White-supremacist propaganda on college campuses skyrocketed 258 percent in 2017, report says

According to the Anti-Defamation League, campus hate speech surged starting in early 2016

Published February 1, 2018 6:17PM (EST)

Charlottesville: Race and Terror – VICE News Tonight on HBO (Youtube/Vice)
Charlottesville: Race and Terror – VICE News Tonight on HBO (Youtube/Vice)

White-supremacist propaganda on U.S. college campuses has surged, increasing by 258 percent between the fall of 2016 and fall 2017 according to a new report by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL)

The ADL tracked reports of white-supremacist propaganda college campuses, including those of fliers, stickers, banners and posters, at 216 schools ranging from Ivy League institutions to community colleges in 44 different states and Washington D.C. While ADL recorded 41 incidents of white-supremacist propaganda in the fall of 2016, there were 147 incidents the following fall, a jump of 258 percent. The total number of such reports in 2017 reached 290. One month into 2018, there have been already been 15 such documented incidents.

The ADL says it believes that the source of this propaganda is primarily alt-right groups, which the League says have been targeting college campuses since the beginning of 2016. According to the ADL, these groups have only increased their efforts since.

"The propaganda delivers a range of messages: it may promote a white supremacist group, or trumpet the urgent need to 'save' the white race," the report says. "Frequently, the propaganda attacks minority groups, including Jews, Blacks, Muslims, non-white immigrants, and the LGBT community."

Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the organization, said in a statement that "White supremacists are targeting college campuses like never before," and "They see campuses as a fertile recruiting ground."

For at least 60 years, college campuses have been at the front, and sometimes the birthplace, of multiple political and social movements, many of them progressive. The extensive participation of college students in the Civil Rights Movement as well as one of the its more integral organizations, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, is a perfect example.

As well, universities can be spaces where some white students first interact with people of color and where they are first confronted with the naming and questioning of white supremacy and white privilege. Some white students will embrace these complexities and open themselves to a progressive and nuanced world view. Others will react against them, veering towards more racist, radical philosophies.

Eli Mosley — real name Elliott Kline — is a prominent alt-right figure who reportedly helped organize the white-supremacist rallies in Charlottesville in August 2017 and formerly led the white-nationalist group Identity Evropa, perhaps the most active recruiter and promoter for the movement on campuses, according to the ADL. Mosley told Huff Post, "Young people matter, and college campuses have been where political battles have been fought since the '60s and before it." He added, "This is where political change happens. Fundamentally, it’s where the most anti-white institution is. Academia has become a factory for anti-white individuals, and to teach whites to hate themselves."

Despite what Mosley claims, it seems that many are feeling those institutions have become environments that are troublingly amenable to white supremacy. Indeed, two students were so concerned about the rising tide of hate on their campus that they filed a civil rights lawsuit against San Francisco State University alleging that an increasingly anti-Semitic atmosphere on campus, and the administration's inability to properly address it, amounted to institutional discrimination against the school's Jewish student body.

Amanda Berman, director of legal affairs at The Lawfare Project, has been investigating SFSU for almost a year and a half and is one of the organization's lawyers suing on behalf of the students. She said in a statement, "Every couple of weeks, another anti-Semitic incident occurred; another Jewish student faced harassment on campus; another openly degrading comment surfaced from a member of the administration; or another student faced recalcitrance when trying to benefit, the same as all other students, from the opportunities and privileges of enrollment at SFSU."

While individual institutions are dealing (or not dealing) with this visible increase in hate and discrimination on their campuses in their own individual ways, the GOP itself is working on a higher-education bill that may have the effect of emboldening radical right-wing elements in colleges and universities nationwide.

An education bill making its way through Congress would allow religious colleges to ban same-sex relationships without consequence, let religious student groups block members of different faiths and give controversial speakers such as white-supremacist Richard Spencer better access to campus facilities for events, all in the name of First Amendment rights. Should it get the signature of President Donald Trump, it may happen that what is currently a grassroots surge in campus hate speech may get a top-down federal boost.

By Rachel Leah

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