In wake of El Paso shooting, Fann missed her chance to condemn Allen’s toxic ‘great replacement’ beliefs

August 6, 2019 6:33 am

Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake. Screenshot via YouTube

Last week, I called out Senate President Karen Fann in this space for her silence in the wake of Snowflake Republican Sen. Sylvia Allen for lamenting that demographic shifts – caused by immigration from Latin America and different birthrates between Latino and white women – were putting America on the fast-track to destruction.

That silence was in contrast to her (eventual) stance on her former seatmate, Rep. David Stringer, who said very similar things that prominent Republicans correctly deemed racist. Fann was among those who denounced Stringer and demanded he resign from the legislature.

She broke her silence Monday morning, with a statement that would have been politically sensible (if not misleading, hypocritical and transparently partisan) had it been released on Friday. But issuing the same statement some 48 hours after a gunman targeted an El Paso Walmart is so tone-deaf as to be unbelievable. The suspected shooter traveled hundreds of miles to El Paso so he could murder Latinos because he believes they are destroying America.

Fann called the criticism of Allen “unwarranted and unfair,” and said it was little more than dirty politics.

“Sylvia is a kind and warm-hearted person who does not condone any form of bigotry or prejudice and I find it absurd for anyone to compare her to the former representative who resigned due to reported misconduct in previous years,” Fann said in her statement, referring to Stringer.

(It’s worth noting that Fann essentially concedes that Stringer didn’t lose the support of his GOP colleagues for his horrid racism, but for his horrid decades-old child sex abuse allegations.)

Hand-waving away Allen’s comments and dismissing the outrage they created as mere political opportunism is unconscionable after an attacker professing similar ideas planned and executed a mass murder in direct response to those ideas.

The alleged El Paso shooter wrote in a four-page manifesto that his attack was intended to kill Latinos, who he said are “invading” America and destroying the country. A core component of the beliefs he expressed was that whites are the victims of “the great replacement,” a conspiracy theory in which massive waves of immigration from non-white countries will result in the demographic replacement of white people.

Journalist and white supremacy expert Rosa Schwartzburg noted in The Guardian that this “replacement” ideology has been spreading quickly among the American far-right, and has been a motivation for mass killers worldwide.

These beliefs have proliferated in mass killer texts for the past eight years. They are generally understood as having begun with Anders Breivik, the Norwegian mass shooter whose 1,500-page manifesto expressed a fear of white ethnic replacement by migrants from the Middle East and North Africa. This same fear cropped up in the manifestos of several more mass killers in Europe, before making its way to the rambling screed published by the Christchurch shooter, which was titled The Great Replacement. The Christchurch manifesto begins with: “It’s the birthrates. It’s the birthrates. It’s the birthrates.” It was directly inspired by Breivik – and he, in turn, inspired the El Paso shooter.

The El Paso shooter begins his text by writing: “In general, I support the Christchurch shooter and his manifesto. This attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas. They are the instigators, not me. I am simply defending my country from cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by an invasion.”

In her July 15 speech at the Arizona Republican Party during an event honoring “Mormon Political Pioneers,” Allen spoke about how the demographics of America are changing – in her mind, for the worse.

“Another thing that Dr. Johnson talked about is the ‘Browning of America.’ That America is fast becoming … we’re going to look like South American countries very quickly,” she said, referring to Dr. James Johnson, a business professor at the University of North Carolina who studies demographics. 

Allen later explained that her reference to “South American countries” had nothing to do with race, but was instead about her fear that immigrants from socialist countries would bring socialism to America.

I could maybe buy that argument had she not immediately segued into a discussion about birthrates and how whites were being demographically replaced.

“The median age of a white woman is 43. The median age of a Hispanic woman is 27,” she said. “We are not reproducing ourselves, the birthrates. But here’s what I see is the issue: It’s because of immigration.”

See any similarity between that and what the suspected El Paso mass killer espoused?

This is not to say that Sylvia Allen’s actions are in any way comparable to those of the man who allegedly used an AK-47 variant to mow down Latino shoppers – they unequivocally aren’t. She has worked within the governmental and political framework, while the killer committed a heinous act of violence.

But words have power. So do ideas. And the ideas that motivated the racist young man in Texas are the same ideas that are routinely fed to Fox News viewers, and they’re the same ideas that Sylvia Allen told her fellow Republicans last month.

These ideas are paramount to Allen: She believes that no less than the fate of America is at stake. 

“There’s nothing worse than sitting and watching your country die,” she said later in that July 15 speech. “We’ve got to understand who we’re fighting, what we’re fighting, what is their goals, what is it they’re going to do?

“We’ve got to know all of that so we can save our country.”

Allen advocates saving the country “kindly” and “correctly,” as she said near the end of her speech. You’d be hard-pressed to find many people at the Capitol who wouldn’t use the word “kind” to describe how she conducts herself as a legislator. 

But make no mistake – the beliefs that animate her proclamation that the United States of America is on the verge of destruction are virtually indistinguishable from those that animate racist mass killers.

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Jim Small
Jim Small

Jim Small is a native Arizonan and has covered state government, policy and politics since 2004, with a focus on investigative and in-depth policy reporting, first as a reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times, then as editor of the paper and its prestigious sister publications, the Yellow Sheet Report and Arizona Legislative Report. Under his guidance, the Capitol Times won numerous state, regional and national awards for its accountability journalism and probing investigations into state government operations.