ADL’s Center on Extremism monitors the growing white supremacist propaganda efforts, including those targeting U.S. college campuses.
During the 2018-2019 school year, from September 1, 2018 to May 31, 2019, ADL documented 313 cases of white supremacist propaganda on campus – a 7% increase from the 292 recorded during the 2017-2018 academic year.
This increase was particularly evident during the 2019 spring semester, which saw more extremist campus propaganda than any preceding semester. For the 2019 spring semester alone, January through May, ADL documented 161 incidents on 122 different campuses in 33 states and the District of Columbia. California (34), Kentucky (18), Oklahoma (16), Ohio (13) and Utah (10) had the highest number of incidents.
White supremacists have been actively targeting U.S. college campuses since January 2016, a practice that had failed to gain any real traction until the fall semester of that year. More than three years later, these propaganda efforts – including fliers, stickers, and posters – continue to increase.
Propaganda campaigns are an anonymous way for white supremacists to spread their hateful messages across campuses and communities. The groups generally document the fliering efforts on social media and use them to try to attract new followers and media attention.
Extremists target campuses because they provide them with opportunities to recruit new, young followers – essential to the growth and sustainability of any movement. They see this as an opportunity to inject their views into spaces they view as bastions of liberal thinking and left-wing indoctrination.
Almost all campus propaganda originates from groups that are part of the alt-right segment of the white supremacist movement.
During the spring semester, Identity Evropa, which rebranded as the American Identity Movement (AIM) on March 8, 2019, was responsible for 115 incidents (57 as Identity Evropa and 58 as AIM), and their efforts accounted for 71% of all campus propaganda during the 2018-19 school year. Identity Evropa’s final batch of fliers, before their transition to AIM, featured George Washington and Andrew Jackson, and read, “European roots American greatness."
Under the AIM banner, the group moved away from European-focused propaganda in favor of a message advocating for the preservation of “white culture” under the guise of American patriotism. The new propaganda includes phrases such as “Defend America,” “nationalism not globalism,” “protect American workers,” “diversity destroys nations” and “embrace your identity.”
Patriot Front, which split from Vanguard America in August 2017 to pursue its own racist brand of American nationalism, distributed propaganda on campuses 30 times during the 2019 spring semester. More than any other group, Patriot Front has consistently used patriotism to promote its white supremacist and neo-fascist ideology. Using red, white and blue color schemes, Patriot Front propaganda includes messages such as, “reclaim America,” “better dead than red,” “keep America American” and “not stolen conquered.”
Several other groups targeted campuses, but to a much lesser degree. During a March 2019 fliering campaign, the Daily Stormer Book Clubs targeted three campuses with an anti-Semitic flier that implied Jews control the media and that “all hate crimes are hoaxes.” The Church of Creativity targeted two campuses with promotional fliers that read, “It’s alright to be white.” The New Jersey European Heritage Association, meanwhile, distributed fliers and stickers around Princeton and Rutgers universities.
Off-Campus Propaganda Soars
While campus propaganda incidents have increased only moderately, the number of off-campus propaganda incidents is soaring. In the first five months of 2019, ADL counted 672 off-campus propaganda incidents, compared to 868 incidents over the entire year in 2018.
Patriot Front is responsible for 440 – about two-thirds – of the off-campus incidents so far in 2019, followed by Identity Evropa/AIM, with 158.
The Loyal White Knights led the Klan movement with 19 off-campus flierings in eight different states. Daily Stormer Book Clubs posted fliers 16 times – and on three occasions used the fliers to target Jewish institutions. The New Jersey European Heritage Association was responsible for 12 incidents through the end of May. The group was previously focused solely on New Jersey, but its propaganda has started to appear in Arkansas, Florida, Missouri, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.