White supremacist propaganda soared in 2022, report finds

The report, by the Anti-Defamation League, said three far-right groups were responsible for the large majority of the hateful fliers, banners and graffiti.

(Susan Walsh | AP) People attend the "NO FEAR: Rally in Solidarity with the Jewish People" event in Washington, Sunday, July 11, 2021, co-sponsored by the Alliance for Israel, Anti-Defamation League, American Jewish Committee, B'nai B'rith International and other organizations.

Antisemitic leaflets dropped at private homes in Southern California. Flyers saying, “Stand Up White Man,” left in driveways in suburban Indiana. A laser projector casting hateful messages outside a football stadium in Florida.

Propaganda efforts by white supremacist groups soared in 2022 as such incidents reached a five-year high across the country, according to a new report by the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism.

In the report, released Thursday morning, researchers for the ADL say they have identified more than 6,750 separate occasions last year on which white supremacist organizations distributed racist, antisemitic or otherwise hateful flyers, stickers, banners, images, posters or graffiti. That is a nearly 40% rise in similar incidents compared with 2021 and a more than fivefold increase since 2018, according to the report.

Propaganda by hate groups serves not only to frighten and harass those who see it, but can also act as a powerful recruiting tool. Moreover, it can desensitize people to acts of aggression against victims — and even inspire violence in its viewers, scholars of political violence say.

While most propaganda efforts by white supremacist groups are targeted at local communities and are often limited in scope, in many cases they seek to capitalize on more prominent events. The ADL has previously pointed out that some groups piggybacked on hateful behavior last year by rapper Kanye West, who made a torrent of antisemitic remarks and attended a highly publicized dinner in November with Nick Fuentes, a white supremacist leader, and former President Donald Trump.

“There’s no question that white supremacists and antisemites are trying to terrorize and harass Americans and have significantly stepped up their use of propaganda as a tactic to make their presence known in communities nationwide,” Jonathan Greenblatt, the chief executive of the ADL, said in a statement that accompanied the report.

While the ADL’s researchers determined that at least 50 separate organizations distributed white supremacist propaganda last year, three groups — Patriot Front, Goyim Defense League and the White Lives Matter movement — were responsible for more than 90% of the incidents. While these groups are not household names, as are other far-right organizations like the Proud Boys or the Oath Keepers militia, they have steadily promoted their racist, antisemitic and white supremacist messages by a variety of means in recent years, including at marches, rallies and public harassment campaigns.

Patriot Front, which promotes the idea of a white ethno-state in the United States, was responsible for the majority of the propaganda efforts last year, according to the report. It often cloaked its overtly white supremacist ideas in softer and more palatable phrases like “Reclaim America” and “One Nation Against Immigration.”

The group broke away from another organization, Vanguard America, in August 2017 after the bloody “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Last year, it was involved in a number of public marches, including one that targeted a local Pride event in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and resulted in the arrests of dozens of its members, including its founder, Thomas Rousseau.

Goyim Defense League has sought in recent years to spread an especially vitriolic version of antisemitism both online and in public. In October, after West, now known as Ye, made a series of antisemitic statements, Goyim Defense League and other groups, capitalizing on the publicity, used a laser projector to display a message on the outside of a football stadium in Jacksonville, Florida, reading, “Kanye is right about the Jews.”

The White Lives Matter network, which first emerged in 2015 as the Black Lives Matter movement was quickly gaining prominence, engaged in propaganda efforts last year that included distributing stickers with a QR code linking to its Telegram account, according to the report. The network also passed out literature about the “great replacement” conspiracy theory, which holds that leftists are purposefully seeking to change the racial balance of the country by encouraging immigration.

The group scored a victory in October when West appeared at an event during Paris Fashion Week wearing a “White Lives Matter” T-shirt. While the stunt cost West several lucrative marketing contracts, it also provided immeasurable publicity to the white supremacist network that coined the phrase.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.