White supremacist propaganda distribution remained at historic levels across the United States in 2021, with a total 4,851 cases of racist, antisemitic and other hateful messages reported by ADL (Anti-Defamation League). The latest data comes amid a surge in antisemitic hate fliering in January and February targeting at least 15 states nationwide.
Last year marked the second-highest level of incidents reported since ADL began tracking such data – with an average of about 13 incidents per day in 2021, and nearly double the 2,724 cases reported in 2019. In 2020, the use of propaganda distributions as a tactic peaked at 5,125 incidents nationwide.
ADL’s Center on Extremism tracks the distribution of racist, antisemitic and anti-LGBTQ fliers, stickers, posters, banners and stenciled graffiti by various members of far right and white supremacist groups. The report found that at least 38 known white supremacist groups were behind hate propaganda efforts in 2021, affecting 49 states and the District of Columbia.
“White supremacists more frequently are resorting to hate propaganda as a tactic to spread their noxious ideas and recruit new membership,” said ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt. “It’s particularly disturbing that at a time of when violent antisemitic assaults are on the rise, these groups are dialing-up their hateful rhetoric against Jews and canvassing entire communities with hate literature. This is an alarming trend that needs to be checked, now.”
In 2021, hateful propaganda appeared in every state except Hawaii, with the highest levels of activity reported in Pennsylvania (473), Virginia (375), Texas (327), Massachusetts (272), Washington State (228), Maryland (217) and New York State (212). ADL’s H.E.A.T. Map provides a visual representation of the propaganda distribution efforts by geographic location and can be used to highlight other specific trends. (For reporting purposes, ADL counts an incident where multiple or hundreds of fliers are canvassed across a neighborhood on a given day as a single incident).
And propaganda has continued to be a go-to tactic for white supremacist groups in 2022. According to ADL’s Center on Extremism, in just the past few weeks dozens of additional incidents have been reported in at least 15 states, on college campuses and across entire neighborhoods. Most of those incidents were perpetrated by the virulently antisemitic Goyim Defense League, whose fliers blame Jews for spreading COVID, threatening the “white race” through increasing diversity, and having too much power, among other hateful tropes.
Key findings from the ADL’s 2021 report include:
- Throughout 2021, at least 38 white supremacist groups distributed propaganda, but three groups – Patriot Front, New Jersey European Heritage Association (NJEHA) and Folkish Resistance Movement (FRM formerly known as Folksfront) – were responsible for 91 percent of the activity.
- As was the case in both 2019 and 2020, Texas-based Patriot Front was responsible for the vast majority of propaganda distributions. As revealed in their communications, these high propaganda numbers were driven by a weekly propaganda quota, which members are required to meet. Patriot Front was responsible for 3,992 incidents in 2021, more than 82 percent of the national total.
- ADL recorded 352 propaganda incidents that included overt antisemitic language or specifically targeted Jewish institutions, marking a 27 percent increase from 277 such incidents in 2020. A number involved targeting Jewish institutions directly, such as stickers proclaiming “Hitler was right” attached to a menorah outside a California synagogue in October.
- There were at least 183 incidents of white supremacist banner drops on highway overpasses and other high visibility locations, a 40 percent increase from the 130 recorded in 2020.
- In 2021, ADL documented 108 white supremacist events, more than double the 53 events held in 2020, and the most events recorded in any of the past five years. Nearly half of the white supremacist events were privately planned unannounced flash demonstrations. Patriot Front held the two largest flash demonstrations in 2021, including a July event in Philadelphia and a December demonstration at the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
- There were 232 incidents of white supremacist propaganda distribution on college campuses, marking a steep decline from 630 in 2019. Though dozens of white supremacist groups distributed propaganda in 2021, there were no large campaigns focusing on targeting campuses, potentially because of the pandemic and lack of students on campus. Patriot Front was responsible for 190 of the 232 on campus incidents.
“Antisemitic and racist propaganda has shock value but limits the risk of individual extremists’ exposure,” said Oren Segal, Vice President of ADL’s Center on Extremism. “It’s disturbing that white supremacists and antisemites can mobilize supporters quickly to target neighborhoods in multiple states. This activity is more coordinated than ever before, often incubated and amplified online, and communities need to be prepared.”
ADL will hold an online public webinar today at 2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT as part of its “Fighting Hate from Home” series where Segal and other ADL experts will share additional information on recent propaganda distributions and the groups involved.
In response to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and in response to the overall increase in domestic extremist activity in recent years, ADL last year announced the PROTECT Plan to mitigate this threat while protecting civil liberties.