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US: White supremacist propaganda rises by 120 percent in 2019

Anti-Defamation League reports 2,713 cases of white supremacist propaganda, compared with 1,214 in 2018
One-fourth of white supremacist propaganda incidents last year happened at universities (AFP)

Incidents of white supremacist propaganda being distributed in the US jumped by more than 120 percent in 2019 from 2018, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

The ADL's Center on Extremism reported on Wednesday that there were 2,713 cases of white supremacist propaganda circulating in 2019, compared with 1,214 cases in 2018.

'The barrage of propaganda is an effort to normalise white supremacist messages while targeting minority groups including Jews, Blacks, Muslims, non-white immigrants and the LGBTQ community,'

- Anti-Defamation League

University campuses were frequent targets, with all but seven out of 50 states reporting incidents of banners, posters and flyers, said the ADL, which was founded in 1913 to combat antisemitism.

"The data is unmistakable. White supremacists are doubling down on their efforts to promote messages of hate and recruit new members," it said in a statement.

"The barrage of propaganda, which overwhelmingly features veiled white supremacist language with a patriotic slant, is an effort to normalise white supremacists' message and bolster recruitment efforts while targeting minority groups including Jews, Blacks, Muslims, non-white immigrants and the LGBTQ community," the statement added.

According to the watchdog, 2019 marked the second straight year that the circulation of propaganda material more than doubled. From 2017 to 2018, there was a 180 percent rise. 

Patriot Front

About 66 percent of the total propaganda incidents in the new report were traced back to a single group, the Patriot Front, which the ADL said was "formed by disaffected members" of the white supremacist organisation 'Vanguard America' after the Charlottesville rally.

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Oren Segal, director of the ADL's Center on Extremism, pointed to more subtly biased rhetoric in some of the white supremacist material, emphasising "patriotism" being used "to make their hate more palatable for a 2020 audience".

By focusing on language "about empowerment, without some of the blatant racism and hatred", Segal said, white supremacists are employing "a tactic to try to get eyes onto their ideas in a way that’s cheap, and that brings it to a new generation of people who are learning how to even make sense out of these messages".

Cases of white supremacy propaganda circulation occurred most in 10 states: California, Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Virginia, Texas and Washington.

Last week, FBI Director Christopher Wray acknowledged that racist extremists in the US were now considered a "national threat priority" presenting the same danger as foreign terror organisations including the Islamic State (IS) group.