Incidents of racist, antisemitic and anti-LGBTQ propaganda increased substantially in 2022 as major white supremacist groups boosted disinformation campaigns in numerous U.S. states, according to new research by the Anti-Defamation League.
The March 8 report documented spikes in the distribution of fliers, stickers, banners, graffiti, posters and laser projections to promote hate and neo-fascist ideologies.
“Our data show a 38% increase in incidents from the previous year, with a total of 6,751 cases reported in 2022, compared to 4,876 in 2021,” the ADL said. “This is the highest number of white supremacist propaganda incidents ADL has ever recorded. In addition to the overall increase in incidents, 2022 also saw antisemitic propaganda more than double, rising from 352 incidents in 2021 to 852 incidents in 2022.”
ADL reported a handful of organizations were behind most of the propaganda documented last year.
“Throughout 2022, at least 50 different white supremacist groups and networks distributed propaganda, but three of them — Patriot Front, Goyim Defense League and White Lives Matter — were responsible for 93% of the activity.”
The Texas-based Patriot Front utilizes a “cynical iteration of ‘patriotism’” to push white supremacist causes, including using red, white and blue yard signs, ADL said. “The group continues to avoid using traditional white supremacist language and symbols in its messaging, instead using ambiguous phrasing like ‘For the Nation Against the State,’ ‘Revolution is Tradition,’ ‘Reclaim America,’ ‘America First’ and ‘One Nation Against Immigration.’”
Goyim Defense League is an antisemitic network with significant connections to other white supremacist causes and was responsible for more than 490 propaganda occurrences in 2022, according to ADL. “GDL’s overarching goal is to expel Jews from America. To that end, their propaganda casts aspersions on Jews and spreads antisemitic myths and conspiracy theories in hopes of turning Americans against the Jewish people. GDL’s 2022 propaganda blames Jews for a variety of perceived social grievances, including immigration, pornography and abortion.”
ADL described White Lives Matter as a white supremacist group that engages in “pro-white activism” with messages about the Great Replacement Theory, links to antisemitic films and stickers featuring a QR code to the group’s social media page. The organization was credited with 430 propaganda incidents in 2022, up from 140 the year before.
“Propaganda … allows a small number of people to have an outsized impact.”
Extremist groups engage in such efforts because the risk-reward ratio lines up in their favor, the report says. “Propaganda campaigns allow white supremacists to maximize media and online attention for their groups and messaging while limiting the risk of individual exposure, negative media coverage, arrests and public backlash that often accompanies more public activities. Propaganda, which affects entire communities, allows a small number of people to have an outsized impact.”
ADL also tracked incidents geographically. “Propaganda was reported in 2022 in every U.S. state except Hawaii, with the highest levels of activity (from most to least active) in Texas, Massachusetts, Virginia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, California, Utah, Florida, Connecticut and Georgia.”
The dramatic rise in antisemitic propaganda in the U.S. was due largely to the growth of the Goyim Defense League and its increased campaigning, ADL said.
“The formation of several new antisemitic white supremacist groups in 2022 also contributed to the rise in antisemitic incidents. These new groups — the Texas-based Aryan Freedom Network, NatSoc Florida, the Iowa-based Crew 319, the Southern California-based Clockwork Crew (aka Crew 562), Florida Nationalists and the short-lived, New York-based Aryan National Army — were responsible for 7% (or 62 incidents) of the antisemitic propaganda distributions in 2022.”
Extremists’ use of fliers, posters, stickers, banners and graffiti were sometimes supplemented by newer forms of communication, the ADL research found. “In Florida, NatSoc Florida and/or GDL used laser projectors to cast antisemitic messages on buildings on at least seven occasions. Individuals associated with GDL, Crew 562 and Crew 319 drove around in moving vans draped with antisemitic propaganda. Two such incidents occurred in California and one in Iowa.”
Banners were especially popular among white supremacist groups, who typically draped them from highway overpasses. “ADL recorded at least 252 banner drops, a 38% increase from the 183 counted in 2021.”
The number of white supremacist events also jumped, from 108 in 2021 to 167 in 2022.
“The White Lives Matter network was responsible for 43% of these events,” the report states. “WLM have been organizing small, monthly demonstrations since April 2021, which attract between five and 15 people and usually take place along the roadside, on an overpass, at a park or outside a government building.”
But other groups also significantly contributed to the increase in white supremacist events in 2022, ADL said. “White supremacists also held private gatherings such as fight nights, white power music concerts and conferences, including the America First Political Action Conference in Orlando, the annual American Renaissance Conference in Tennessee and the National Justice Party’s National Party Meeting in Ohio, which was the best attended extremist event of the year.”
ADL said it found one positive trend in its research: a decline in white supremacist propaganda incidents on college campuses.
“In 2022, there were 219 incidents of white supremacist propaganda distribution on campuses, a 6% decrease from 2021 and the lowest number since ADL began tracking in 2017. While the majority of these incidents occurred on college or university campuses, at least 11 incidents were reported on K-12 campuses.”
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