By: Laura Vitelli
December 8 2022
There is no reasonable basis on which to interpret the census results as evidence of a Great Replacement.
Following the publication of data from the U.K.'s latest national census, several right-wing social media commentators and groups have made inflammatory remarks about the demographic shifts revealed by the data. One post on Twitter has been shared and reposted across platforms. The tweet cites the census results and states that between 1991 and 2021, the "White British" proportion of the U.K. population has fallen from 95 percent to 74.4 percent. It then invokes the Great Replacement theory in a hashtag and claims that the "Political mainstream is responsible."
Claims that relate the census results to the Great Replacement theory are inflammatory interpretations of the reported demographic shifts that rely on the idea that the trends over the past decade will continue in the future. The U.K. based advocacy group Hope Not Hate has previously explained the problems with this assumption: "An increase or decline in the birth rate of one group or another does not necessitate its continued increase or decline in the long term, nor does an influx of non-European migrants into Europe necessitate that this will continue at that rate or grow further still in the future." As such, there is no reasonable basis for interpreting the census results as evidence of a Great Replacement.
The Great Replacement concept was first disseminated in 2011 by French author Renaud Camus, whose book "Le Grande Remplacement" made the argument that the population of white European countries was experiencing a demographic and cultural "replacement" of white Europeans with non-white peoples through mass migration, demographic growth, and a drop in the birth rate.
Invocations of the Great Replacement theory have the potential to incite people to violence. Far-right extremists and terrorists have cited Camus' theory since its initial dissemination. Brenton Tarrant, the perpetrator of the 2019 terror attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, used "The Great Replacement" as the title for his manifesto. Payton Gendron, the gunman responsible for the mass shooting in a Buffalo, New York grocery store on May 14, 2022, did not directly mention the theory by name in his own manifesto but explicitly addressed what he saw as "the complete racial and cultural replacement of the European people."
Many complex factors influence demographic shifts, and on such complicated topics, reductive interpretations of recent trends are unreliable predictions of the future. There is no reasonable basis on which to interpret the census results as evidence of a Great Replacement. Therefore, we have marked this claim as false.