The ‘Great Replacement’: the violent consequences of mainstreamed extremism (Jacob Davey and Julia Ebner, ISD Global, 2019)

On 15 March 2019 a shooter killed 51 individuals and injured 50 more in an alleged terrorist attack during Friday prayers at the Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch, New Zealand. It is alleged that the attacker left behind documentation outlining his motivation for the attack. This so-called manifesto referenced two interlinked conspiracy theories which have come to dominate the ideology of the international extreme-right – the Great Replacement theory and the White Genocide theory.

These theories focus on the premise that white people are at risk of being wiped out through migration, miscegenation or violence. This sort of thinking is not new, and concepts which amplify ethnic and cultural differences between whites and non-whites have long been leveraged to justify conflict in supremacist circles. However, recently these concepts have come to dominate the ideology of extreme-right groups, providing the ideological glue which ties together an increasingly cohesive, networked and transnational extreme-right.

This paper explores the dynamics which enable the growth of this toxic ideology. It outlines the origins, internationalisation and mainstreaming of these concepts. In particular, it focuses on the role of the Identitarian Movement, whose supporters are important proponents of the Great Replacement theory, and have increasingly advocated for remigration – the forced deportations of migrant communities to create an ethnically and culturally homogenous society.

Our findings draw on analysis using social listening tools to examine online behaviour, as well as over four years of digital ethnographic work observing extreme-right communities online. Following the attack in Christchurch, we investigated the prevalence, scale and nature of the ideologies and narratives that motivated the perpetrator, using a combination of quantitative and qualitative analysis across mainstream and alternative social media channels. In our quantitative analysis we assessed over two million social media and media mentions of the Great Replacement conspiracy theory, which was at the heart of the attacker’s manifesto, and related terms such as ‘remigration’ and ‘white genocide’. We complemented this approach by creating case studies drawn from analysis of conversations on forums and encrypted chat rooms frequented by the extreme-right.

You can find the original publication here

Topic: Narratives and counter-narratives, Radicalization
Country: Austria, Germany, Canada, USA, France, Switzerland
Region: Europe, North America
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