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Distribution of white supremacist propaganda is increasingly coordinated, ADL says

The white nationalist group Patriot Front attends the March For Life on in Chicago on Jan. 8.
Kamil Krzaczynski
Getty Images
The white nationalist group Patriot Front attends the March For Life on in Chicago on Jan. 8.

The distribution of white supremacist propaganda around the country remained high last year, with nearly 5,000 incidents reported, or an average of 13 per day, the Anti-Defamation League says.

The ADL's annual report on such incidents noted increasing levels of coordination and mobilization within the movement.

"This activity is more coordinated than ever before," says Oren Segal, vice president of the ADL's Center on Extremism. "It's disturbing that white supremacists and anti-Semites can mobilize supporters quickly to target neighborhoods in multiple states."

Although slightly lower than the 5,125 events reported in 2020, last year's number was still almost double the number of similar incidents reported in 2019.

The ADL documented 4,851 instances during 2021 in which racist, antisemitic and anti-LGBTQ fliers, stickers, posters, banners and stenciled graffiti were distributed in the United States. It was the second-highest level since the group began tracking such data in 2017.

Hateful propaganda appeared in every state except for Hawaii, with the highest levels of activity reported in Pennsylvania (473), Virginia (375) and Texas (327), the ADL said.

Texas is the home of Patriot Front, the group responsible for the vast majority of propaganda distribution at more than 82% of the national total. Patriot Front is also responsible for holding two of the largest white supremacist events in 2021, including a July event in Philadelphia and a December demonstration at the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

"White supremacists more frequently are resorting to hate propaganda as a tactic to spread their noxious ideas and recruit new membership," says ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt.

The annual report comes amid a surge in antisemitic hate fliers this year, with at least 15 states targeted in January and February. Authorities were investigating the distribution of antisemitic and racist flyers in Colleyville, Texas, where a gunman took worshippers hostage at a synagogue in January.

Some examples of hate speech highlighted in the ADL report are instances where banners were draped over highway overpasses and other high visibility locations. It also mentions fliers blaming Jews for the spread of COVID-19 and stickers proclaiming "Hitler was right," which were attached to a menorah outside a California synagogue in October.

"This is an alarming trend that needs to be checked, now," Greenblatt says.

The report also notes a steep decline of incidents of white supremacist propaganda distribution on college campuses, potentially due to the pandemic.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jeff Dean
Jeff Dean is the 2021 Military Veterans in Journalism intern for NPR reporting for the Business Desk and Newsdesk teams.