White supremacist propaganda hits a five-year high, according to annual survey by ADL

Will Carless

Incidents of white supremacist propaganda are at their highest level in at least five years.

That's the finding of an annual survey conducted by the Anti-Defamation League, which documents propaganda incidents nationwide, including flyers, banners and graffiti. 

In a report released Thursday morning, the ADL found levels in 2022 were the highest since the survey began in 2018. Incidents rose 38% from 2021, to a total of 6,751.

Antisemitic propaganda incidents also more than doubled in 2022 from the year before, the report found, though the number of incidents registered at colleges decreased slightly from 2021. 

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“There’s no question that white supremacists and antisemites are trying to terrorize and harass Americans and have significantly stepped up their use of propaganda as a tactic,” said ADL's CEO Jonathan Greenblatt. “This is a cowardly attempt to intimidate marginalized communities and those who don’t align with their twisted worldview and draw in new recruits."

What the annual report measures   

The ADL's Center on Extremism monitors white supremacist and antisemitic propaganda campaigns throughout the year, tallying them for an annual total. 

The effort catalogs incidents of white supremacist fliers, posters, stickers, banners and graffiti, as well as tallying and monitoring white supremacist events.

Each propaganda incident might range from a single piece of white supremacist graffiti, or the unveiling of a banner in a public place displaying racist or hateful messages, to a drop of dozens or hundreds of racist flyers or stickers.

Authorities arrest members of the white supremacist group Patriot Front near an Idaho pride event Saturday, June 11, 2022, after they were found packed into the back of a U-Haul truck with riot gear. (Georji Brown via AP) ORG XMIT: LA613

Where propaganda comes from

As has been the case in recent years, most white supremacist propaganda was distributed by just three extremist groups: Patriot Front, Goyim Defense League and White Lives Matter, which collectively were responsible for 93% of the activity monitored by the ADL.

Propaganda at a record high

The Center on Extremism has been monitoring and tallying white supremacist propaganda since 2017.

In addition to the record high overall levels of propaganda incidents, the annual report also found:

  • The number of white supremacist events recorded increased to 167 in 2022, a 55% increase from the year before.
  • White supremacists are increasingly using banners to spread hateful messages. In 2022 the ADL recorded 252 "banner drops" in which white supremacist groups painted racist and hateful messages on banners and hung them from freeway bridges and in other public spaces.
May 19, 2022: A person visits a makeshift memorial near the scene of Saturday's shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo, NY.

In context

Last month, President Joe Biden focused on hate and extremism in his annual State of the Union address.

"There is no place for political violence in America," Biden said. "We must give hate and extremism in any form no safe harbor."

Last year also saw several hate-driven mass shootings, including the May 14 attack on a supermarket in Buffalo by a white supremacist who shot and killed 10 people. A November shooting at an LBGTQ-friendly nightclub in Colorado has also led to extensive hate-crime charges for the man accused in the shooting. 

Go deeper on extremism: 

Jan. 6 riot:Hundreds of identifiable suspects remain free. Here's why 

Financing:Extremists raised $6.2 million on crowdfunding websites 

Antisemitism:Number of Americans who believe antisemitic ideas has doubled since 2019