College campuses are not necessarily major societal bellwethers, but Americans at an impressionable age are particularly vulnerable to various influences. And so, what goes on in such venues can’t be ignored.
We are well familiar with the left-wing propaganda present on campuses, muddling Mid-East issues and vilifying Israel, and by extension Jews, at every turn. Jewish students on various campuses have reported feeling under siege at times by vocal and angry advocates for “Palestinian” causes.
It would be shortsighted, however, to ignore threats to Jews and others posed by extremists on the other end of the political spectrum. According to a new ADL report, there has been a precipitous 77% increase in the dissemination of white supremacist propaganda on U.S. college campuses this year.
In recent years, the ADL has expanded its mission to include taking positions on an assortment of issues well beyond the scope of the organization’s original mandate, including positions that are deeply objectionable to our community. But it does continue its watchdog role, gathering and tabulating data about manifestations of hatred aimed at Jews and other minorities. And the results of that research deserve our attention.
The ADL’s Center on Extremism found 292 cases of white supremacist propaganda on campuses during the 2017-2018 academic year, compared to 165 the previous year. Since 2016, a total of 478 incidents have been recorded on 287 campuses across the U.S.
The propaganda included everything from “veiled white supremacist language to explicitly racist images and words” attacking Jews, blacks, Muslims, immigrants and others.
Particularly prominent among the groups involved was one calling itself “Identity Evropa.” Another major culprit was an entity called “Patriot Front.”
Other national group like “Vanguard America” and a new group, the “National Socialist Legion,” have also targeted college campuses this year.
To a lesser degree, white supremacist Andrew Anglin’s “Daily Stormer Book Clubs” have targeted campuses, as have smaller, localized groups like Louisiana-based “Identity Acadia,” West Virginia-based “Patriots of Appalachia,” New York’s “White Rochester,” Idaho’s “Boise State Nationalists” and New Jersey’s “European Heritage Association.”
In addition to widely targeting Jews, white supremacists have also posted offensive material at other minority-related venues and buildings. In January, Identity Evropa fliers were posted on the Ethnic Studies Department bulletin board at Santa Clara University in California, and racist fliers were found plastered over photos of black historical figures outside the department of African-American studies at the University of South Carolina at Columbia. In February, fliers referencing Hitler were placed over posters promoting Black History Month at the University of Tenneessee, and a Patriot Front flier that read, “Not here not ever” was posted over a sign promoting a learning series on the issue of “civility” at Weber State University in Utah.
Off-campus distribution of hate literature has also accelerated this year. The ADL has counted 185 off-campus propaganda distributions since January — averaging more than one incident per day for the first five months of the year.
Of even greater concern, perhaps, are candidates with white supremacist ties who have run for state or national office this year.
Patrick Little, for instance, who called for a government “free from Jews” and for a while was at the top of a poll in a California Republican primary for a U.S. Senate seat. Although he ended up finishing 12th in California’s primary for U.S. Senate, and was condemned by the state Republican Party, he garnered 53,632 votes.
And then there is Arthur Jones, a former American Nazi Party member and self-described “white racialist,” vying for a seat in Illinois’ 3rd Congressional District. He has said that he thinks it is “ridiculous” that people believe six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust. He, too, was denounced by his state’s Republican Party, but received nearly 20,000 votes in Illinois’ March primary.
There are several other similar candidates across the nation.
Two weeks ago, people gathered at the Cincinnati JCC to listen to Christian Picciolini, a former white supremacist, talk about his journey out of the movement.
He recounted his recruitment in Chicago as a young teen, his rising in the ranks to become the head of a skinhead group, and his recognition of the wrongness of his hatred.
A reporter asked Mr. Picciolini what he would say to someone who doesn’t believe there is right-wing hate or racism in the U.S. today.
“I would say,” he answered, “[that] they live in a bubble where they are not impacted. Because it’s an epidemic across the country. Hate doesn’t have to be a shaved head and wear boots or even sport a swastika. It is now wearing a suit or running for political office because fear rhetoric has become normalized.”
Words well worth our attention.