- The shooter in the New Zealand mosque attack, who is suspected of killing at least 49 people Friday, appeared to hold white nationalist beliefs, including the “white genocide” conspiracy theory.
- The theory has been referenced in a string of terrorist and hate attacks in recent years.
- President Donald Trump and Republican Rep. Steve King have both referenced the theory.
On Friday, a gunman attacked two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, leaving at least 49 people dead.
The suspected shooter has been identified as Brenton Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian citizen.
Accounts appearing to belong to Tarrant live-streamed the horrifying massacre online and left a virtual trail of breadcrumbs, seemingly in an attempt to explain his actions.
Before the shooting, Tarrant appeared to post links to a 17,017-word, racist, white nationalist manifesto on his Facebook page. Platforms like Reddit have scrambled to scrub his livestream and manifesto from their sites, but invariably, they continue to be reposted.
Tarrant’s seemingly self-identified writing, while ugly, reveals the disturbing ideology of the suspected shooter, an ideology that’s been shared by other mass shooters across the world in recent years.
At its center is the disturbing “white genocide” conspiracy theory, which has increasingly been referenced in popular culture and politics.
The racist conspiracy theory at the heart of the New Zealand shooting
The white genocide conspiracy theory claims that through government policies pertaining to immigration and birth control, certain populations and groups are attempting to “replace” white people and European culture in majority white countries. Conspiracy theorists refer to it as a form of “genocide” against the white race.
The idea that there is an organized effort on any level to replace white people in the US, Europe, or in Australia and New Zealand is unfounded, racist, and flatly conspiratorial. While it’s true that in the US, minority populations are increasing, the idea that white people could be “replaced” in the near future is simply wrong. In 2018, 74% of New Zealanders identified as having European heritage.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which tracks hate groups and activity, neo-Nazi groups like the National Alliance and the Traditionalist Worker Party have picked up and spread the idea in the last 20 years. The SPLC credits the idea’s popularization to recent statistics projecting that white people will no longer be the racial majority in the US by 2047. Brookings projects that white people will still compose 49% of the US population.
The suspected New Zealand shooter, who identified himself as an ethno-nationalist in the writings that appear to be under his name, placed the conspiracy theory at the heart of his manifesto. The document, which was reviewed by INSIDER, is devoted to arguing that immigrants are replacing white people in majority white counties. It specifically says, “This is WHITE GENOCIDE,” before writing that the attack was carried out to send a message.
The ‘White Genocide’ conspiracy theory has fueled murder and hate-driven attacks
The conspiracy theory has helped fuel in numerous hate and terrorist attacks in recent years.
In 2011, Anders Behring Breivik, a far-right, white nationalist extremist, killed 77 people at a summer camp in Norway. Breivik wrote in his 1,518-page manifesto that Islamic immigrants and the European Union were on a mission to create “Eurabia.” The idea was a variation on the white genocide conspiracy theory, which purported that anti-Israel powers were attempting to “Arabise” Europe. “I will know that I did everything I could to stop and reverse the European cultural and demographical genocide and end and reverse the Islamisation of Europe,” Breivik wrote.
In his manifesto, Tarrant specifically said he was inspired by Breivik.
US Coast Guardsman Lt. Christopher Paul Hasson also drew on Breivik as inspiration. Hasson was arrested in February on drug and weapons charges, after federal authorities accused him of stockpiling weapons and plotting a terrorist attack against Democratic politicians and journalists, according to the criminal complaint against him.
Court documents show Hasson also appeared to subscribe to the “white genocide” theory, according to prosecutors. The filings say Hasson wrote that “Liberalist/globalist ideology is destroying traditional peoples esp white.” He went on to argue for a white ethnostate in response to growing minority populations in a draft letter to a white nationalist leader, prosecutors said.
The 2018 Pittsburgh synagogue shooting suspect Robert Bowers was also a believer in white genocide, according to federal court filings cited by the Washington Post and his profile on far-right social media haven Gab. Following the shooting, according to the criminal complaint against him, Bowers told a SWAT officer, “They’re committing genocide to my people. I just want to kill Jews.”
According to posts from Bowers’ Gab profile, he believed there was a Jewish conspiracy to help flood the US with immigrants from the migrant caravan. “I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered,” he wrote on the platform.
Convicted Charleston church shooter Dylan Roof espoused white genocide beliefs as well. Survivors of his attack said Roof claimed black people were “taking over the country,” according to The New York Times. In his manifesto, Roof highlighted “black on white crime” as a serious problem and wrote that he saw similar issues in Europe.
The August 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, at which counter-protester Heather Heyer was killed after neo-Nazi James Alex Fields Jr. rammed his car into her, was organized around the concept of white genocide. In a promotional video for the event, neo-Nazi Matthew Heimbach argued that the removal of a Confederate statue was representative of a “white genocide” occurring in the US.
The night before the rally, those gathered chanted “you will not replace us” while holding tiki-torches, referencing the idea that immigrants were attempting to “replace” white people.
‘White Genocide’ has entered the mainstream
Despite “white genocide’s” origins and centrality to contemporary Nazism, the concept has entered the mainstream.
President Donald Trump tweeted in August 2018, “I have asked Secretary of State @SecPompeo to closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killing of farmers,” referencing an offshoot of a baseless conspiracy theory that there is a campaign to kill white landowners in South Africa that constitutes genocide.
While land ownership is a hot-button issue in South Africa, and there has been violence against some farmers, it appears that these numbers are decreasing, according to Quartz Africa. Furthermore, The New Statesman found that violent crime rates in poorer black neighborhoods in South Africa exceeded those found in largely white suburbs.
Despite these figures, the idea of a South African white genocide against farmers has been an important piece of ammo for white genocide proponents.
In January 2016, then-presidential candidate Trump retweeted an account with the handle @WhiteGenocideTM. The account linked to a pro-Hitler documentary and had a background photo that included the text “Get the F— Out of My Country,” according to CNN.
Other conservative politicians have also drawn from the theory.
Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa has parroted white genocide talking points numerous times. In 2016, he tweeted, “Cultural suicide by demographic transformation must end.”
In 2017, King tweeted support for far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders, writing, “Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”
In January, the House stripped King’s committee assignments after his controversial remarks on whether white supremacy was offensive drew backlash from lawmakers in both parties.