Incidents of white supremacists spreading propaganda on college campuses almost doubled last year compared to 2018, according to new data released by the Anti-Defamation League, continuing a trend of increased activity targeting students.
Nationwide, the ADL recorded 630 incidents of white supremacist propaganda — like fliers, leaflets, and stickers — distributed on campuses last year, up from 320 the year before, the group said Wednesday. Campus incidents accounted for close to one-quarter of 2,713 cases of white supremacist literature distribution last year — more than double the 1,214 incidents reported the year prior.
Among the colleges and universities targeted were eight in Pennsylvania and eight in New Jersey, according to the ADL. Shira Goodman, ADL Philadelphia regional director, said the Pennsylvania campuses experienced one incident each, while the eight New Jersey campuses had 15 incidents total.
They included distribution of fliers and propaganda at schools, with phrases like “America belongs to Americans,” “Reclaim your nation reclaim your heritage,” and “They hate you for being white." Schools affected included the University of Pennsylvania, Villanova University, Bryn Mawr College, Princeton University, and Rutgers University, among others.
“We’re seeing it more as a tactic that’s being embraced” by white supremacy groups, Goodman said of the propaganda efforts. “Maybe you don’t have to show up at a rally, but you can do something that’s part of a group," and can “pack a big punch.” The ADL said it documented fewer in-person white supremacist events in 2019 than in 2018, from 95 to 76.
The ADL said white supremacist propaganda was spread on 433 campuses in 43 states and the District of Columbia in 2019, in what it called a continuation of efforts it says have ramped up since January 2016. (The ADL began tracking propaganda distribution more closely around that time after noticing an uptick in the activity, Goodman said.)
Yet the efforts may not be succeeding in winning new supporters. Of the campuses that registered incidents last year, 90% were only targeted once or twice, according to the ADL, which said "that despite their increased efforts, white supremacists seem to have failed to gain a sustained foothold on campus.”
The ADL said three groups were responsible for 90% of all white supremacist propaganda incidents reported last year. Most were attributable to the Patriot Front, a Texas-based group, but the New Jersey European Heritage Foundation accounted for “approximately 9% of all white supremacist propaganda incidents in the U.S.,” according to the ADL.
The group was founded in 2018 and uses the “14 words” slogan popular with white supremacists — “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children” — according to the ADL.
The group did not respond Wednesday to a request for comment. On its website, it describes itself as a “grass-roots organization” that “believes that we must wrest political, economic and social control away from the hostile elite who have usurped power in America.” It says it aims to reach people by bypassing the “controlled news” media so “swift and immediate action can be taken against the people who are destroying our race and civilization,” and includes photos of people holding banners that read, “One Race One Nation End Immigration.”
Goodman said the ADL collects data on propaganda incidents from a number of sources, including complaints it receives directly and media reports.
The incidents are “probably underreported,” she said. “With these specific cases, people have actually seen the fliers.”