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Propaganda by white supremacists at US colleges jumps for third year in a row

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The messages range from veiled language to explicitly racist images and words that attack minority groups, including Jews, blacks, Muslims, non-white immigrants and the LGBTQ community.

The distribution of white-supremacist propaganda on college campuses increased for the third straight year, according to data released Thursday by the Anti-Defamation League.

From Sept. 1, 2018 to May 31, 2019, the ADL’s Center on Extremism documented 313 cases of white-supremacist propaganda on college campuses, including fliers, posters and stickers, compared to 292 during the 2017-18 academic year, a 7 percent increase. This year’s uptick occurred on top of a 77 percent increase during the 2017-18 academic year.

The 2019 spring semester saw more extremist propaganda on campus than any preceding semester, with 161 incidents on 122 different campuses across 33 states and the District of Columbia.

For the entire academic year, California had the most incidents with 58, followed by Kentucky with 22 and Oklahoma with 19.

“This data clearly demonstrates that white supremacists in the United States are emboldened by the current political and social climate,” said ADL CEO and national director Jonathan Greenblatt. He has on more than one occasion attributed the rise of the far-right to U.S. President Donald Trump, who has been criticized for not sufficiently denouncing white supremacists, white nationalists, neo-Nazis or the Ku Klux Klan.

‘Scourge of hate targeting our youth’

“White supremacists seek to leverage and exploit public discussions to promote their hateful messages,” Oren Segal, director of the ADL’s Center on Extremism, told JNS. “It is no surprise, then, to see anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant narratives featured in some of their propaganda at that same time that those issues dominate the divisive political discourse.”

Segal added, however, that “there is no evidence of any coordination or crossover between white supremacists and groups” like Students for Justice in Palestine.

“Our campuses and communities should be places for learning and development, not places for racists and bigots to propagate hate speech and search for potential recruits,” said Greenblatt.

The propaganda messages range from veiled white-supremacist language to explicitly racist images and words that attack minority groups, including Jews, blacks, Muslims, non-white immigrants and the LGBTQ community.

Other fliers seek to deceptively promote “American Identity” without any explicitly racist message, but rather link to a website where such content is available.

Nearly all of the incidents originated from the alt-right segment of the white-supremacist movement. The group responsible for the bulk of fliers was the American Identity Movement (AIM), formerly known as Identity Evropa, with 115 incidents. Patriot Front, a white-supremacist group that was founded in 2017 after a split from Vanguard America, followed with 30 incidents.

“University presidents and campus leadership must remain vigilant in speaking out against the hateful messages of these groups,” said Greenblatt. “Given the alarming increase of these incidents, words alone are not enough—it must be followed by action.”

He continued, “Educating faculty and students on the values of diversity and inclusion, along with improving training for campus officials charged with responding to bias incidents and hate crimes, are just a few of the ways campuses can fight back against this scourge of hate targeting our youth.”

Along with on-campus activity, the ADL has also documented a dramatic increase in white-supremacist off-campus propaganda incidents.

In the first five months of 2019, the ADL counted 672 off-campus incidents, compared to 868 last year. Patriot Front was responsible for 440, or two-thirds, of the incidents, followed by AIM with 158.