America Grapples with a Lethal Mix of Terrorism and Lax Gun Laws

The Economist, reporting on the mass shootings last week:

Shortly before he began his attack, Patrick Crusius, the El Paso shooter, appears to have posted a manifesto on 8chan. He wrote that his attack was “a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas”—a state that until 1836 was part of Mexico. He railed against immigration and environmental damage, and advocated “decreas[ing] the number of people in America using resources. If we can just get rid of enough people, then our way of life can become sustainable.” Towards that end, he travelled from the suburb of Dallas where he was brought up to El Paso, a majority-Hispanic border city, and opened fire in a store packed with back-to-school shoppers from Mexico. One survivor said he specifically targeted people he thought were Hispanic.

“The Hispanic community,” he wrote, “was not my target until I read The Great Replacement.” This refers to a conspiracy theory that blames feckless Western elites for “replacing” people of European ancestry with non-white immigrants. “The Great Replacement” was the title of a book by a French polemicist. Brenton Tarrant, an Australian man who earlier this year murdered 51 people in two mosques in New Zealand, used it as the title of his own manifesto, which Mr Crusius endorsed.

This is an updated version of an older conspiracy theory known as white genocide, which propounds that the world’s white population is being deliberately shrunk and diluted through mass immigration, low fertility rates, multiculturalism and miscegenation (Mr Crusius also inveighed against “race mixing”). Unsurprisingly, many on the far right believe this to be a Jewish plot.

These beliefs, notes Oren Segal of the Anti-Defamation League, “are not just on these fringe internet forums. If anyone operating there turned on Fox News, they would hear similar sentiments.” Tucker Carlson, the second-most-popular host on cable news, has said that Democrats want “demographic replacement” through “a flood of illegals”. Laura Ingraham, another host, has argued that Democrats “want to replace you, the American voters, with newly amnestied citizens and an ever-increasing number of chain migrants.”

Prominent politicians have said the same thing. Steve King, a congressman from Iowa, infamously wrote that “we can’t restore our civilisation with somebody else’s babies.” On the House floor Ted Yoho and Louie Gohmert, both Republican congressmen, have compared immigrants to invaders. During a trip to Europe in 2018, Donald Trump said that immigration has “changed the fabric of Europe”, and told a British tabloid, “I think you are losing your culture. Look around.” More recently, his Facebook campaign ads have warned, “We have an invasion…It’s critical that we stop the invasion.” Take this literally and violence becomes a defensive measure.