fact that not only had so-called “replacement theory” become a commonplace trope among Republican voters and party leaders, but that the torchlight parade for this white nationalist conspiracy theory was led by Tucker Carlson—a fact that had been the basis for a devastating New York Times profile only two weekends before.
Carlson instead set out a narrative in which Democrats were ignoring violent crime in urban jurisdictions but launched a “coordinated campaign within minutes” to blame Republicans for the Buffalo killings. Their intention, he claimed, was to “suspend the First Amendment.”
So what is hate speech? Well, it’s speech that our leaders hate. So because a mentally ill teenager murdered strangers, you cannot be allowed to express your political views out loud. That’s what they’re telling you. That’s what they’ve wanted to tell you for a long time, but Saturday’s massacre gives them a pretext, a justification.
He then launched into a classic “bloody shirt”-style rant in which the victims become the bullies and the bullies the victims by depicting anyone who might hold others accountable for spreading groundless and hateful ideas that generate violence as simply vicious demagogues of low character:
You have to ask yourself, who behaves like that? What sort of person uses mass murder as an excuse to give a campaign speech or seize more political power? We’ll find out tomorrow, when Joe Biden travels to the scene of this atrocity to speak to the country.
Carlson then went on to claim that Biden now viewed Republicans as “an existential threat” to the country.
Now, keep in mind that this threat Biden is referring to is you. He’s talking about his fellow Americans. No president has ever spoken like this, ever. Joe Biden does it regularly. And he’s certain to do it again tomorrow. But most painful and destructive of all, Biden is likely to use racial wounds in order to make his point.
There is no behavior worse than this. All race politics is bad, no matter what flavor those politics happen to be. No race politics is better than any other. All of it is poison.
He then launched into a hilariously oblivious rant about race politics that utterly erased his own long record of indulging in cheap race politics himself—particularly the kind that denigrates nonwhite immigrants and other minorities.
Perhaps most ridiculously, he tried to claim that Rwanda had recovered from its genocides of the 1990s by adopting a “racially blind” approach that simply treated everyone as equal citizens: “They have deemphasized race in Rwanda,” he said. Carlson seems perfectly oblivious to the fact that the rival Hutu and Tutsi tribes who engaged in that genocide were from identical Bantu racial backgrounds, and Carlson would be unable to tell one from the other; what Rwanda ended was the kind of sectarian and ethnic hatred that Carlson is intent on engendering in the U.S. by touting “replacement theory” and other white nationalist tropes.
Carlson later brought on his regular pal, Glenn Greenwald, the Rio-area Substacker whose onetime progressive credentials have long since vanished. Earlier on Sunday, Greenwald had jumped the gun by tweeting out a perfect recapitulation of the “bloody shirt” trope:
There are fundamental and glaring differences between the animating views of the New Zealand and Buffalo shooters and Fox hosts.
But even if there weren’t, exploiting corpses as they still lie on the ground for mob justice is ghoulish, soulless, and sick.
On Fox News with Tucker, they launched into a variation of this:
CARLSON: How chilling was it to watch the immediate mobilization of a political party, using the pretext of a killing to make baldly political points? I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it. ...
GREENWALD: They didn’t care what the facts were. They saw an opportunity in those corpses laying on the ground, and the opportunity was political and exploitative and they seized on it together and quickly. And that made clear that their concern or sadness for the victims was a complete pretense. They instantly weaponized it before anything was known.
The essence of Carlson’s and Greenwald’s response is shock and bewilderment that people would try to hold them and their fellow Republicans to account for helping inspire an act of violent terrorism, when in fact one of the primary reasons people have criticized Carlson for thoughtlessly peddling “replacement theory” is that it has in fact inspired multiple acts of violent domestic terrorism.
Recall the warning from the Anti-Defamation League last year when it demanded Tucker step down from his position at Fox News for peddling this garbage:
Make no mistake: this is dangerous stuff. The “great replacement theory” is a classic white supremacist trope that undergirds the modern white supremacist movement in America. It is a concept that is discussed almost daily in online racist fever swamps. It is a notion that fueled the hateful chants of “Jews will not replace us!” in Charlottesville in 2017. And it has lit the fuse in explosive hate crimes, most notably the hate-motivated mass shooting attacks in Pittsburgh, Poway and El Paso, as well as in Christchurch, New Zealand.
People have been warning Carlson and Republicans that this was the kind of outcome they were encouraging. And now that it’s happened, they want to pretend that the criticism is just opportunistic when in fact, it’s holding his feet to the fire of his own words.
Remarkably, Carlson’s defense on Monday only accused the liberal critics attacking “Trumpism,” and made no mention of his own oft-repeated “replacement” theory and the role it may have played in providing the fuel for the Buffalo shooter’s violent radicalization. That’s made clear in the shooter’s own words in his manifesto—namely, his belief that nonwhite people were “replacers” whose mere existence disempowered white people like himself.
In his manifesto, Gendron in several passages practically regurgitated an ordinary Carlson script talking about the inevitable demographic decline of white people, noting that the national population keeps growing despite a drop in white fertility rates: “All through immigration. This is ethnic replacement. This is cultural replacement. This is racial replacement,” he wrote, and made the inevitable leap such logic takes: “This is white genocide.”
Carlson’s partisan-reductionist version of “replacement theory” is that Democrats are secretly “trying to replace the current electorate” with “more obedient voters from the Third World.” He has repeatedly promoted it on his nightly talk show—and when the Anti-Defamation League demanded he resign afterward, Fox News executives rushed to his defense, claiming disingenuously that he had actually denounced the theory. Carlson simply doubled down.
Carlson already has a remarkable record of dabbling increasingly in white supremacist rhetoric dating back to 2006, including recently unearthed recordings of his ramblings on radio. His greatest hits include a regurgitation of neo-Nazi propaganda about “white genocide” in Africa, not to mention his mutual promotion of the white nationalist website VDare. There is a reason white supremacists love Carlson’s show, and why they assiduously watch it in hopes of picking up pointers.
Perhaps most egregiously, Carlson has repeatedly claimed that white-nationalist domestic terrorism is a “hoax.” The very act of calling out white nationalism, according to Carlson, is a racist attack on white people: “You could live your entire life here without running into a white nationalist. No matter what they tell you, this is a remarkably kind and decent country,” he claimed. “Attacking people for their race is exactly how you destroy a country. That's what Democrats are doing. They know that they are doing it, it's obvious they just don't care.”
As it happens, Replacement Theory has been identified as a major ideological wellspring of domestic-terrorist violence, as I discussed in our report on the domestic-terrorism database Reveal News compiled over the past decade and longer. The FBI called it out in an internal assessment of terrorist threats as well.
Unsurprisingly, Carlson’s colleagues at Fox also omitted any mention of “replacement theory”—and in fact deliberately whitewashed the reality that Saturday’s massacre was an unmistakable act of domestic terrorism.
Sean Hannity labeled the criticism “smear tactics” and then wondered why Democrats weren’t more interested in ordinary crime as well. He then devoted nearly two minutes to a Fox News staple: running mug shots and photographs from inner-city crime cases that, of course, have not a single thing to do with domestic terror.
“Does Joe Biden ever talk about the violence gripping America’s cities?” he asked.
Ingraham compared the criticism to the Chinese Communist regime’s censorship, and laughed at journalists who pointed out that the Buffalo shooter’s beliefs were supported by the mainstream Republican Party.
“It’s so weak,” she said. “I didn’t even want to talk about it because it’s so predictable. It’s so lame. Because the real accomplices are in the media. The media that are propping up an administration that has brought this country to its knees.”
If all this sounds familiar, it should. It’s what conservatives do every single time there is an act of right-wing terrorism: they deny, then attack, reversing the victim and the offender. It’s a classic technique called DARVO, and it has long been associated with abusers in abusive relationships. It’s at the heart of the “bloody shirt” trope, and is now the all-too-predictable rhetoric that the American right deploys to evade culpability for the horrors it unleashes on the American landscape.