The amount of white supremacist propaganda posted on college campuses has nearly doubled in the last year, according to a new report released Thursday by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
The report found that in the last year alone, there have been 292 reported incidents of white supremacist propaganda — including stickers, banners, and flyers containing racist and anti-Semitic messages — left on campuses that range from Ivy League to local community colleges.
The incidents represent a 77 percent increase from the previous year. “They’re trying to engage with what they hope are future members of their organizations,” Oren Segal, director of ADL’s Center on Extremism, told the New York Times. “They have put a premium on winning hearts and mind.”
Segal added that by targeting liberal and multicultural college campuses, white supremacists believe they are “striking back” at threats to them. It is also a cheap way to increase their notoriety and, in era where hate crimes continue to rise, potentially attract new recruits who harbor racist beliefs but haven’t yet acted on them.
Far-right figures have repeatedly targeted college campuses for speaking engagements designed to provoke and enrage the student body. The University of California-Berkeley was forced to spend $1 million on security for professional troll Milo Yiannopoulos’ planned “Free Speech Week” last September — which ended up falling apart. Prominent young white supremacist Richard Spencer also famously went on a college “speaking tour,” which he cancelled after a particularly poor showing at Michigan State University in March.
But while these highly-publicized events show the more mainstream failures of the far-right on campus, the ADL’s report shows how smaller, more hardline groups are still infiltrating colleges to deliver their white supremacist message.
One of these groups is Patriot Front, a white supremacist organization that describes its members as “American Fascists.” Discord chat logs of Patriot Front, obtained by Unicorn Riot UR, show Patriot Front members discussing an ideal society filled with “ethnostate rape gangs” and how members regularly engage in “violence training.”
One insider told UR that behind closed doors, the group “speaks openly of violent ethnic cleansing.” While the group is based primarily in Texas, there are also documented members in New England.
The chat logs of Patriot Front show how the group thinks covering of college campuses with racist propaganda is a crucial part of their broader campaign to recruit new members. One member described how he hacked the college computer systems at UMass and DePaul to print off hundreds of anti-Semitic flyers. Another user, who went by the name “Machinesmiter-IL,” bragged about how he had used flyers to groom a number of College Republicans at Roosevelt University in Chicago.
Another white supremacist group heavily pushing propaganda onto college campuses is Identity Evropa (IE), a neo-Nazi group founded by Iraq war veteran Nathan Damigo, who cites former Klansmen David Duke as one of inspirations. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), IE’s “meme-able aesthetics are meant to lure in young people who are then encouraged to engage in real world activism on college campuses.”
According to ADL, Identity Evropa was responsible for nearly 50 percent of the college flyering incidents over the past two years, including one incident in January outside the black studies department of the University of South Carolina-Columbia.
In an email to the Washington Post, Identity Evropa denied these charges. “The ADL is clearly reporting in error or negligence, as the blanket allegations reflect neither Identity Evropa nor any statement from a current representative,” spokesman Sam Harrington said. “The ADL, and organizations like it, are attempting to stifle free debate and will continue to lose trust with the thinking public.”