Bill Berkowitz is an Oakland, California-based freelance writer covering conservative movements. He’s a cofounder of the DataCenter, a research library for social and political activists, where he published CultureWatch, a newsletter tracking right-wing movements, and in 2005, he received a Special Journalism Award from the Before Columbus Foundation. Email him at: [email protected].
According to a new report by the Anti-Defamation League, (ADL), college campuses have become a major battleground for white supremacists, as there has been “an alarming increase in white supremacist propaganda … during the 2017 fall semester.”
While white supremacists have been targeting campuses for several years, they “failed to get any real traction until the fall semester of 2016,” the report pointed out. “Since then, propaganda efforts have increased dramatically.”
As the Washington Post recently reported, “Pamphlets and stickers proclaimed war against diversity and stoked racial division”: ‘Fighting for White Working Families’;’Take back what is rightfully ours’; ‘Preserve your heritage, take up the fight.'”
“The propaganda delivers a range of messages: it may promote a white supremacist group, or trumpet the urgent need to ‘save’ the white race. Frequently, the propaganda attacks minority groups, including Jews, Blacks, Muslims, non-white immigrants, and the LGBT community.”
Over the past weekend, neo-fascists, believed to be associated with the Traditionalist Worker Party, chanted Nazi slogans while attacking a group of … protesters outside of a venue at Colorado State University, where conservative activist Charles Kirk, of Turning Point, USA, had just concluded a lecture.
In the past few weeks, there have been incidents on several campuses, including racist fliers posted at the University of South Carolina and the University of Vermont, and anti-immigration fliers tied to a neo-Nazi group at American University in Washington, D.C. Some of these actions have been spearheaded by the Patriot Front and Vanguard America, which “have plastered college campuses with fliers, demonstrating the trend shows no signs of stopping,” according to the ADL report.
Actionnewsjax.com reported that, “At the University of California, San Diego, members of Identity Evropa reportedly interrupted an ethnic studies class and harassed students on Jan. 11.”
“Since September 1, 2016, ADL’s Center on Extremism has recorded 346 incidents where white supremacists have used fliers, stickers, banners, and posters to spread their message,” the report pointed out. “These incidents targeted 216 college campuses — from Ivy League schools to local community colleges — in 44 states and Washington, D.C.” Campuses in Texas and California recorded 61 and 43 incidents respectively.
This year alone, the ADL has already recorded 15 incidents.
“White supremacists are targeting college campuses like never before,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said. “They see campuses as a fertile recruiting ground, as evident by the unprecedented volume of propagandist activity designed to recruit young people to support their vile ideology.”
The Washington Post’s Joe Heim recently reported that Matthew Heimbach, founder of the Traditionalist Worker Party, “a far-right organization that seeks a whites-only nation-state and has been labeled a hate group for its anti-Jewish and homophobic stances and its opposition to racial mixing,” said that actions on campus are “striking a blow directly at the heart of our foes.”
Heimbach added that “It lets them know that there are people that are radically opposed to them, that aren’t afraid of them, that will challenge them. It shakes their thought that they’ve got the campus environment locked down and lets them know that people who oppose them go to their school or are a part of their local community.”
As we roll into 2018, incidents are multiplying. According to the ADL report, “Identity Evropa (IE), a white supremacist group founded by former Marine Nathan Damigo, focused on the preservation of “white American culture” and promoting white European identity. …Was responsible for 158 of the 346 incidents, or almost half the total at 46 percent.”
According to a report in The Independent, in 2016, Identity Evropa announced its ‘Project Siege.’ The group encouraged members to strike up conversations with students at local campuses, and put up posters with slogans like ‘Protect Your Heritage’ and ‘History Is Ours.'”
The Independent pointed out that “On its website, the group described the project as ‘the beginning of a long term cultural war of attrition against academia’s Cultural Marxist narrative.'”
Using public speaking engagements, and the hubbub surrounding them, has served white supremacists well, enhancing their profile. As the ADL noted, “Prominent racist Richard Spencer has held a number of public speaking engagements on college campuses over the last year and a half.” And he has a scheduled appearance at Michigan State University next month, and, according to the ADL, he “is attempting to hold an event at Kent State University on May 4, the 48th anniversary of the murder of four students by National Guardsmen.”
“What we’re dealing with on college and university campuses is a reflection of the times. It’s regrettable, it’s unfortunate, but that’s where we are in 2018,” said Terry Hartle, a senior vice president at the American Council on Education, which represents chiefs of nearly 1,800 schools.
Last year, “the Southern Poverty Law Center, a US non-profit organization that monitors hate groups, released a 16-page resource guide titled “The Alt-Right on Campus: What Students Need to Know,” USA Today’s Kalina Newman reported. “The guide aims to provide college students with a full understanding of the far-right movement, its key players and what to do in preparation if such a group comes to their campus.”
University officials across the country are grappling with a fluid situation; creating policies and guidelines to deal “with the increase in racially based incidents and the growing push on campuses by white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups,” the Washington Post’s Heim pointed out. How much attention should be paid to these groups is certainly up for debate. But, one thing is clear, racist and anti-Semitic actions of these groups cannot be ignored.