Fear of White Genocide: the underground stream feeding right-wing causes

The Christchurch shooter’s manifesto is a Rosetta Stone for multiple strains of crazy.


I don’t usually recommend that you read something I totally disagree with, but this week I’ll make an exception: If you have the time, look at the the 73-page manifesto posted by Brenton Tarrant, who apparently killed 50 worshipers Friday at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. If you don’t have quite that much time, just look at the Introduction on pages 3 and 4.

Manifestos of terrorist murderers are usually described in the press as the incoherent ramblings of diseased minds. And perhaps sometimes they are; I haven’t read that many of them. But reading this one struck me the opposite way: The ideas fit together, and once you accept a fairly small number of baseless notions and false facts, everything else spins out logically. What’s more: this ideology links a large number of right-wing notions that we on the left usually imagine as separate pathologies, and either ignore as absurd or argue against in a whack-a-mole fashion.

So I think it’s worth trying to understand.

The assumption in the background. One idea seems so obvious to Tarrant, and presumably to his target readers, that it goes without mentioning until fairly deep in the text: Races are real things. So there is a White race, and its members are united by something far greater than a tendency to sunburn. Whites are a “people” who have a culture. [1] Whiteness is an identity, an Us that exists in an eternal evolutionary war with all the Thems out there.

To Tarrant, there is some essential nature to all the races and peoples.

Racial differences exist between peoples and they have a great impact on the way we shape our societies. … A Moroccan may never be an Estonian much the same as an Estonian may never be a Moroccan. There are cultural, ethnic, and RACIAL differences that makes interchanging one ethnic group with another an impossibility. Europe is only Europe because if its combined genetic, cultural, and linguistic heritage. When non-Europeans are considered Europe, then there is no Europe at all. [2]

Birthrates. There’s a worldwide phenomenon that is fairly well understood: When a society becomes wealthy, educates its women, and gives them opportunities in addition to motherhood, birth rates go down. A woman who has a shot at being a CEO or a cancer researcher may or may not decide to have children, but she almost certainly won’t have 7 or 8 of them. That’s why educating women is seen as a possible long-term solution to the population explosion.

There’s nothing about this phenomenon that is specifically white — it applies equally well to Japan, for example, and countries in Africa have seen the same effect among their educated classes — but European countries (and countries like the US and Australia that were largely settled by European colonists) do tend to be wealthy and relatively feminist. So birthrates are down across Europe. And in the US, recent immigrants of non-European ancestry have higher birthrates than whites.

So largely as a result of their own economic success, majority-white countries tend to have birthrates below replacement level. As economic growth continues, opportunities open up for immigrants, who retain their higher birthrates for a generation or two after they arrive. All over the world, then, majority-white countries are becoming less and less white, with the possibility that whites themselves might eventually become a minority.

One recent estimate has the United States becoming a minority-white country by 2045. As I pointed out in August, we’re-losing-our-country is an old story in the US: Once the US was majority-English, until German immigrants (and Africans brought here by force) made the English a minority. For a while longer, it was majority-Anglo-Saxon, until a wave of Irish, Italian, and Eastern European immigrants put an end to that. Each time, alarmists claimed that the nation was losing its soul — Ben Franklin worried about the arrival of the Pennsylvania Dutch — but somehow America continued to be America.

But now combine the diminishing white population with the conviction that race really means something. Sure, 21st-century Americans can laugh at Franklin’s fear of people who put hex signs on their barns and make all those buttery pies. But now we’re talking about a whole different race. This was a white country, and now it’s being taken over by other races! Other peoples are taking what’s ours, but they’re doing it through demographics rather than warfare.

We are experiencing an invasion on a level never seen before in history. [3] Millions of people pouring across our borders, legally, invited by the state and corporate entities to replace the White people who have failed to reproduce, failed to create the cheap labor, new consumers, and tax base that the corporations and states need to thrive. … Mass immigration will disenfranchise us, subvert our nations, destroy our communities, destroy our ethnic bonds, destroy our cultures, destroy our peoples — long before low fertility rates ever could. Thus, before we deal with the fertility rates, we must deal with both the invaders within our lands and the invaders that seek to enter our lands. We must crush immigration and deport those invaders already living on our soil. It is not just a matter of our prosperity, but the very survival of our people.

Tarrant presents demographic estimates of what will happen:

In 2100, despite the ongoing effect of sub-replacement fertility, the population figures show that the population does not decrease in line with these sub-replacement fertility levels, but actually maintains, and, even in many White nations, rapidly increases. All through immigration. This is ethnic replacement. This is cultural replacement.

THIS IS WHITE GENOCIDE.

If you believe in this demographic invasion that is taking your people’s lands, then it follows logically that there are no non-combatants. People are stealing your country simply by being here.

There are no innocents in an invasion. All people who colonize other peoples’ lands share their guilt. [4]

In particular, children are not innocent. They will grow up and vote and reproduce (probably in large numbers, because “fertility rates are part of those racial differences”). So Tarrant was not worried that he might kill children. The point here is not to kill all the immigrants, but to kill enough to drive the rest out and deter future immigrants from coming.

Few parents, regardless of circumstance, will willingly risk the lives of their children, no matter the economic incentives. Therefore, once we show them the risk of bringing their offspring to our soil, they will avoid our lands. [5]

Why don’t I fear losing my country? As I said, Tarrant’s demographics aren’t wrong, at least in the US. (White nationalists in European countries tend to overestimate how many non-whites surround them. France, for example, is still about 85% white. The prospect of whites becoming a minority there is still quite distant.) So why don’t I, as a white American, feel as alarmed as he does?

And the answer is that I don’t see any reason why non-whites can’t be real Americans. Back in the 90s, my wife and I went to China to support our friends as they adopted a baby girl. That girl is now in her mid-20s, and I have watched her grow up, including seeing her on every Christmas morning of her life. To the best of my ability to judge such things, she is as American as I am. I do not worry in the least that some essential non-American nature is encoded in her genetic makeup, or that her presence is turning America into China. [6]

In my view, America (or Western culture, for that matter) isn’t something that arises from the essential nature of the White race. America is something we do, not something we are. It is an idea that can be shared by anyone who is inspired to share it.

So when I picture that white-minority America of 2045 (which I have a decent chance of living to see), I don’t see it as a country that “my people” have lost. That’s because I already see the idea of America and Western culture being shared by lots of other folks that Tarrant would see as invaders, like, say, Fareed Zakaria, Ta-Nahisi Coates, or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. I have faith in the continuing strength of the American idea, which I believe will continue to inspire a majority of Americans well beyond 2045. California, where whites are already less than half population, still feels like America to me.

Assimilation. Tarrant lacks faith in assimilation, because he sees race as having a direct effect on culture. This is a common belief among white nationalists, and many whites who resonate with white-nationalist concerns, even if they don’t identify with the movement.

A frequent complaint on the American right, which you will hear often on Fox News, is that recent immigrants are not assimilating the way previous waves of immigrants did. The data does not bear this out, but it is believed because white-nationalist ideology makes it seem necessary: Hispanics and other non-white immigrants can’t assimilate the way Italians and Poles did, because they aren’t white.

In memory, we tend to forget how long it took waves of European immigrants to assimilate. Whites who can remember their grandparents speaking Hungarian at home are somehow appalled that Hispanic immigrants don’t instantly learn English, or that they form ethnic enclaves (like, say, Little Italy in New York). American Catholics may feel that immigrant Muslims are changing the essential Christian nature of their country, but they forget that America once saw itself as a Protestant nation, and many felt threatened by immigrant Catholics in precisely the same way. (Catholicism was viewed as a fundamentally authoritarian religion that could never adapt to republican America.)

In fact, Catholics from Ireland, Italy, Poland, and other European countries did change America. But America also changed Catholicism. The same thing is happening with Islam.

Anti-democracy. If shared genes are what makes us a people, if immigrants by definition can’t join us, and if my people are in danger of losing their land due to a demographic invasion, then democracy as it is currently practiced — where immigrants gain citizenship and become voters — is just part of the national suicide process. An invasion isn’t something that can be voted on, especially if the invaders are allowed to vote.

Worse, even before the invaders become the majority, democracy has been corrupted by those who hope to gain from the invasion and the “cheap labor, new consumers, and tax base” that it brings. So Tarrant has no love of democracy.

Democracy is mob rule, and the mob itself is ruled by our own enemies.

Until now, I’ve relegated comparisons to American politics to the footnotes. But this is where it needs to come into the foreground. Because several important Trumpian concepts have moved onto the stage:

  • the notion of a unified corporate/government “elite” whose interests are at odds with the American people
  • a fundamental disrespect for democracy
  • the righteousness of violent action if and when the wrong side wins elections.

Trump and his allies have not come out and said openly that democracy is bad, but the notion that gerrymandering, the Electoral College, purging legal voters from voter lists, and various forms of voter suppression are undemocratic carries very little weight with them. The myth that undocumented immigrants vote in large numbers, which circulates despite an almost total lack of evidence, persists as a stand-in for an unspoken underlying concern: that immigrants become citizens and vote legally.

Trump fairly regularly either encourages violence among his supporters or hints that violent action might follow his impeachment or defeat.

All of this makes sense if you believe that democracy is only legitimate as a way for a People to govern itself, and becomes illegitimate when a system designed for a People becomes corrupted by the votes of invaders.

Sex and gender. Tarrant’s manifesto is addressed almost entirely to White men, whom he urges to defend their homelands.

Weak men have created this situation and strong men are needed to fix it.

He has little to say about women, but the implications of his beliefs should be obvious: If the underlying problem is a low birthrate among whites, the ultimate fault lies with white women. Women who let their professional or creative ambitions distract them from motherhood, who practice birth control, abortion, or lesbianism — their failings aren’t just matters of personal morality any more, they’re threats to the survival of the race.

The closest Tarrant comes to addressing this is:

Likely a new society will need to be created with a much greater focus on family values, gender and social norms, and the value and importance of nature, culture, and race.

But it doesn’t take much imagination to picture this new society: It will have fewer opportunities for women, and less acceptance of women in roles other than motherhood. It will also discourage men from abandoning their procreative roles through homosexuality, and will in general support the “traditional value” of separate and unchanging gender roles.

It is easy to see the attraction of this ideology to a variety of crazies, including incels, who have themselves at times become violent terrorists. The same opportunities that have diverted women from motherhood have likewise made them more picky about the men they choose to procreate with, with the result that some men find themselves unable to have the active sex lives they feel they deserve. Incels are already overwhelmingly white, so the attraction of a white-nationalist ideology that would restrict women’s choices should be obvious.

Power and purpose. All of these positions enhance the power of groups that are already privileged: whites, the native-born, Christians, and men. They could be attractive to those groups on that cynical ground alone. But cynicism alone seldom succeeds for long, because the pure quest for power and advantage only inspires sociopaths. The rest may pursue that quest, but never without misgivings.

The charm of an ideology, though, is that it can give power-seeking a higher purpose: I seek these advantages not just for myself, but to save my people from annihilation!

The underground stream. Few American politicians openly embrace white nationalism as a label, even if their views align with it. Even Steve King disclaims the term, and Republicans who share many of his white-nationalist views have felt obligated to distance themselves from him.

At the same time, though, something is motivating them. It is hard to listen to Trump’s litany of falsehoods about the border without wondering what the real justification for his Wall is. Obviously it’s something he doesn’t think he can get away with saying in so many words.

Similarly, it’s hard to see what other ideology unifies the full right-wing agenda: anti-illegal-immigration, anti-legal-immigration, anti-democracy, anti-abortion, anti-birth-control, anti-women’s-rights, anti-LGBTQ, anti-Muslim, anti-black, and so on.

When asked about white nationalist terrorism after the Christchurch shooting, President Trump waved off the problem, saying: “It’s a small group of people.”

Perhaps. Or perhaps it is the ideology that dares not announce itself: Its followers just “know” the truth of it, but can’t say so because of “political correctness”. More and more, white nationalism — and the demographic fear at its root — looks like the underground stream that feeds all the various insanities of the Right.


[1] I discussed and rejected this notion a couple years ago in a piece called “Should I Have White Pride?” The artificiality of “white culture” becomes obvious to me when I start trying to imagine a White Culture Festival: What food would we serve? What traditional costumes would we wear? It makes sense to hold a German Festival or a Greek Festival, but a White Festival, not so much.

[2] The evidence for this impossibility is of the we-can’t-imagine-that variety. If you picture a Moroccan and an Estonian next to each other, they just seem different, at least to Tarrant and his target audience.

But of course, the same is true for any lands that are far apart, even within Europe. Italians seem different from Swedes, when you picture them, but somehow they are all white Europeans. To see if the concepts of whiteness and European-ness have any real substance, you’d want to check what happens at the boundaries. So better questions would be: Could a Greek become a Turk, or vice versa? Could a Moroccan became a Spaniard? Those transformations don’t seem nearly so difficult, and in fact are easier for me to imagine than a Spaniard becoming an Estonian.

But in fact, such transformations happen all the time, particularly here in the United States, where we have a long history of light-skinned blacks passing as white, to the point that after a few generations the shift may be forgotten. If you have a Greek-American immigrant living on one side of you and a Turkish-American immigrant on the other, you might have a hard time telling the difference, either racially or culturally. Both would likely have dark hair and make baklava and strong coffee. Both sets of children will likely be as American as yours.

[3] President Trump agrees with Tarrant about this. On the same day as the 50 murders — and, in fact, during a public appearance that began with his statement of support for New Zealand in dealing with these attacks — Trump announced his veto of the bipartisan Congressional resolution to terminate the national emergency that he intends to use to commandeer money to build his wall. Within a few paragraphs, he went from denouncing the “monstrous terror attacks” in New Zealand to echoing the attacker’s rhetoric.

People hate the word “invasion,” but that’s what it is. It’s an invasion of drugs and criminals and people.

[4] Several people have cited this and many other of Tarrant’s statements as examples of projection. Who, after all, has done more colonizing of “other peoples’ lands” than Europeans? Isn’t that how the US, New Zealand, and a bunch of other places became “White nations” to begin with?

Though accurate, I doubt this observation would unsettle Tarrant. “Guilt” here is a relative concept, and is not related to a universal morality. Of course peoples contest with each other for possession of lands in the evolutionary Us-against-Them struggle for survival and dominance. Of course native peoples should have regarded colonizing whites as invaders and tried to repel them.

[5] There’s a strong resonance here with the Trump administration’s family separation policy. Like Tarrant’s attacks, it is an intentional cruelty whose purpose is to deter future immigrants by threatening their children.

[6] Iowa Congressman Steve King disagrees. He tweeted:

[Dutch nationalist leader Geert] Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.

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Comments

  • Roger  On March 18, 2019 at 11:29 am

    Thanks for reading and digesting that manifesto. I’ve not the stomach for that.

  • Gina  On March 18, 2019 at 12:22 pm

    You have given insight into the reason conservatives tend to view abortion as a “white” issue–white women having abortions need to be stopped! when (I suspect) middle and upper class (white) women experience fewer unwanted pregnancies than poor (non-white) women do, and therefore require fewer abortions. On my Facebook feed, I have seen multiple white women tearfully proclaim that they will gladly take in any unwanted babies and adopt them if their mothers are considering abortion. I asked if the offer still stands if the babies are of a different race and are also born addicted to crack and suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome that will require serious medical care for years or maybe for life. I never received an answer, so I assume the offer is for clean, healthy white babies only.

    • George Washington Jr.  On March 18, 2019 at 6:59 pm

      I’ve also had (white) abortion rights opponents claim that abortion is “black genocide” because a higher proportion of black women have abortions, and repeat the false claim that Planned Parenthood’s founder Margaret Sanger was a “eugenicist” who supported the Ku Klux Klan. So it depends on what tack they want to pursue.

    • jh  On March 19, 2019 at 5:59 pm

      Let’s not pretend that white women are victims. They can be worse than their white supremacist male counterparts. Just look at feminism. The moment white women got what they wanted, they pretty much said “screw you” to the women of color. So yeah, black women can vote. But their lives are difficult because of white women in suburbia and elsewhere who benefit from their white skin.

      And of course, these same white women want the women of color to back them up when it comes to abortion rights or something like that because… they know they have the black women over a barrel.

      These white women teach their sons to be racists. They teach their daughters to be racist. Sure, we have a few “good white women”. But Doug Muder is a good white man.

      When women have children, they get more conservative. Women tend to support very dangerous institutions such as religious groups. They tend to be the models or the bait to catch disaffected white men/boys. Sure, these smug liberal white women will say they are for equal rights. But watch their reaction if you said “We need to pull a little more funding towards that school where all the minority kids go.” Suddenly, they won’t give a shit about doing the right thing even though their kid goes to a very nice school with very nice teachers and a very nice building with a load of facilities and extracurricular activities. They can’t deprive or pay higher taxes to help that “whore black woman’s” son get the same opportunity.

      It’s not that I’m being sexist. It’s that white women get away with their racism which I find absurd. Even in the movies, they’re the “Saint”. Just look at that Green Book scene where the wife offers the black men water. Afterwards, the husband throws those glasses away because they were “tainted” by black hands. See the setup? But why aren’t we asking this question – don’t birds of a feather flock together? Why do white women get a pass? (Sure, we can play the whole, white women are viewed as children trope as well. But that doesn’t excuse their crimes. From reading slave journals or their own words, it’s pretty obvious that the white women who ran those southern plantations were just as wicked as their male counterparts. https://www.history.com/news/white-women-slaveowners-they-were-her-property Why don’t we teach that?)

      Sorry for the off topic rant that pushed off your own excellent observation. But this trope of the saint white woman is a problem in both liberal and conservative circles. In conservative circles, women are property and we need to protect the womenfolk from the sexual foreign man. In liberal circles, white women get away with murder and then, can pull the “I’m a feminist card” as if that excuses their problematic positions on issues. (Hey, I’m a Hillary supporter. But did she really have to refer to black kids as superpredators? Is that what those black mothers thought about their kids? Is that what black mothers think about white kids? I’ve yet to hear a prominent black woman refer to white kids as superpredators despite the numerous mass shootings. It’s such a dehumanizing term.)

      • GJacq726  On March 23, 2019 at 8:57 am

        On your point about white conservative women not being victims, I think that’s a very complex cultural issue. However, it is not beyond me that it was white conservative women, not men, who stopped the passage of the ERA.

  • Kevyn Jacobs (@KevynJacobs)  On March 18, 2019 at 1:03 pm

    > *In fact, Catholics from Ireland, Italy, Poland, and other European countries did change America. But America also changed Catholicism. The same thing is happening with Islam.*

    I would love to read more about your thoughts on America changing Islam the way it changed Catholicism. Perhaps you could expound on how America impacted global Catholicism, and how it’s doing the same to global Islam, as the subject of a future featured article?

    • weeklysift  On March 18, 2019 at 7:47 pm

      I was thinking more in terms of American Catholicism.

    • GJacq726  On March 20, 2019 at 12:55 pm

      I happened to attend the opening course of a Harvard MOOC on Religious Literacy. One of the very first lessons explained how culture and religion are so intertwined that they affect and shape each other. It was something observed and noted in many exercises.

      Having lived in the US, Europe and Australia, and attended Mass in all countries, including on Air Force bases, I have long witnessed the effect of culture and community on the tone of the music and Homilies. We have serving our Parish now, a retired pre- Vatican Ii priest who can make many in our Parish uncomfortable with his more traditional views.

      In case that helps. Be well.

    • weeklysift  On March 23, 2019 at 8:03 am

      To explain in a little more detail, Catholics who came to America largely remained Catholics, but over time the way Catholicism was practiced in America took on a more American style, at least in my outsider’s view. For one thing, Catholics in America today are more likely to view their priests as advisors rather than as representatives of God’s authority. The trend that is sometimes denounced as “smorgasbord Catholicism”, where Catholics retain a Catholic identity, while making their own decisions about which doctrines they believe or practice, is very American. (Not that it doesn’t happen in other countries too sometimes.)

      I anticipate American Islam will find its own way to Americanize, and probably is already doing so. (I can’t claim to be well informed about the current state of Islam in America.) Anybody who wants Muslims to “assimilate” by becoming Baptists will be disappointed. But I am confident American Muslims will find their own accommodation between Americanism and Islam.

      • GJacq726  On March 23, 2019 at 8:52 am

        As an American Catholic, I feel your description is right on. In fact, I find it interesting that one can find in Catholicism both what I deem conservative and liberal approaches to the faith.

  • Philip Schutte  On March 18, 2019 at 6:44 pm

    Doug, First, thank you for your insightful analysis of our politics and culture.  I look forward each Monday to read your posts.  I

  • Lydia Spitzer  On March 19, 2019 at 10:01 am

    Well, Native Americans DID feel that whites were invaders and DID attempt to repel them, but that’s hardly likely to endear them to white nationalists.

    A friend of mine says “Never argue with the lunatic fringe,” and It is frustrating that beliefs of this type are so often proof against any kind of rational persuasion. No non-heuristic fact supports white nationalist contentions; genetic science has shown up our old concept of “race” for the outmoded and misunderstanding-based cultural construct that it is.

    White nationalism is in fact a legitimate spin-off of the legal, religious and social national framework that had to be built as soon as slavery was enshrined in the nation’s founding agreements, to provide all who benefited from the slave trade deniability of the justice of all arguments against the obscene immorality of slavery.

    The abolition of slavery did nothing to undo the skeins of tangled moral knots that had been created to protect slavery from critical scrutiny. The rich tradition of the denial of black humanity that their enslavement required, continued untouched, unlimited, unquestioned, and forms today the underlying structure not only for white nationalism, but also for white nationalism’s even more covert twin, institutionalized racism.

    • GJacq726  On March 23, 2019 at 9:02 am

      I see , too. I usually frame as the Confederacy Confederacy retreating to the Underground, never really going away..

  • DV Henkel-Wallace  On March 19, 2019 at 11:33 am

    I really enjoy these essays and thanks for parsing that manifesto, as I wouldn’t have the patience to and you write about some important claims.

    I just wanted to make a quick comment on how these things can act to move the terms of debate (so-called “Overton” window). You use terms in passing such as “In my view.. the essential nature of *the White race*. ” which implies the legitimacy of the murderer’s Weltanschauung — using “the” instead of “a” or “some”. Ditto “incels” instead of “self-described ‘incels’ or “so-called ‘incels'”

    I don’t mean this as a nit-pick about typos (surely the beam in my own eye is enormous!) but more to observe how, when we try to understand someone else, their underlying assumptions can easily start to slip into our own models. In fact I think that’s likley the reason for the importance of doctrinal rigidity, especially by extreme movements.

    • weeklysift  On March 23, 2019 at 7:44 am

      This is a tricky point that I often debate with myself. When I state arguments I don’t agree with, I try to do it in terms that the people who hold those views will recognize. (Otherwise I risk making strawman arguments.) That does carry the risk of normalizing their rhetoric.

  • GJacq726  On March 19, 2019 at 1:11 pm

    Nailed it.

  • Roger  On March 21, 2019 at 9:35 am

    In response to your post: https://www.rogerogreen.com/2019/03/21/fight-poverty-not-the-poor-white-genocide/

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