February 28, 2020

ADL Report: Record High White Supremacist Propaganda Efforts in 2019

A Feb. 11 Anti-Defamation League (ADL) report revealed that white supremacist propaganda distribution in the United States reached a record high in 2019.

The ADL recorded 2,713 instances of white supremacist propaganda (distribution of leaflets, flyers, posters, banners and stickers) in 2019 — an average of more than seven instances per day. There were 1,214 such instances in 2018.

ADL Center on Extremism Senior Investigative Researcher Joanna Mendelson told the Journal that California had 438 incidents in 2019, the highest of any state. She said this was because of white nationalists pushing back against the state’s left-of-center politics, noting that white supremacists use propaganda distribution “to rail against their enemies and their perceived threats.

“A lot of the universities are perceived as bastions of liberal inculcation and so part of the leafletting and targeting campuses speaks to the fact that [white supremacists are] railing against this liberal mindset,” Mendelson said.

On college campuses, there were 630 such incidents in 2019, nearly doubling the 320 figure from the previous year. The incidents occurred on 433 campuses, but noted there were only one or two instances per campus.

“Despite their increased efforts, white supremacists seem to have failed to gain a sustained foothold on campus,” the report stated.

Meanwhile, off-campus incidents rose from 894 in 2018 to 2,083 in 2019, an increase of 133%. According to the report, “Propaganda allows white supremacists to maximize media and online attention, while limiting the risk of individual exposure, negative media coverage, arrests and public backlash that often accompanies more public events.” The report went on to say, “The barrage of propaganda, which overwhelmingly features veiled white supremacist language with a patriotic slant, is an effort to normalize white supremacists’ message and bolster recruitment efforts while targeting minority groups including Jews, Blacks, Muslims, non-white immigrants and the LGBTQ community.”

“At the core, white supremacists believe that a rising tide of color is seeking to destroy their existence and that there are all of these external forces that are trying to create their demise.” — Joanna Mendelson

The report highlighted examples such as posters featuring slogans like “Embrace Your Identity” and “Defend America.” Mendelson said that white supremacists strategically choose such slogans to make it sound as if they’re simply defending Western civilization.

“At the core, white supremacists believe that a rising tide of color is seeking to destroy their existence and that there are all of these external forces that are trying to create their demise,” she said.

The report also noted that three white supremacist groups constituted 90% of the incidents: American Identity Movement (previously Identity Europa), New Jersey Heritage Association, and Patriot Front. The report states that Patriot Front was responsible for 66% of the incidents and promulgates white nationalism under the banner of “American Nationalism.” Mendelson pointed out that 100 members of Patriot Front marched in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 8 carrying American flags.

According to the ADL’s Hate, Extremist, Anti-Semitism, Terrorism (H.E.A.T.) map, there were seven instances of white supremacist propaganda in Los Angeles in 2019. Patriot Front was responsible for four of them, including propaganda at Cal State Northridge in September stating, “Money does not rule you” and “Reject poison.” The American Identity Movement was behind the other three.

Mendelson said that while the ADL report helps quantify the rising instances of white supremacist propaganda in the U.S., it doesn’t quantify white supremacist propaganda online, where most recruitment takes place.

“The virtual space,” she said, “is where we see a lot of the engagement, the indoctrination and the radicalization, and together this creates this larger picture of a rising trend of intolerance.”