There were 5,125 documented cases of racist, anti-Semitic and anti-LGBTQ fliers, stickers, banners and posters distributed in the US — an average of 14 incidents per day and nearly double the 2,724 cases recorded in 2019, the ADL said.
The ADL began publishing its data on White supremacist propaganda distribution in 2016.
Much of the propaganda “overwhelmingly features veiled White supremacist language with a patriotic slant” in an effort to normalize White supremacist hate and bolster recruiting, while simultaneously targeting minorities, the ADL said.
Some of the material is explicit, invoking Adolf Hitler or Nazis. One declaring “Hitler was right” while another flier says “Love not hate” — where the O in love contains a swastika while the word hate contains a Jewish Star of David. Others declared “Reject White guilt,” “Open borders is the virus” and one says “Black Crimes Matter,” a hateful take on the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Hate propaganda is a tried-and-true tactic for White supremacists, and this on the ground activity is now higher than we’ve ever previously recorded,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, the ADL’s CEO.
The ADL attributed the growth in activity to a number of factors. Experts who track extremism often report a spike in hateful rhetoric and incidents during particularly polarizing election years.
“These White supremacists they don’t just feel emboldened bold in this environment, I would say they feel energized because you have elected officials at the highest levels, repeating their rhetoric, spreading around their scapegoats and stereotypes,” Greenblatt told CNN’s Kate Bolduan.
The activity surged despite the lockdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic last year, and in some cases, because of it. The pandemic “generated online conspiracy theories and emboldened some far-right domestic extremists to take more public actions,” the ADL said.
“White supremacists appear to be more emboldened than ever, and the election year, the pandemic and other factors may have provided these extremists with additional encouragement,” Greenblatt said.
The report includes details on the groups were responsible for the propaganda and where the groups are located:
- At least 40 White supremacist groups distributed propaganda. But the ADL said 92% was distributed by three groups — Patriot Front, the New Jersey European Heritage Association and Nationalist Social Club. Patriot Front was also responsible for the majority of incidents in 2019 as well, according to the ADL.
- Propaganda was distributed in all states but Hawaii. The highest levels were seen in Texas, where Patriot Front is based, followed by Washington, California, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Virginia and Pennsylvania.
- Incidents of propaganda on college campuses dropped in half, but the ADL believes part of that may have been due to the pandemic and lack of students on campus.
- In 2020, the ADL recorded 283 incidents that included anti-Semitic language or specifically targeted Jewish institutions, a 68% increase in incidents compared to 2019.
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