With this month’s far-right attack in Buffalo, there was a lot of discussion in the popular media and amongst policymakers that seemed to assume that ‘The Great Replacement’ was a new idea. Indeed, the core elements of this kind of cultural and demographic panic, and the resultant resentment, are deeply rooted in far-right ideology, even as this specific terminology may be relatively recent. As Lawrence Rosenthal notes in his Empire of Resentment (2020), much of this feeling of dispossession can be traced back several decades. As political developments threatened social hierarchy and power relations, and white heterosexual men benefitted the most from the conventional definitions of race, gender, identity, and culture, many responded with fear and anger towards the equality movements that threatened and marginalised their normative ways of life.
Because many believe that the country has been taken away from them politically, socially, and culturally, substantiated by a real demographic shift, those who hold this perspective see anything supportive of these changes to the status quo as a threat.
In more recent years, far-right thinkers have pushed two related ideas: the ‘Great Replacement’, and the concept of ‘White Genocide’. The ‘Great Replacement’ was coined by Renaud Camus, a white-nationalist and conspiracy theorist, who has suggested that a ‘global elite’ are conspiring to replace White Europeans with non-Europeans. Camus popularised this concept in his book, Le Grand Replacement (2011), and it is now a staple of far-right discourse. The second theory, ‘White Genocide’, which posits that the White race is ‘dying’ due to a deliberate plot by sinister elites to increase non-white immigration and forced assimilation.
Even though these concepts seem relatively new, the violent far-right has been consistently pushing them for decades and, as we show below, are most prominent in their movement’s music. Despite not being explicitly named ‘Great Replacement’, or being referred to as ‘White Genocide’, the far-right has reiterated, regurgitated, and re-introduced these ideas continuously through its prolific musical output both online and offline. The online space has allowed a continuum for the right-wing music scene and has been a fundamental part of the monetisation and cultural stability of the wider right-wing movement.
The Role of Hate Music
Early far-right country music, for instance, often stated that Blacks were criminals and should be sent back to Africa and suggested that non-white immigration into their communities was an intentional way of undermining the cultural well-being of Whites. This was especially the case in the 1960s with the emergence of Johnny Rebel, an overtly racist country singer who performed songs in support of the white supremacist ideology. However, in the late 1970s, and into the early 80s, the music shifted from pure racial hatred and became more straightforwardly political. In a musical genre called Rock Against Communism (RAC), the lyrical themes incorporated notions of Antisemitism, anti-communism, and racism built around White supremacist ideology. In fact, one of the early proponents of this genre, ‘Skrewdriver’, a British band, often used explicit lyrics to indicate the perceived problems. In a 1987 song titled When the Boats come in, they state:
They riot on the British streets; they’re burning down our land
But the fools in government put money in their hands
Give them money, give them jobs, ignore the British Whites
We won’t stand and watch our land be taken without a fight
N****r n****r out out! 4x
We’ve got to love this land of ours, and fight to keep it white
Never going to give it up, ‘cos we know we’re in the right
And if they try to take it we will fight them to the death
And in the end, the White man wins, ‘cos there won’t be no rest.
Skrewdriver also penned music which spoke of the loss of freedom for Whites due the communist regimes in Europe and wrote lyrics in support of White South Africans and the notorious violent Afrikaner Resistance Movement (AWB), an outright White supremacist group. These songs are still widely available on numerous Internet platforms, including mainstream platforms such as Spotify, Bitchute and YouTube. The music is also available on lesser-known platforms such as NSM88 right music portal, and the RAC Forum. Skrewdriver was not directly involved in any violent terrorist acts, though they were associated with the transnational violent far-right group Blood and Honour. However, a Christian Identity American RAC group, ‘Day of the Sword’, were directly involved in a string of armed robberies in the 1990s, and their lyrics reference the loss of white identity due to foreign rapists and murderers. In a 1998 song titled Casualties, they state:
Our country holds new Aryan graves
Those murdered by its former slaves
A tearful mother cries for her son.
Killed by a n****r the swarthy one
A daughter defiled her father’s pain
Raped by a s**c illegal alien
The same old stories on the news at eleven
Beloved souls return to heaven
Victims of the non-white horde.
Casualties of an unseen war.
The Day of the Sword album also contains an excerpt by the revered white nationalist Louis Beam, who explicitly states that the greatest threats to the white race are the corrupt government, immigration, and the Jews. Most bands contain similar themes in their music. For instance, Brutal Attack, another UK band, often expresses their dismay for the government and the (assumed Jewish) ‘media’. In a 1986 song titled Freedom, they state:
Freedom from press lies and government betrayal
They’ve joined forces together and now my country’s running off the rails.
Accordingly, this type of sentiment has always been a toned-down gathering point for those not interested in the more extreme rhetoric of the movement. In addition to anti-government and anti-media rhetoric, bands also tend to focus on White identity and cultural genocide. To specify, Fortress, a White-power band from Australia, has penned several songs around these ideas and concepts. In a 2000 song titled Loss of Identity, they state:
The new world order tightens the coils. Government sanctioned genocide against our kind. All we did was wrong; equality dogma sets it right. Massive immigration the theft of our birthright!
Wake in fright to see all the matters, all we cherish, torn and tattered! Loss of Identity! Loss of Identity! Into oblivion caught in a daze, vision lost to death’s embrace.
Culture of guilt and rejection of our past, loss of all substance ethos aside its cast for a decadent life moral decay caught in the death roll and still we delay!
This concept is also explicit in the song ‘Ode to a Dying People’, by the Canadian band, RAHOWA (Racial Holy War). However, the band, in songs like Ode to a Dying People from 1995, call for direct action:
Disease encroaching on all I hold dear, somehow, I gotta [sic] get my soul outta [sic] here. Heart of agony, faint burning hope, I’m finding it hard to try to cope…
The greatest race to ever walk the earth, dying a slow death with insane mirth. The tomb has been prepared, our race betrayed, White man, fight the flight towards the grave…
Most bands contain similar rhetoric about the end, how the white race has lost everything to the ‘other’, and how there is a need to fight back. The white race must launch a kind of racial holy war in order to stop the bleeding, so to speak. Song lyrics often revere those who have already fallen for the cause. One of the most prominent figures is Robert Jay Matthews, a white nationalist terrorist who robbed banks and eventually died in a shootout with the FBI in the early 1980s.
There is a tremendous number of overlapping themes in relation to grievances and feelings of dispossession found within the far-right music scene. The lyrics are explicit and to the point, clearly delineating the problem, the cause of the problem, and calling for renewed white consciousness to help address it. Despite the recent assumption that great replacement narratives and white genocide theories are relatively new, this is not the case. These ideas have been continuously used within the realm of white-nationalist political music and are quite easily found on numerous online platforms.
The lyrics repeat the same tropes, cite the same falsehoods, and make the same generalisations. They add a level of adrenaline-laced urgency to the perceived plight of white people, and become the literal soundtrack to the movement. As scholars of the far-right try to make sense of the movement as it exists, and is mainstreamed, today, the broader cultural output should be kept front and centre. As Cynthia Miller-Idriss, Kirsten Dyck, and others have so aptly noted, the cultural output of these movements is fundamentally important to their success and normalisation.
Brad Galloway is the Coordinator at the Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism. Brad has a wealth of experience from his work in the countering and preventing violent extremism and terrorism space, and his more recent work in intervention and casework with NGOs such as Life After Hate and the Evolve program at the Organization for the Prevention of Violence (OPV).
Jamie R. Noulty holds an MA in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies from Simon Fraser University, and is currently in the Cultural Studies PhD Program at Queens University. His research and work focus are on gendered violence, masculinity, post-conflict, extremism, and emerging men’s studies.
Amarnath Amarasingam is an Assistant Professor in the School of Religion and is cross-appointed to the Department of Political Studies, at Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada. He is also a Senior Fellow with the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation.