(RNS) — A new report shows a dramatic rise in white supremacist propaganda in 2022, mostly among a handful of groups pushing racist, antisemitic and anti-LGBTQ slogans.
The Anti-Defamation League’s research found a 38% increase in incidents from the previous year, with a total of 6,751 cases reported in 2022, compared with 4,876 in 2021. Specific antisemitic propaganda more than doubled in 2022, rising to 852, up from 352 in 2021.
The report tracked geographic-specific material propaganda — such as fliers, stickers, banners, graffiti and posters, as well as laser projections. It did not track white supremacy online, though it found evidence for some of the propaganda material on social media or other online sources.
An example of such propaganda is the banner hung from a Los Angeles freeway overpass in October that read “Kanye is right about the Jews.” The ADL identified the Goyim Defense League as the group behind that banner, which was referencing recent antisemitic social media posts from Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West.
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White supremacists have always existed in the United States. But their public profile rose in 2017 with the Unite the Right white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, followed the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Most recently, white supremacist groups have mobilized to shut down and intimidate events involving drag queens in at least four states.
The report, which found white supremacist propaganda in every U.S. state except Hawaii, was culled from law enforcement, individual reports to the ADL as well as media stories, said Carla Hill, director of investigative research for the ADL’s Center on Extremism.
The propaganda was distributed by some 50 white supremacist groups, but one dominated — the Patriot Front. The report said the group, based in Texas, is responsible for 80% of propaganda distributions in 2022.
The Patriot Front, founded in 2017 by Thomas Rousseau, a former leader of the neo-Nazi group Vanguard America, uses veiled white supremacist language, such as “Reclaim America,” “America First” and “One Nation Against Immigration.”
In June, 31 members of Patriot Front were arrested near Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, after police stopped a U-Haul truck near a “Pride in the Park” event. The Patriot Front members found inside the truck were equipped with riot shields and charged with criminal conspiracy to riot.
The report also documented 167 white supremacist events in 2022, a 55% increase from the 108 recorded in 2021.
The White Lives Matter network was responsible for 43% of these events. The supremacist group has been organizing small, monthly demonstrations since April 2021, the report said, usually along a roadside, an overpass, a park or outside a government building.
White supremacists have a range of religious and ideological beliefs. Some are white Christian nationalists; others are neo-Nazis, Odinists or neo-Confederates.
“A lot of white supremacists are Odinists,” or people who follow the god Odin, Hill said.
The Odinic Rite defines Odinism as the natural religion of the peoples of Northern Europe.
The report identified one area where it found a decline in white supremacist ideology: college campuses. In 2022, there were 219 incidents of white supremacist propaganda distribution on campuses, a 6% decrease from 2021 and part of a three-year decline.
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(This story was was reported with support from the Stiefel Freethought Foundation.)