The shooters in America this week wrote manifestos about a twisted white supremacist ideology that's been around for centuries, the "Great Replacement". The Charlottesville neo-Nazis yelled "You will not replace us!" when they marched through the city, Donald Trump of course calling them "Very fine people". And like all awful white supremacist fascist ideologies, it's making a blood-drenched comeback around the planet in the Era of Trumpism.
“I just had a house raid by the police,” Martin Sellner said last weekend from his apartment in Vienna, where he makes YouTube videos, sometimes in his kitchen, warning about the dangers of multiculturalism and how Muslim immigrants are replacing the white population across Europe.
This wasn’t the first time Austrian authorities have taken an interest in the articulate, engaging 30-year-old activist, known for the “actions” he plots as one of the leaders of an ethno-nationalist movement known as Generation Identity. Its members, believed to number about 10,000, are fighting back against what they consider Europe’s forced “Islamization” and a “dilution” of its original genetic stock.
But last week’s sweep of Sellner’s apartment wasn’t the result of Generation Identity’s usual stunts — like throwing a giant burqa over the head of a 65-foot-high statue of revered Austrian archduchess Maria Theresa with a sign saying “Islamization — No Thanks!” or chartering a boat to hinder rescue vessels from picking up drowning Africans whose dinghies capsized in the Mediterranean.
This raid concerned a donation — a gift of 1,500 euros (over $1,800), one of the biggest in Generation Identity’s seven-year existence. The donor was Brenton Tarrant, accused of opening fire on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, leaving 50 dead. This was the second time police raided Sellner’s apartment to investigate his connections with Tarrant, seizing his phones, cameras and computers. Sellner protests that there aren’t any links — Tarrant was just “a random Australian guy” whom he thanked via email in 2018 for his donation and invited to share a beer if he visited Vienna.
Even if they never met to share a pitcher, Sellner and Tarrant share a controversial belief, one that’s integral to Generation Identity and to scores of extremist groups worldwide: the Great Replacement of white Christians by dark-skinned “invaders,” an idea that is driving right-wing politics in many European countries — and has echoes in the United States, not just in politics, but in terror attacks against minorities and Jews.
Sellner views the Great Replacement as “a mathematical fact,” the result of cultural, political and economic decisions made over recent decades. “Since the ’60s and ’70s, Europe’s population [of indigenous white Europeans] has been shrinking,” he says, largely because white European women, like their American counterparts, were not bearing the 2.1 children considered necessary to maintain a stable population. But Europe’s population is rising — due to the influx of immigrants, or what he calls “replacement migration.”
That part, statistics show, is true at least in some countries: The numbers of incoming immigrants have offset deaths in European nations, such as Germany and Sweden, leading to overall population growth.
The problem is that it's all garbage.
But the Great Replacement theory goes entirely off the rails when proponents, such as Sellner’s group, assert, as they do on the Generation Identity website, that “Low birth rates of German and European people and simultaneous massive Muslim immigration will turn us into minorities in our own countries in a few decades,” leading to “the disappearance of Germans and Europeans in their own countries."
Even given the higher birthrate of immigrants, that’s an unlikely scenario, according to demographer Landis Mackellar of the Population Council and editor of Population and Development Review. “The Great Replacement and statements attributed to Generation Identity distort the demographic and sociological evidence,” he says.
Hélène Ducros, human geographer at Columbia University's Council for European Studies, questions what data the group is using to make such projections. Some European countries, like France, don't ask about ethnicity or religion on their census forms, making statistics unreliable, and many "migrants" into European countries actually come from other European countries. "The reality is that Europe — in the largest sense, not just the EU — has always been a continent where people moved around a lot," she says. "I would say that mobility, and thus intermixing, is what characterizes Europeans across time, not ethnicity."
And it's being used to fuel a new generation of white supremacist violence, this time powered by the internet and real-time coverage of attacks all over the globe.
It's not just the US.
We're just on the side of the bad guys this time around.