There are many iterations of the 'Great Replacement Theory', but the most common threads that have been percolating on extremist forums detail a plot to replace 'indigenous white populations' with nonwhite immigrants.
The essence of the theory is that white citizens in Western countries are being replaced by ethnic minority people to the detriment of the societies and in some cases, entrench support for one political party over another.
In many readings of the theory, Jewish 'elites' are attempting to hasten this process and are directing governments to pursue policies that undermine the control of white people over countries.
Once relegated to the darker recesses of unregulated parts of the internet, the antisemitic theory has become more mainstream in the Western world, spreading into political and media discourse.
This has been seen especially in America where variations of the ideology have been linked to several acts of terror.
The origins of the Great Replacement
The modern origins of the theory can be traced to the French philosopher Maurice Barres.
But according to the ADL"it was French writer and critic Renaud Camus who popularized the phrase for today’s audiences when he published an essay titled Le Grand Remplacement, or The Great Replacement, in 2011."
In Le Grand Remplacement, Camus argues that the vast majority of societies in the West are all experiencing various degrees of “ethnic and civilizational substitution.”
Citing increased immigration and the growth of refugee communities in countries across Europe, Camus predicted that these groups would replace white Europeans as the majority race. Of particular concern to him and the subsequent boosters of his theories was the higher birth rates often seen in immigrant communities in Western countries.
In his book, Camus wrote: “Individuals, yes, can join a people, integrate with it, assimilate to it... but peoples, civilizations, religions, and especially when these religions are themselves civilizations, types of society, almost States—cannot and cannot even want to blend into other peoples, other civilizations.”
In 2017, after the Charlottesville rally where the phrase "Jews will not replace us" was chanted by supporters of Donald Trump, Camus told the New Yorker that he wasn't racist and that his idea of the Great Replacement might equally apply to the loss of "Japanese culture or African culture."
A supporter of nationalist French politician Marine Le Pen, Camus described himself as one of many French citizens who "simply wants France to remain French."
How the Great Replacement theory became antisemitic
After Camus' work achieved prominence in online Far-Right circles, the theory began circulating on notoriously uncensored message boards 4chan and 8chan. Here and elsewhere on the internet, the idea of the Great Replacement became merged with older antisemitic conspiracy theories.
The idea developed to become not just that immigrants were replacing white people in Western societies, but that this process was being aided and abetted by 'elites' and in many cases, Jews.
Followers of the theory place shadowy Jewish figures at its heart, asserting that Jews have an inherent interest in the decline of the West, a theory that has been rampant on the internet for decades.
The idea of the Great Replacement becoming an antisemitic conspiracy first acheived mainstream prominence during the 2017 'Unite the Right' rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
At the event, white protestors held flaming torches aloft and chanted "Jews will not replace us."
Attacks inspired by the Great Replacement theory
Since the theory's emergence online, several terrorist attacks in the Western world have been committed by radicalised individuals who at least partially cite ideas related to Great Replacement ideology.
In May 2022, a resident of New York state shot and killed 10 in a supermarket in the city of Buffalo. After his arrest, his manifesto surfaced online, containing virulent antisemitism and explicit links from Jews to replacement theory.
In the 180-page document, Jews are mentioned over 100 times as a source of evil within the world as well as aiding the replacement of white citizens and seeking to enslave non-Jewish people.
The shooter also incorrectly cited the Talmud saying: "The Talmud (or the rabbi’s holy book) teaches Jews that they are God’s chosen people and they are permitted to hate and exploit the goyim, and to allow pedophilia.
"Jews will tell you that they do not support these any more, but in reality this is what they all seek. “It was the law bro come on we’re different now goy- I mean bro.” The new world order that the Jews advocate for is one where they enslave all other goys."
The killer explicitly linked his hatred of Jews to religious intolerance, saying he considered them white and believed: "If the Jews did not have connections to Judaism, then I believe that they would be able to live in White countries such as the USA. But because of the irreversible rabbinic teachings they must be removed from all European and White countries."
In addition, he included pages and pages of antisemitic conspiracy theories, memes and false infographics to support his theory of Jews being responsible for the erasure of so-called "White culture" and the decline of Western society.
He also posted pictures of Prince Charles meeting British Jewish leaders including Chief Rabbi Mirvis, the late Lord Rabbi Sacks and Lord Evelyn De Rothschild.
In April 2019, a shooter killed one person and injured three others at a synagogue in Poway, California. In a letter posted online, John Earnest claimed that Jews were behind a 'white genocide' and praised the work of other antisemitic shooters who perpetrated attacks in New Zealand and Pittsburgh.
He wrote: "Every Jew is responsible for the meticulously planned genocide of the European race. They act as a unit, and every Jew plays his part to enslave the other races around him—whether consciously or subconsciously."
A month earlier in March 2019, an Australian shooter in Christchurch, New Zealand killed 51 people and injured dozens of others in two mosques while livestreaming the attacks on social media. Brenton Tarrant published a manifesto called 'The Great Replacement' which paid tribute to Camus' work. According to the ADL, he was deeply concerned with the antisemitic idea of white genocide.
The most notable incident of Great Replacement theory motivating an antisemitic attack was in Pittsburgh in October 2018. White supremacist Robert Bowers killed 11 members of the Tree of Life synagogue after writing incendiary social media posts which blamed Jews for allowing non-white immigration to the US and encouraging refugees to seek asylum in America.
The spread of Great Replacement theory
Since the theory gained steam in fringe corners of the internet, several figures closer to the mainstream have espoused views in line with elements of Great Replacement theory. Often sanitised of the antisemitic elements, several TV hosts, Youtubers and other public figures have suggested that Democratic politicians in the US are encouraging immigration to create more voters
Fox News host Tucker Carlson has attracted criticism for promoting the idea that Democrats are encouraging unrestricted immigration to change the voting population of the United States.
On a show originally broadcast in April 2021, he said: “I know that the left and all the little gatekeepers on Twitter become literally hysterical if you use the term 'replacement,'
"if you suggest that the Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate — the voters now casting ballots — with new people, more obedient voters from the Third World, but they become hysterical because that's what's happening, actually. Let's just say it. That's true."
Other Fox News hosts have also alluded to the same ideas with Jeanine Pirro saying in a 2019 segment: "Think about it. It is a plot to remake America, to replace American citizens with illegals that will vote for the Democrats."