On today’s episode of the 5 Things podcast: ‘Replacement theory’ fuels extremists and shooters
National correspondent on extremism Will Carless reports. Plus, the latest on the Buffalo shooting, there was another shooting in California, an independent probe finds Israel shot journalist Shireen Abu Akleh and the European Union scraps airplane mask requirements.
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Buenos dias. I’m Taylor Wilson and this is 5 Things you need to know Monday, the 16th of May, 2022. Today, “replacement theory” and its role in mass shootings. Plus the latest from a journalist-killing in the West Bank and more.
Here are some of the top headlines:
- Two people are dead and three others injured after a Houston flea market shooting yesterday. Officials said the shooting came out of an altercation.
- NATO officials say that Russia’s invasion in Ukraine is losing momentum. The comments came as top NATO diplomats, including US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, met yesterday to discuss more aid for Ukraine.
- And most of Shanghai is now out of its strict weeks-long lockdown. Officials say 15 of the Chinese city’s 16 districts, have eliminated COVID-19 virus transmission.
A conspiracy theory called “replacement theory” is fueling extremism and mass shootings, according to experts. National Correspondent Will Carless, covers extremism for USA TODAY. He talked with 5 Things producer PJ Elliott about the theory and its connection to mass shootings in the United States.
There are various degrees of replacement theory, but essentially what it means is that it’s the idea that white people, essentially the white population in the United States and Europe, are being somehow replaced by people of color. And real true replacement theory goes a step further. It says not only that this sort of replacement is going on, but that it is being orchestrated by a sort of a shadowy cabal. Usually, there’s a sort of an antisemitic idea that there are Jewish people involved somehow in sort of orchestrating this change. But that’s the idea, that white people are being replaced by people of color and that that’s being systematically and purposefully done.
If you look at the worst domestic terrorism attacks over the last few years, with the exception of the attack in Las Vegas that was motivated by something else, most of them have been committed by people who were involved and are concerned about replacement theory. So, for example, Patrick Crusius, who killed 23 people in El Paso a couple of years ago, had made a manifesto that he called the great replacement. When Robert Bowers shot 11 people in 2018, he had talked about replacement theory in the hours leading up to the attack.
And now we see this young man, again, basically spewing the same nonsense, the same conspiracy theories, and going out and committing mass murder. I mean, this is, without a doubt, the number one driving force sort of philosophy, conspiracy theory, that’s leading people to go out and kill people in this country.
Is it gaining more momentum, becoming more popular in kind of seeing into the mainstream, or is it still like an underground type thing?
No, it’s very much in the mainstream. So this used to be a theory that was relegated to sort of the far right wing, to the extreme right wing, to sort of white supremacist message boards. And what we’ve seen over the last five or six years, I’d say, is an absolute mainstreaming of rhetoric replacement theory. You see Fox News commentators like Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham going back and repeating this trope again and again. You see politicians on the far right, and even mainstream politicians, who make these claims and sort of echo these theories. It’s really everywhere. I mean, it’s become a sort of a mainstay of the conservative end of the GOP. It’s become a mainstay talking point that white people are being purposefully replaced in this country. And that’s a particularly noxious thing, because that makes people who are on the extreme, it gives them legitimacy. They look, and they see the number one anchor, in terms of popularity in this country, repeating these lies, this nonsense, and they believe it to be true. So yeah, very much becoming more and more mainstream and more concernedly so.
Check out Will’s full story in today’s episode description.
The FBI today will continue to investigate the Buffalo, New York supermarket shooting that killed 10 people and injured three. And federal officials are investigating the incident as a hate crime and racially motivated violent extremism. Buffalo police said that 11 of the 13 people who were shot at the Tops Friendly Markets were Black. And the suspect who was taken into custody at the scene is white. 18 year old Payton Gendron has been charged with murder and officials say they will consider additional charges in the coming days. The suspect appeared in court later on Saturday.
Should be a copy of the charges in front of you. Do you understand that, sir?
Yes, sir. I understand the charges.
OK. And can you afford an attorney?
We would respectfully request that the defendant be remanded without bail.
One of those killed was 72-year-old Katherine Massey. Her friend of hers, Steve Carolson struggled to make sense of it.
I mean, she was sweet. Kat bought me presents on my birthday on Christmas. She always came here and checked up on us. I would do lawn work for her. She’d give me money for it. She was the last person who deserved something like this. I definitely feel like people all over should have open eyes and ears to something like this, because it could happen to anybody, anywhere, at anytime. These people were just shopping. They went to go get food to feed their families.
Yesterday morning, Voice Buffalo and other equity advocacy groups held a vigil near the shooting scene. Reverend Mark Blue, head of the Buffalo NAACP, called for unity among residents of all races and said everyone must continue to support victims of what he called, “a heinous act of racism.”
Another shooting came yesterday at a Southern California church. Police said a gunman entered the Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods around 1:30 local time, and opened fire, killing one person and injuring five more. But a group of churchgoers managed to pin the gunman to the ground and tie his legs with an extension cord. Orange County Undersheriff Jeff Hallock.
Undersheriff Jeff Hallock:
One person is confirmed deceased at the scene. Four others are critical and one other victim sustained minor injuries. The injured victims were taken to local hospitals. We currently do not have a status of the injured four that are in critical condition. The incident happened at lunch, at a lunch banquet following the morning service. And again, to remind you, this is all very preliminary information. We believe a group of churchgoers detained him and hog-tied his legs with an extension cord and confiscated at least two weapons from him. He was detained when the deputies arrived. That group of churchgoers displayed what we believe is exceptional heroism and bravery in intervening to stop the suspect. They undoubtedly prevented additional injuries and fatalities.
The suspect is an Asian man in his 60s. Authorities are investigating why the attacker targeted the church. It had about 30 to 40 people inside at the time, most of whom were Taiwanese. It’s not clear whether the incident might be considered a hate crime.
Several research and human rights groups have launched their own investigations into Al Jazeera journalist, Shareen Abu Aqleh’s death. She was killed last week while covering an Israeli military raid in the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank. The Palestinian American had long reported on hardships of Palestinian life under Israeli rule, now in its sixth decade. Palestinian officials and witnesses, including journalists who were with her, say she was killed by Israeli army fire. The military initially said that Palestinian gunmen may have been responsible, but they’ve since backtracked and say she may have been hit by errant Israeli fire.
Israel has called for a joint investigation with Palestinians, though Palestinian officials have refused, saying they don’t trust Israel. Human rights groups say Israel has a poor record of investigating wrongdoing by its security forces.
Meanwhile, Bellingcat, a Dutch-based international consortium of researchers, published an analysis over the weekend of video and audio evidence gathered on social media. Material came from both Israeli and Palestinian sources. And the group found that while gunman and Israeli soldiers were both in the area at the time, evidence supported witness accounts that Abu Aqleh was killed by Israeli fire. But the lead researcher of the analysis said it cannot be 100% certain without evidence like the bullet used, weapons used by the army, and GPS locations of Israeli forces.
The European Union will no longer require masks on plans and in airports beginning today. The European Union Aviation Safety Agency and the European Center for Disease Control said they hoped the joint decision would help normalize air travel for passengers and crew. But the two agencies did recommend that airlines keep systems for passenger locator information on standby, in case there are new health crises in the future. Rules for masks still do vary by airline, if they fly to or from destinations with different guidelines. The requirement for masks on planes had been in place for about two years. Flight attendants and other employees have been the ones to enforce the rules, creating tension at times. And just this month, German airline Lufthansa did not allow a large group of Jewish travelers to board a plane because other travelers, who were Jewish, refused to wear masks.
Meanwhile, a decline in COVID-19 cases is leading to countries across Europe to roll back pandemic restrictions of all kinds. Germany said last week it was disbanding a crisis task force appointed to lead the official response, and the French government announced that people will no longer have to wear face masks in any form of public transport, beginning this week.
Thanks for listening to 5 Things. You can find us seven mornings a week on whatever your favorite podcast app is. Thanks to PJ Elliott for his great work on the show. And I’m back tomorrow with more than 5 Things from USA TODAY.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism