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A few weeks ago, a rowdy crowd of tens of thousands gathered in Paris to cheer on Eric Zemmour, a right-wing politician who has run a virulently anti-immigrant presidential campaign. Just months before, while on the campaign trail, he claimed that child migrants — many of them from Africa and the Middle East — are “thieves, killers and rapists”.

Zemmour is unlikely to fulfil his political ambitions. But he has been successful in mobilising support for “the great replacement”, a strange conspiracy theory that is regularly trotted out by American talk-show host Tucker Carlson and other nationalist figures globally. The essence of the theory is that elites are colluding against white people, with the intention of replacing them with Africans and people from the Middle East — a “genocide by substitution”...

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