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White supremacy propaganda and activity at an all-time high in Texas, U.S., ADL reports

A person holds a sign that says "Texas is a no-hate zone."
Gabriel C. Pérez
Demonstrators hold a "Rally for Kindness" at the state Capitol in 2021 after a spike in antisemitic incidents in Austin.

White supremacy propaganda distribution and events increased by 38% in 2022, according to the Anti-Defamation League’s annual assessment of propaganda activity. In Texas, it increased by 61%.

The assessment recorded 6,751 incidents, with 527 of them happening in Texas.

ADL Southwest Regional Director Mark Toubin said it’s disappointing and anxiety-provoking. He said he believes Texas was so highly ranked because there are white supremacy groups that are based here.

“Patriot Front, which is responsible for a large number, is based in Texas,” he said. “The Goyim Defense League initiated a propaganda campaign in 2022 that appeared to focus highly on Texas. And the Aryan Freedom Network, which is based in Northeast Texas … appears to be more organized than before.”

Three white supremacist groups were responsible for 93% of the activity: Patriot Front, Goyim Defense League (GDL), and White Lives Matter. Patriot Front was responsible for 80% of the distributions in 2022.

Toubin said he believes these groups feel they gain ground and use propaganda because it only requires a few people to have a greater impact and technically does not break any laws.

“One of the reasons they use propaganda is because they’re not violating the law,” he said. “There may be technical violations in terms of trespassing or littering. These are efforts that are largely protected by the First Amendment. Their goal is to spread anxiety, to make marginalized groups feel threatened, and to have an outsized impact in effort to normalize their messages of hate.”

Toubin said in the Greater Houston area there were 50 incidents in 2022. In January, Houston-based doctor Dr. Peter Hotez said he received a flyer with photos of swastikas in the mail.

Propaganda was reported in every state except Hawaii, with the highest levels of activity also being in Massachusetts, Virginia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, California, Utah, Florida, Connecticut and Georgia.

The ADL Center on Extremism tracked activity like the distribution of anti-Semitic, racist and anti-LGBTQ+ fliers; the spread of stickers, banners, graffiti and posters, white supremacist gathering, and even hateful laser projections on buildings and stadiums.

Toubin said one encouraging thing about the incidents was how the communities rallied against it. Neighbors would help clean up and report the incidents each time, he said.

“They spoke out and said ‘Look, we don’t want this in our neighborhood,'” he said. “We have seen that in every situation where a neighborhood was impacted.”

But he added that it shouldn’t be business as usual.

“Those who disagree and despise this hateful message that’s being propagated by these extremists can’t rely on others to speak out,” he said. “It’s incumbent upon every single person.”

The report also documented 167 white supremacist events, which was a 55% increase from 2021. 219 incidents of propaganda distribution occurred on campuses and happened in 29 states. The most on-campus activity happened in Texas, Arizona, California, Florida, Idaho, Ohio, Illinois and Michigan. The study also found that the groups used banners draped over highway overpasses at least 252 times in 2022.

One way to help these incidents are by reporting trespassing, vandalism or harassment to law enforcement, and to not approach white supremacists who are actively engaged in protest or distribution.

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