There was a significant increase in white supremacist propaganda efforts last year, according to a new report by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) released Tuesday.
The ADL recorded 1,187 incidents of white supremacist propaganda in the United States in 2018, a 182% increase up from 421 incidents in 2017. Those incidents include alt-right groups Identity Evropa and Patriot Front posting fliers and hanging banners to recruit members and spread racist, anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim messages.
“Hate groups were emboldened in 2018, but their increasing reliance on hate leafleting indicates that most of their members understand this is a fringe activity and are unwilling to risk greater public exposure or arrest,” Jonathan Greenblatt, national director of the ADL, said in a statement.
A spokesperson for the ADL said the group tracks propaganda efforts based on news stories, law enforcement reports and social media posts by white supremacist groups.
The ADL also recorded an increase in the number of racist rallies and demonstrations held or attended by white supremacists last year — 91 rallies, up from 76 in 2017. But the ADL reported fewer pre-announced public events and the use of more “flash mob” tactics and anonymous propaganda efforts in order to “maximize media and online attention, while limiting the risk of individual exposure, negative media coverage, arrests and public backlash.”
The increase in propaganda matches up with an increase in anti-semitic incidents during recent years. The number of reported anti-Semitic incidents rose 57% in 2017, according to an annual report by the ADL — the “largest single-year increase on record.” The report about 2018 incidents has not yet been released.
College campuses have been a common target for white-supremacist propaganda efforts in recent years, but the new ADL report identified a much bigger increase in off-campus propaganda efforts during the past year, as it “skyrocketed” from 129 in 2017 to 868 in 2018.
“It’s everywhere: Hanging from freeway overpasses, stuck to utility poles, plastered to shop windows or left on the windshields of parked cars. It’s even been found tucked into books inside neighborhood book swap boxes, libraries and book stores,” Carla Hill, a senior investigative researcher for Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, wrote in a column published by Politico.
“Both under-the-radar events and stealth propaganda efforts shield white supremacists from public exposure, and, notably, public displays of opposition. They also provide the groups with invaluable marketing materials.”