Before he walked into a Walmart and murdered 22 people, the El Paso shooter posted a racist manifesto explaining that he was going to murder people because he was “simply defending my country from cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by an invasion.” He didn’t write that in a vacuum—he wrote it as right-wing mass media outlets like Fox News and Sinclair Broadcast Group embrace that language that was formerly restricted to more niche white supremacist media.
A New York Times “review of popular right-wing media platforms found hundreds of examples of language, ideas and ideologies that overlapped with the mass killer’s written statement.” For instance, “The fact of the matter is that this is an attempted invasion of our country—period,” said Sinclair’s Boris Epshteyn, speaking, of course, of migrants fleeing violence and poverty. “Their political success does not depend on good policies but on demographic replacement, and they’ll do anything to make sure it happens,” said Fox News’ Tucker Carlson.
This isn’t anecdote or cherry-picking, the Times reports: “Before the first groups of Central American migrants received heavy news media coverage in 2018, words like ‘invaders’ or ‘invasion’ were rarely used by American outlets. In the last year, the use of such terms has surged, with references to an immigrant ‘invasion’ appearing on more than 300 Fox News broadcasts.”
It’s not just the media, of course. It’s also the Republican Party, and whether Republican lawmakers are simply following Donald Trump’s lead or are going where they always wanted to go anyway, it’s not just Trump.
Even if the El Paso shooter had these ideas in his head long before the rise of Trump and the Trumpification of the right-wing media and the Republican Party—where Trumpification translates to the mainstreaming of white supremacist language and ideas—he committed mass murder in the context of this language and these ideas being everywhere, and supported by our society’s most powerful. And Fox News and Sinclair and Trump aren’t stopping. The next killer is already out there, being bombarded by this racism and absorbing the idea that invasion and cultural replacement are real and urgent problems that someone must act against.