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Calling London

Mike Johnson’s Greatest Fear

Appearing virtually at a London conference, the new speaker of the House warned of the “ultimate decline of our civilization.”

Mike Johnson opens his mouth to speak.
Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post/Getty Images
Newly elected House Speaker Representative Mike Johnson speaks to reporters and members of the media after a meeting with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Capitol Hill on October 26.

For his first international speech as speaker of the House, Louisiana Congressman Mike Johnson opted for a short video address to the London kickoff of a newish British group called the Alliance for Responsible Citizenship, or ARC. Johnson, who sits on ARC’s advisory board, said society faces a “civilizational moment.”

“If we answer this question the right way,” he said, “it will lead to renewal, rather than replacement or the ultimate decline of our civilization.” He said something similar a few days earlier in another promo video posted to ARC’s YouTube channel. We stand, he said, in “a time of great decision when a civilization loses its critical connection with its foundational principles. And it will either renew itself or be replaced and suffer ultimate decline.”

To those acquainted with right-wing Reddit forums, the white supremacist riots in Charlottesville in 2017, or reactionary thought more generally, Johnson’s words might seem eerily familiar—reminiscent of the so-called “great replacement theory.” Espoused in one form or another by mass shooters, Tucker Carlson, and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, the theory holds that white Americans and Europeans are being systematically replaced by nonwhite immigrants.

In both videos, though, Johnson credits his formulation to his “friend,” Os Guinness, a self-described social critic whose website foregrounds that he is the great-great-great grandson of the Irish brewer Arthur Guinness. The younger Guinness spoke in person at ARC’s conference in London this week. ARC has financial ties to the Dubai-based Legatum Group, which co-owns right-wing cable outlet GB News. ARC’s CEO most recently served as head of the Legatum Institute, which was influential in pushing for Brexit. Lobster enthusiast Jordan Peterson is involved as well. On The Joe Rogan Experience, Peterson said ARC was focused on putting forward a “pro-human view on environmental stewardship,” as well as mounting a defense of “long term, committed, monogamous, heterosexual relationships,” among other right-wing bugaboos. As Politico reported today, ARC invited presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy and State Financial Officers Foundation CEO Derek Kreifels to talk about their crusade against environment, social and governance investing principles.

The first entry in the “Research” section of ARC’s website features an essay by Guinness titled “Our Civilizational Moment.” The West, he argues in language strikingly similar to Johnson’s, “now faces a critical moment and contest. It will either experience a genuine and profound renewal of its ideas and ideals, it will replace those ideas and ideals with different but equally powerful ones, or it will decline beyond hope of recovery.”

Aside from being Johnson’s friend, Guinness is a frequent speaker at Faith & Law in Washington D.C.—an Evangelical organization dedicated to bringing “a wide variety of distinguished speakers” to members of Congress and Hill staffers. In the Rayburn House Office Building last September, Guinness described a “war of the worlds,” meaning “other ideologies which are not only against the Christian faith emphatically; they are also against the traditional understanding of the West and want to replace it altogether.” He divides those threats into three categories: the red wave (Marxism), the rainbow wave (“the LGBTQ revolution”), and the Black wave (“Islamic radicalism”). Guinness goes on to ascribe mass shootings to “fatherless loner[s].”

It’s not so hard to see why Johnson and Guinness get along. The now speaker of the House has written in favor of criminalizing gay sex. Asked about the Green New Deal in 2019, he described it as a Trojan horse for socialism, “an evil that has been responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of people, with Marxism at its root. All of those things are not American.”

Johnson was a relatively unknown backbencher before becoming speaker. In the past week, reporters have been slowly piecing together his biography and views, which include both election and climate denial. It’s not surprising that someone who made his name as a right-wing litigator would pal around with the likes of Guinness. It also doesn’t seem likely his comments will make much of a splash: Both are well within the bounds of the mainstream GOP.