Story at a glance
- Racially motivated hate crimes have spiked in the last year and a new report might help explain why.
- Efforts to spread white supremacist propaganda nearly doubled last year, according to the Anti-Defamation League, which tracks these cases.
- While in-person activity has dwindled due to the coronavirus pandemic, Internet activity has grown.
White supremacist propaganda efforts nearly doubled last year, according a new report, and they didn’t discriminate when it came to their targets: Jews, Black people, Muslims, nonwhite immigrants, and the LGBTQ+ community were all subjects of hateful messages — among other groups.
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“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 A. Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), in a release of a report from its Center on Extremism (COE). “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.”
In 2020, 5,125 cases of the distribution of racist, antisemitic and anti-LGBTQ fliers, stickers, banners and posters were reported — the most white supremacist propaganda incidents ADL has ever recorded. Just three groups (Patriot Front, New Jersey European Heritage Association and Nationalist Social Club) were responsible for 80 percent of all propaganda incidents nationally.
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White supremacist propaganda efforts on college campuses dropped by more than half from last year, when such incidents had doubled from the year before, and white supremacist events also fell in number — likely due to the coronavirus pandemic. But the reach of online propaganda continues and can be difficult to track, unlike incidents of racist graffiti and banners, which remain popular among some white supremacist groups.
“Propaganda gives white supremacists the ability to maximize media and online attention while limiting their risk of exposure or arrest,” said Oren Segal, vice president of the ADL COE, in the release. “The literature helps to bolster recruitment efforts and spreads fear by targeting specific groups, including the Jewish, Black, Muslim and LGBTQ+ communities, as well as non-white immigrants.”
The surge in propaganda came alongside a spike in hate crimes last year, which hit the highest level in over a decade with racially motivated hate crimes topping the list.
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