White supremacist groups continued in 2021 to distribute propaganda at a historically high rate, a report published Thursday says, part of what some experts call an increasingly panicked reaction to growing diversity in America.
The Anti-Defamation League’s research found 4,851 reported cases of white supremacist propaganda in 2021, including racist, antisemitic, and anti-LGBTQ items. That’s down 5 percent from 2020 but way up from 294 cases in 2017, when the anti-hate organization began observing a rise in white supremacist activity. ADL researchers found 1,206 incidents of propaganda in 2018 and 2,714 in 2019.
The ADL found a 27 percent increase in distributions of antisemitic propaganda, with 277 incidents in 2020 and 352 in 2021, including stickers outside a California synagogue proclaiming “Hitler was right” and dozens of drops across the country of fliers blaming Jewish people for the coronavirus.
Carla Hill, the report’s author and associate director of the ADL Center On Extremism, said white supremacist activity and organizing took off in the past decade as racists became “more and more desperate, losing the chance to have America be white. And 2017 was the pinnacle point.”
Hill said there was a buildup of white supremacist groups leading up to the Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville in August 2017. Before then, such groups had focused on college campuses. However, the event was considered a failure, she said, and the different groups “only held it together for a little while after and then fractured.”
More than a dozen of the nation’s most prominent white supremacists and hate groups involved in the deadly Unite the Right rally were found liable in November by a jury who said the men and their racist organizations should pay $26 million in damages.
After Charlottesville, Hill said, the movement shifted to anonymous distribution of propaganda.
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 incidents, the ADL report found.
Patriot Front was behind more than 82 percent of incidents and was most active in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Massachusetts, Texas, and Maryland. In 2021, it destroyed Black Lives Matter statues and murals, stole and burned pro-diversity and pro-LGBTQ yard signs and flags, and distributed propaganda at Jewish institutions, the ADL report said.
The top distributors in 2021 of antisemitic propaganda were FRM, NJEHA, White Lives Matter, and Goyim Defense League.
Hill said new white supremacist networks are forming and are focused on distributing propaganda, an activity that they see as less risky and that enables a small number of people to create a disproportionately greater impact.
“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,” the report found. The surge is related partially to the organizing of flash demonstrations and the focus on having events monthly.
The neo-Nazi Nationalist Social Club (NSC) held the most flash demonstrations of any group, the ADL said, including a demonstration in front of the Holocaust Memorial in Boston and a protest of critical race theory outside a school board meeting in New Hampshire.
White supremacists also held private gatherings such as white power music concerts and conferences, the ADL said.