Spread of pro­pa­ganda by white su­prem­a­cists soars

Re­port says that the rhetoric in­creas­ingly stresses ‘pa­tri­o­tism’ to con­ceal the hate.

Los Angeles Times - - THE NATION - as­so­ci­ated press

NEW YORK — In­ci­dents of white su­prem­a­cist pro­pa­ganda dis­trib­uted across the na­tion jumped by more than 120% be­tween 2018 and last year, ac­cord­ing to the Anti-Defama­tion League, mak­ing 2019 the sec­ond straight year that the cir­cu­la­tion of pro­pa­ganda has more than dou­bled.

The Anti-Defama­tion League’s Cen­ter on Ex­trem­ism re­ported 2,713 cases of cir­cu­lated pro­pa­ganda by white su­prem­a­cist groups, in­clud­ing fliers, posters and ban­ners, com­pared with 1,214 cases in 2018. The printed pro­pa­ganda dis­trib­uted by white su­prem­a­cist or­ga­ni­za­tions in­cludes ma­te­rial that di­rectly spreads mes­sages of dis­crim­i­na­tion against Jews, LGBTQ peo­ple and other mi­nor­ity com­mu­ni­ties — but also items with their prej­u­dice ob­scured by a fo­cus on gauzier pro-Amer­ica im­agery.

The sharp rise in cases of white su­prem­a­cist pro­pa­ganda dis­tri­bu­tion last year fol­lows a jump of more than 180% be­tween 2017, the first year that the Anti-Defama­tion League tracked ma­te­rial dis­tri­bu­tion, and 2018. While 2019 saw cases of pro­pa­ganda cir­cu­lated on col­lege cam­puses nearly dou­ble, en­com­pass­ing 433 sep­a­rate cam­puses in all but seven states, re­searchers who com­piled the data found that 90% of cam­puses only saw one or two rounds of dis­tri­bu­tion.

Oren Se­gal, di­rec­tor of the league’s Cen­ter on Ex­trem­ism, pointed to the promi­nence of more sub­tly bi­ased rhetoric in some of the white su­prem­a­cist ma­te­rial, em­pha­siz­ing “pa­tri­o­tism,” as a sign that the groups are at­tempt­ing “to make their hate more palat­able for a 2020 au­di­ence.”

By em­pha­siz­ing lan­guage “about em­pow­er­ment, without some of the bla­tant racism and ha­tred,” Se­gal said, white su­prem­a­cists are em­ploy­ing “a tac­tic to try to get eyes onto their ideas in a way that’s cheap, and that brings it to a new gen­er­a­tion of peo­ple who are learn­ing how to even make sense out of these mes­sages.”

The pro­pa­ganda in­ci­dents tracked for the An­tiDefama­tion League’s re­port en­com­pass 49 states and oc­curred most of­ten in 10 states: Cal­i­for­nia, Texas, New York, Mas­sachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio, Vir­ginia, Ken­tucky, Washington and Florida.

Last year’s soar­ing cases of dis­trib­uted pro­pa­ganda also came as the Anti-Defama­tion League found white su­prem­a­cist groups hold­ing 20% fewer events than in 2018, “pre­fer­ring not to risk the ex­po­sure of pre-pub­li­cized events,” ac­cord­ing to its re­port. That marks a shift from the vis­i­ble pub­lic pres­ence that white su­prem­a­cist or­ga­ni­za­tions mounted in 2017, cul­mi­nat­ing in that sum­mer’s Char­lottesvill­e, Va., rally where a self-de­scribed white su­prem­a­cist drove into a crowd of counter-demon­stra­trors.

About two-thirds of the to­tal pro­pa­ganda in­ci­dents in the new re­port were traced back to a sin­gle white su­prem­a­cist group, Pa­triot Front, which the Anti-Defama­tion League de­scribes as “formed by dis­af­fected mem­bers” of the white su­prem­a­cist or­ga­ni­za­tion Van­guard Amer­ica af­ter the Char­lottesvill­e rally.

The Anti-Defama­tion League, founded in 1913 to com­bat anti-Semitism as well as other bi­ases, has tracked Pa­triot Front pro­pa­ganda us­ing mes­sages such as “One na­tion against in­va­sion” and “Amer­ica first.” The re­port found that Pa­triot Front played a ma­jor role last year in boost­ing cir­cu­la­tion of white su­prem­a­cist pro­pa­ganda on cam­puses through a push that tar­geted col­leges in the fall.

Se­gal said that his group’s re­search can equip com­mu­nity lead­ers with ed­u­ca­tion that helps them push back against white su­prem­a­cist groups’ mes­sag­ing ef­forts, in­clud­ing dis­tri­bu­tion aimed at stu­dents.

Univer­sity ad­min­is­tra­tors, Se­gal said, should speak out against white su­prem­a­cist mes­sag­ing drives, tak­ing the op­por­tu­nity “to demon­strate their val­ues and to re­ject mes­sages of hate that may be ap­pear­ing on their cam­pus.”

Sev­eral educationa­l in­sti­tu­tions where re­ports of white su­prem­a­cist pro­pa­ganda were re­ported in re­cent months did just that. Af­ter white su­prem­a­cist ma­te­rial was re­ported on cam­pus at Brigham Young Univer­sity in Novem­ber, the school tweeted that it “stands firmly against racism in any form and is com­mit­ted to pro­mot­ing a cul­ture of safety, kind­ness, re­spect and love.”

The school went on to tweet a spe­cific re­jec­tion of white su­prem­a­cist sen­ti­ment as “sin­ful” by its owner, the Church of Je­sus Christ of Lat­ter-day Saints, without nam­ing the group be­hind the pro­pa­ganda.

While some of the pro­pa­ganda cat­a­loged in the re­port uses in­di­rect mes­sag­ing in ser­vice of a big­oted agenda, other groups’ ac­tiv­ity is more openly threat­en­ing to­ward Jews and mi­nor­ity groups.

The New Jersey Euro­pean Her­itage Assn., a smaller white su­prem­a­cist group founded in 2018, “con­tains nu­mer­ous anti-Semitic tropes and refers to Jews as ‘de­stroy­ers’” in its most re­cent dis­trib­uted flier, ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

Will Vragovic Tampa Bay Times

FLORIDA High­way Pa­trol of­fi­cers stand guard at the Univer­sity of Florida in 2017 dur­ing a speech by a white su­prem­a­cist. Col­leges are a tar­get of pro­pa­ganda.

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