BOSTON – White supremacist propaganda distribution surged across the United States in 2020, with a total 5,125 cases of racist, anti-Semitic and other hateful messages reported by the Anti-Defamation League. Last year marked the highest level of incidents reported since ADL began tracking such data – an average of about 14 incidents per day, and nearly double the 2,724 cases reported in 2019.
In Massachusetts, white supremacist propaganda incidents rose by 87 percent.
ADL’s Center on Extremism (COE) tracked the distribution of racist, anti-Semitic and anti-LGBTQ fliers, stickers, posters and banners by various members of far right and white supremacist groups. The annual report found that at least 30 known white supremacist groups were behind hate propaganda efforts, affecting 49 states in 2020.
Nearly every state in New England experienced a significant rise in white supremacist propaganda. Massachusetts recorded 276 incidents of white supremacist propaganda in 2020, compared to 147 in 2019 and 35 in 2018, followed by Vermont (150 incidents in 2020, compared to 81 in 2019, and 14 in 2018), Rhode Island (52 incidents in 2020, compared to 10 in 2019, and 4 in 2018), New Hampshire (48 incidents in 2020, compared to 29 in 2019 and 3 in 2018), and Maine (13 incidents in 2020, compared to 14 in 2019 and 13 in 2018).
“Across the country and in the New England region, we’ve seen vile racist and anti-Semitic propaganda appear, targeting minority groups and directing the unsuspecting public to these groups’ websites,” said Robert Trestan, ADL New England regional director. “One hundred and ten communities in Massachusetts experienced at least one white supremacist incident last year – a staggering figure that demonstrates the extent to which these groups are going to normalize and popularize their hateful ideologies. Hate propaganda often inspires and incites people to act, creating the potential for increased hate crimes. The data clearly shows that white supremacists were emboldened to spread their hateful messaging in 2020 and increase recruiting more than they have in recent years. By spreading their message of hate, white supremacists are afforded with anonymity, a perfect cover to continue these activities while avoiding criminal prosecution.”
In 2020, hate propaganda appeared in every state except Hawaii, with Massachusetts ranking 6th in the country. 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.
Some key data points from the report:
110 communities in Massachusetts experienced an incident of white supremacist propaganda in 2020, compared to 68 communities in 2019.
Patriot Front, a white supremacist hate group that espouses anti-Semitism and racism, accounted for the majority of white supremacist propaganda distributed in Massachusetts in 2020 (230 incidents), followed by Nationalist Social Club, New Jersey European Heritage Association, and Revolt Through Tradition.
ADL recorded 283 incidents that included anti-Semitic language or specifically targeted Jewish institutions, marking a 68 percent increase from 2019.
There were at least 130 incidents of white supremacist banner drops, a significant increase from the 53 recorded in 2019.
In 2020, ADL documented 56 white supremacist events, a 26 percent decrease from the 76 events in 2019. More than half of the events (29) were privately planned, unannounced flash demonstrations orchestrated for quick photo and video opportunities that are then used to create online content. The largest white supremacist event in 2020 involved approximately 100 Patriot Front members in a February flash demonstration on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
Massachusetts recorded a total of eight white supremacist events in 2020, compared to three in 2019.
There were 303 incidents of white supremacist propaganda distribution on college campuses, marking a steep decline from 630 in 2019. No large campaigns focused on campuses this year, most likely because of the pandemic and a lack of students on physical campuses.
In response to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by insurrectionists and the overall increase in domestic terrorism in recent years, ADL recently announced the PROTECT Plan to mitigate this threat while protecting civil liberties.
For more information, see the full report at www.adl.org/white-supremacist-propaganda-spikes-2020. To speak with an expert or for more information, contact Shellie Burgman at firstname.lastname@example.org.