June 29, 2022

A Conspiracy of Ignorance

By Stephen Tuttle | May 28, 2022

Some people, especially politicians, search and search until they find, or create, a conspiracy on which to blame their woes. If they’re lucky, it might even generate contributions and votes without the need for any kind of actual policy.

Which brings us to something called the Great Replacement Theory, the latest in a string of imaginary conspiracies. This one has the added stench of being both racist and xenophobic.

The theory—and it gets a little convoluted, so follow along—is that “elitists” on the far left want more and more immigration, legal or not. Those immigrants are, for reasons not fully explained, presumed to be sympathetic to Democrats and will “replace” white folks and vote for increasingly extreme leftist Democrats who can then enact their “Socialist agenda.” (Why those extreme Democrats won’t also be “replaced” hasn’t yet been explained.)

This has everything a good conspiracy theory needs. It assigns blame to either already unpopular figures or mysterious and unnamed forces. It targets people not likely to fight back or even defend themselves. It attacks minorities already being vilified for political gain. It creates a convenient us vs. them contest and blames “them” for current and future woes.

Let’s temporarily ignore the overtly racist and xenophobic components of this notion and assume such a plot is afoot.

First, immigrants arrive here legally on some type of visa and hope to eventually become citizens and vote. That means they will need to obtain a green card allowing them to stay in the country. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, it takes about two years before a green card will be available and another year for processing, longer if the applicant is from Mexico, China, India, or the Philippines. The green card holder can then apply for citizenship in another five years assuming they have jumped through all the hoops and avoided any legal troubles. (The wait is just three years if married to a U.S. citizen.)

So there are many years and plenty of roadblocks before these replacements can even become citizens. It would require the type of advanced planning for which Democrats aren’t exactly famous.

(We’ve excluded illegal immigrants from the theory because they can never legally vote and any attempt would require contact with a government they try hard to avoid.)

Unfortunately, replacement theories of one kind or another are not new and their history is ugly. Immigrants have always been easy targets for demagoguery and divide-and-conquer politics. We’ve heard this before.

In 1934, Italian fascist Benito Mussolini published a book titled Is the White Race Dying? targeting immigrants and Jews. In Germany, attendees at National Socialist German Workers’ Party meetings chanted, “Jews will not replace us.” Both helped ignite the genocidal hatred that would follow. It was more than a little troubling, though not especially surprising, that same chant was heard at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017.

We have our own history of replacement theorists and racists.

Theodore Bilbo, a Democrat, was twice the governor of Mississippi and represented the state in the U.S. Senate from 1935 until 1947. He was also a proud member of the Ku Klux Klan who openly hated Italians and Jews but mostly Blacks. His speeches were filled with racial slurs and insults, and he advocated sending Black Americans to Africa or “back to wherever they came from.” His 1947 book, Take Your Choice: Separation or Mongrelization, is a lengthy example of racial ignorance and hatred. He referred to non-Caucasians as mongrels and claimed they were going to take over the country, replacing white people.

As bizarrely wrongheaded and destructive as this nonsense is, it has consequences. The crowd in Charlottesville included a white supremacist who intentionally drove his vehicle into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one and injuring many. The lunatic who murdered 51 in a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2019 claimed he was trying to prevent “white genocide.” The more recent mass shooter in Buffalo who targeted a grocery store with mostly Black shoppers wrote a rambling, hate-filled “manifesto” that specifically mentioned replacement theory.

The Great Replacement Theory is a myth, but its inherent racism is not. It is being perpetuated by cynical politicians trying to expand their lowest common denominator bases. It feeds the conspiracy of ignorance in which too many of us have drifted away from reality and into an imaginary us vs. them world filled with an enemy easily identified by color or language. It’s all so very simple; “they” are out to replace us, so “they” are the enemy. That explains everything.

On the other hand, maybe those who believe in irrational conspiracy theories aren’t really suited to be either good employees or good citizens and should be replaced. Of course, that’s just a theory.


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