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US sees near-doubling in distribution of white supremacist propaganda — ADL

Watchdog documents 5,125 incidents in past year, nearly twice the figure from 2019; national average was 14 incidents a day, though just 5% of cases targeted Jews

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

Examples of white supremacist propaganda recorded by the Anti-Defamation League in 2020. Many pieces reference American iconography or slogans. (Courtesy of the ADL)
Examples of white supremacist propaganda recorded by the Anti-Defamation League in 2020. Many pieces reference American iconography or slogans. (Courtesy of the ADL)

Distribution of white supremacist propaganda in the United States nearly doubled in 2020, though only five percent of it targeted Jews, the Anti-Defamation League said in a Wednesday report.

The year saw a total of 5,125 incidents in which racist, anti-Semitic, anti-LGBTQ and other hateful messages were disseminated in the US — an average of about 14 incidents per day and almost twice as many as the 2,724 reported in 2019, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

For the purposes of its report, the extremism watchdog defined “incidents” as the distribution of propaganda leaflets or banners or a white supremacist in-person gathering, rather than physical attacks or online posts. If hundreds of fliers were handed out on a particular day, that was counted as a single incident.

An ADL spokesman explained that the impact of such incidents are twofold because there first is the dissemination of hate propaganda in an offline setting, where extremists are able to demonstrate their physical presence. Then, white supremacists photograph the leaflets and post them on social media, allowing them to spread their messages further.

CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement that the surge was due to an “embolden[ing]” of white supremacists. “The election year, the pandemic and other factors may have provided these extremists with additional encouragement,” he said.

White supremacists exchange insults with counterprotesters as they attempt to guard the entrance to Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Virginia, August 12, 2017. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images via JTA)

The ADL’s annual report found that at least 30 known white supremacist groups were behind hate propaganda efforts, affecting every state except Hawaii in 2020.

The states with the highest number of incidents were Texas (574), Washington (345), California (333), New Jersey (323), New York (308), Massachusetts (276), Virginia (249), and Pennsylvania (238).

Three groups — Patriot Front, New Jersey European Heritage Association and Nationalist Social Club — were responsible for 92 percent of the activity, the report found.

The Patriot Front was “formed by disaffected members” of the white supremacist organization Vanguard America after the Charlottesville, Virginia, rally in 2017, the ADL said.

It said 283 of the incidents included anti-Semitic language or specifically targeted Jewish institutions — a 68% increase over 2019.

In this January 6, 2021 photo, people march with those who say they are members of the Proud Boys as they attend a rally in Washington in support of President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

White supremacists gathered for 56 in-person events in 2020 — a 26 percent decrease from the 76 events in 2019, the report found. More than half of those events “were privately planned, unannounced flash demonstrations orchestrated for quick photo and video opportunities that are then used to create online content,” according to the ADL.

The largest white supremacist event of the previous year was in February when 100 Patriot Front members gathered for a flash demonstration on the the National Mall in DC. (The January 6 insurrection of then president Donald Trump’s supporters at the Capitol will be factored into next year’s ADL report.)

There were 303 incidents of white supremacist propaganda distribution on college campuses in 2020, compared to 630 in 2019. However, the decrease may have been due to the pandemic, which shut down many universities in favor of online learning.

The year 2019 had already ushered in a major spike in propaganda distribution compared to 2018. The ADL determined then that the 20% rise in physical events had to do with white supremacists “preferring not to risk the exposure of pre-publicized events.” That marked a shift from the very visible public presence that white supremacist organizations mounted in 2017, culminating in that summer’s Charlottesville rally, where a self-described white supremacist drove into a crowd of counterprotesters and killed a woman.

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