WICHITA, Kan. – Incidents of white supremacist propaganda hit an all-time high across the nation in 2020, that’s according to a new report from the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, which has tracked racist propaganda for decades.
Anti-Semitic, racist, and anti-LGBTQ posters, fliers, and graffiti were recorded 5,125 times in 2020,
that’s almost twice the number of incidents recorded in 2019. The report details incidents in every state except for Hawaii.
“A lot of times, putting a sticker on a light post doesn’t rise to the level of a prosecutable crime,” said Murphy Wulfgar, the communications director with the Anti-Defamation League’s Plains States Region. “It falls into this grey area of free speech protections and we’re having that conversation. It gets very frustrating for people to not have tangible action taken against something they find so hurtful and so hateful.”
The Anti-Defamation League says the white supremacist propaganda can lead to dangerous actions. “That inevitably leads to things like we saw on January 6 to these physical manifestations of this hate,” Wulfgar said.
Speaking about the recent spike in white supremacist propaganda in the U.S., Wulfgar said, “There are people who are much more emboldened and who are using this as a means of recruitment of trying to get other people to conform to their message.
The Anti-Defamation League said in 2020, numbers show around 14 incidents of propaganda each day, coming from more than 30 white supremacists groups. “They are trying to reframe it as American nationalism, to reframe it as something more palatable,” Wulfgar added.
Between 2019 to 2020, the Anti-Defamation League saw just 16 incidents in Kansas. “We should always assume the reach is greater than the instance itself,” Wulfgar stated.
American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas said they are paying close attention to the propaganda and spreading of racist, anti-LGBTQ and anti-Semitic messages.
“It will mean that marginalized groups will be discriminated against, they will be targeted, they will be subjected to violence and hatred and a denial of their rights,” said Sharon Brett, legal director with ACLU of Kansas. “And so we have to be concerned about how rhetoric moves into action, and that’s a big concern.”
Wulfgar explained that the hate-filled words should not be taken lightly. “‘Well we just gotta deal with it, we just got to ignore ‘those people’ or — this is just the way things are now.’ If we accept that, if we take that tact — there’s nowhere for it to go but up,” he said.
Instead, those propaganda-driven words can be drowned by others speaking up. “See something, say something, so making sure that these sorts of acts or this rhetoric doesn’t go unnoticed,” Brett said.
Reporting propaganda also helps in the long run. The Anti-Defamation League says their database and people speaking up has led to being able to identify more than 200 people in the Capitol surge.
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