Distribution of white supremacist materials—from pamphlets to signage to bulletins—spiked by more than 120 percent between 2018 and 2019, says a new report published by the Anti-Defamation League.
Released today (h/t the Associated Press), the report from the ADL’s Center on Extremism tracked propaganda incidents across 49 states. In total, the anti-bias group counted 2,713 cases of white supremacist groups distributing fliers, posters, and banners last year. In 2018, the ADL documented 1,214 cases of propaganda.
While the ADL has only been tracking the circulation of propaganda material since 2017, there is a clear trajectory. Between 2017 and 2018, distribution increased by 180 percent. 2019 marked the second year in a row that circulation of white supremacist material more than doubled.
This propaganda stands apart from hate crimes and attacks like graffiti and vandalism, which the ADL has also been monitoring. No one geographic region was insulated from this trend, either. According to its numbers, distribution of white supremacist materials occurred most often in California, Texas, New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio, Virginia, Kentucky, Washington, and Florida.
Previously, the ADL highlighted college campuses as a hotbed of this propaganda activity, with white supremacist groups looking to swell their ranks with young (white) people.
How these pro-white supremacist messages are being crafted is also notable, says Oren Segal, director of the League’s Center on Extremism.
In an interview with the AP, he referenced more subtle messaging that emphasized “patriotism” and “empowerment,” which can be taken as evidence that these groups are trying “to make their hate more palatable for a 2020 audience.”
Among the groups behind this propaganda push is Patriot Front, with messages like “one nation against invasion” and “America First.” College campuses were a prime target for the group last fall.
The surge in propaganda accompanies a comparatively quiet year for white supremacist organizations in 2019, compared to 2017 and 2018. While 2017 was marked by public, high-profile, far-right demonstrations—including the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va.—this softer focus racism could arguably do more to attract new membership than headline-grabbing events.
Segal called this specific type of propaganda “a tactic to try to get eyes onto their ideas in a way that’s cheap, and that brings it to a new generation of people who are learning how to even make sense out of these messages.”