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Report: White Supremacist Propaganda Activity Soared to Record High in 2022

FILE - Authorities arrest members of the white supremacist group Patriot Front near an Idaho pride event, June 11, 2022, after they were found packed into the back of a U-Haul truck with riot gear.
FILE - Authorities arrest members of the white supremacist group Patriot Front near an Idaho pride event, June 11, 2022, after they were found packed into the back of a U-Haul truck with riot gear.

From antisemitic leaflets to racist banners, American white supremacists sharply ramped up efforts to spread propaganda last year, according to a new report from the Anti-Defamation League.

White supremacist propaganda incidents reached a record high of 6,751 last year, the ADL said in its annual assessment of propaganda activity. That figure is up 38% from the previous high of 4,876 cases in 2021.

The propaganda activity included the mass distribution of racist, antisemitic and anti-LGBTQ+ flyers, stickers, banners and posters; creation of graffiti; and laser projections on buildings and stadiums, the ADL said.

As in 2021, white supremacist propaganda was reported in every U.S. state except Hawaii, with Texas, Massachusetts, Virginia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, California, Utah, Florida, Connecticut and Georgia leading the nation in incidents, according to the report.

In addition to serving as a recruitment tool, propaganda enables extremist groups to broadcast their worldview to a wider audience and harass victims.

"There's no question that white supremacists and antisemites are trying to terrorize and harass Americans and have significantly stepped up their use of propaganda as a tactic to make their presence known in communities nationwide," Jonathan Greenblatt, Anti-Defamation League CEO, said in a statement.

Rise in antisemitic propaganda

Amid a nationwide rise in antisemitism, reported incidents of "explicitly antisemitic propaganda" more than doubled last year, jumping to 852 cases from 352 cases the previous year.

The ADL said three white supremacist groups — Patriot Front, Goyim Defense League and White Lives Matter — were responsible for 93% of the antisemitic propaganda reported last year.

The Patriot Front drove 80% of the propaganda effort in 2022.

The Southern Poverty Law Center describes the Patriot Front as an "image obsessed" hate group that "focuses on theatrical rhetoric and activism that can be easily distributed as propaganda for its chapters across the country."

According to the ADL, the Texas-based Patriot Front eschews traditional white supremacist language and symbolism in favor of more ambiguous slogans, such as "For the Nation Against the State," "Revolution Is Tradition," "Reclaim America," "America First" and "One Nation Against Immigration."

The antisemitic Goyim Defense League was responsible for 492 incidents last year, representing 58% of all antisemitic incidents, the ADL said.

The group's goal is "to expel Jews from America," the ADL said.

"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," the report said.

Sowing anxiety, creating fear

Oren Segal, vice president of the ADL's Center on Extremism, expressed alarm at the spike in white supremacist propaganda.

"Hardly a day goes by without communities being targeted by these coordinated, hateful actions, which are designed to sow anxiety and create fear," Segal said.

White supremacist groups also held more events across the nation last year. The ADL said it recorded 167 white supremacist events, a 55% increase from 2021.

The White Lives Matter network, launched in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, was responsible for 43% of all white nationalist events, ADL said.

The network's monthly demonstrations, usually held along a roadside, on an overpass, in a park or outside a government building, attract about five to 15 people.