Charlottesville Extremists Lose on Court, But Replacement Theory Lives

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Charlottesville Extremists Lose on Court, But Replacement Theory Lives

The jury’s decision Tuesday holding a dozen white supremacists liable for the violence at the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., was a victory for those who have held a long-standing offensive against far-right extremists And there was a rare example of a hate group. The leaders are being held accountable not only for the language they use, but also for the bloodshed for which they are accused.

But even though the rally’s planners lost their civil trial and now face the prospect of $25 million in damages, their legacy lives on.

Four years after the incident, the same views, by conservative media and prominent figures in politics who made “Unite the Right” a lightning rod for hate groups, are increasingly resonating, albeit in modified tones. Chief among them is the great replacement theory, which holds that Democrats and others on the left are trying to replace white Americans with immigrants and others for their own political gains.

This shift of ideology from the margins to the center was one of the leitmotifs of the nearly month-long trial. Its prevalence shows why it was important to take legal action against the defendants in the first place, according to those who helped plan the case. “Precisely as their ideas have become more mainstream, it underscores why it is so important to hold these extremists accountable,” said Amy Spitalnick, executive director of Integrity First for America, a civil rights group that has sued. wrote.

The goal of “Unite the Right”, which took place in Charlottesville over two days in August 2017, as its name suggests, was to bring together disparate elements of right-wing protest culture: marches with Klanmen and outspoken neo-Nazis. Wanted to do is militiamen, far-right nationalists and more general Trump supporters in a show of force in the early months of his administration.

But the integration project failed amidst internal dispute before the rally began and only got worse after Charlottesville descended into violence and chaos, resulting in a street brawl and the death of a young woman, Heather Heyer. who was killed when one of the extremists was killed. The car in the crowd of protestors.

In the weeks and months that followed, as left-wing protesters pushed back and the rally leaders were prosecuted, many of them were marginalized, poor and sometimes rarely heard from again.

Still, his one-time notion of an attack on white people in America has now drawn closer to the conservative mainstream.

This summer, for example, Newt Gingrich, former Republican congressman and House speaker of Georgia, appeared on Fox News and announced that the Left was trying to “drown out” “classic Americans” with people who are not in their country. Didn’t know anything about the history and traditions of. An attempt to “get rid of the rest of us”. A month later, on his own Fox show, Tucker Carlson claimed that President Biden and the Democrats aimed “to change the nation’s racial mix” and “to reduce the political power of those people by seeking to increase immigration.” whose ancestors lived here.” (A Fox News spokesperson did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment on Mr Carlson’s remarks on Wednesday.)

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In the spring, Representative Scott Perry, a Pennsylvania Republican, referenced the replacement doctrine at an immigration hearing on the House floor. In September, Alice Stefanik of New York, the House Republican Conference chair, issued a campaign ad based on a version of the theory. That same month, Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick appeared on Fox News, claiming that Mr Biden’s immigration policies were “trying to take over our country without firing a single shot.”

Jonathan Greenblatt, executive director of the Anti-Defamation League, said, “It’s actually quite scary to see things like this come from a column of conspiracies and lunatics to do a thing for Tucker Carlson and his allies to talk about.” Condemned the spread of the substitution principle. “It’s the gateway drug to harder and more worrisome extremism.”

Some of those who have noted the change have been named in civil suits in Charlottesville.

“The fact that Tucker is making such an argument is a success,” Mike Pinovich, a white nationalist podcast host and a defendant in the lawsuit, who was eventually dropped from the case, wrote on social media. “I would give him credit for going where no TV host has gone before.”

In October, David Duke, a former leader of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and one of the country’s most notorious white supremacists, also embraced Mr. Carlson to finally confirm the false claim that a plot was “to eradicate whites”. was running for. People” in America and Europe.

According to Mr. Greenblatt, the generalization of the substitution principle began almost immediately after the violence in Charlottesville when President Donald J. Trump drew a moral parallel between the far-right rallies that were marching at the event and the large crowds of counter-protesters who demonstrated. oppose them. Mr Greenblatt said that during his years in office, Mr Trump repeatedly made white complaints by focusing on issues such as his border wall or NFL players kneeling during the national anthem, encouraging the notion that whites in America People were under attack, Mr Greenblatt said.

Violent extremists also gave a similar message.

Twice during Mr Trump’s presidency, domestic terrorists carried out attacks that were later found to be directly linked to the substitution doctrine. In October 2018, an anti-Semitic shot and killed 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue after posting online about an anti-Semitic refugee organization, which he called for “bringing out the invaders who killed our people”. charged with working. A year later, a young man armed with a high-powered rifle killed 23 people at a Walmart in El Paso, worrying that white people would be replaced by people of color.

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Experts on political violence have said they are concerned that as the substitution theory continues to receive buying into the right, an increased number of ordinary people will also feel threatened and accept the use of threats and threats. Polls already indicate that 30 percent of Republicans believe that “true patriots” may have to resort to violence to “save” the country.

Indeed, in recent months, as Republican officials pursue an agenda to counter what they describe as critical race theory in schools, there has been a disturbing spike in threats against school board officials. Common people have also been involved in sending hundreds of intimidating messages to election officials in at least a dozen states.

Perhaps the best example of political violence going mainstream was the January 6 attack on the Capitol. Although members of extremist groups played a role in the attack, the rioters who took the most violent action that day – for example, those who fought alongside the police – were also, in large part, the most common. He was a church deacon, substitute teacher, military veteran and State Department aide.

“Jan. 6 was the inevitable expression of this ideology,” said Ms. Spitalnik. “Stop piracy is what if it is not the idea that the country was stolen from those it believed to be ‘and that there was a conspiracy to effectively transform a largely white, Christian country’.”

Robert Pep, a University of Chicago professor who tracks political violence, said one version of the replacement theory has found widespread acceptance among those who believe Trump’s lies about the 2020 election. According to a recent study by Mr. Pep, nearly 25 percent of American adults agreed that “African American people or Hispanics in our country will eventually have more rights than whites.” That number rose substantially – more than 60 percent – of those who agreed that the violence was justified in efforts to restore Mr. Trump to the White House.

Mr Pappy said he was concerned that the more acceptance an idea like the replacement doctrine gained in culture, the more it would encourage future violence – not just lone-wolf attacks like Pittsburgh and El Paso, but also collective, political Attacks such as January 6. If people believe they are being attacked, he said, they are more likely to forgive aggression in others or to take up arms themselves.

He compared the situation to conditions that encourage wildfires.

“We know that dry forest areas are getting bigger,” he said. “The problem is, we can’t always predict the lightning strikes that will ignite them.”

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