First it was jihadist terrorism, now it’s white supremacy: The rise of a dangerous ideology

First it was jihadist terrorism, now it’s white supremacy: The rise of a dangerous ideology
A new report has found that white supremacist propaganda in the US has doubled from last year, but such racist incidents are on the rise in Europe, too.
4 min read
12 February, 2020
Racism across many parts of the world is on the rise [Getty]
White supremacist propaganda is spreading, and its impact is visible - all one must do is look to the rise of racist incidents across North America, Europe and New Zealand, with social media and the internet being primary platforms for decimation.

White supremacists today are organising in a similar way to terrorist organisations such as Al Qaeda did in the 1990s.

The distribution of white supremacist propaganda in America for instance increased by more than 120 percent between 2018 and 2019, according to the Anti-Defamation League; this means 2019 was the second year that the circulation of propaganda material has more than doubled.

The Anti-Defamation League's Centre on Extremism reported 2,713 cases of circulated propaganda by white supremacist groups, including fliers, posters and banners, compared with 1,214 cases in 2018.

The printed propaganda distributed by white supremacist organisations includes material that directly spreads messages of discrimination against Jews, LGBT+ people and other minority communities.

The sharp rise in cases of white supremacist propaganda distribution last year follows a jump of more than 180 percent between 2017, the first year that the Anti-Defamation League tracked material distribution, and 2018.

While 2019 saw cases of propaganda circulated on university campuses in the US nearly double, encompassing 433 separate campuses in all but seven states, researchers who compiled the data found that 90 percent of campuses only saw one or two rounds of distribution.

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Oren Segal, director of the League's Centre on Extremism, pointed to the prominence of more subtly biased rhetoric in some of the white supremacist material, emphasising "patriotism", as a sign that the groups are attempting “to make their hate more palatable for a 2020 audience.”

By emphasising language "about empowerment, without some of the blatant racism and hatred", Segal said, white supremacists are employing "a tactic to try to get eyes onto their ideas in a way that's cheap, and that brings it to a new generation of people who are learning how to even make sense out of these messages".

The propaganda incidents tracked for the Anti-Defamation League's report, set for release on Wednesday, encompass 49 states and occurred most often in ten states: California, Texas, New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio, Virginia, Kentucky, Washington and Florida.

Anti-Trump rally in Virginia, United States [Getty]

About two-thirds of the total propaganda incidents in the new report were traced back to a single white supremacist group, Patriot Front, which the Anti-Defamation League describes as "formed by disaffected members" of the white supremacist organisation Vanguard America after the Charlottesville rally.

The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913 to combat anti-Semitism as well as other forms of racism, has tracked Patriot Front propaganda using messages such as "One nation against invasion" and "America First".

The report to be released Wednesday found that Patriot Front played a major role last year in boosting circulation of white supremacist propaganda on campuses through a push that targeted colleges in the fall.

Segal said that his group's research can equip community leaders with education that helps them push back against white supremacist groups' messaging efforts, including distribution aimed at students.

International white supremacy and terrorism

White supremacy has stretched its influence to large swaths of the world.

In March last year, a man with far-right links allegedly killed 51 worshipers at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand and is waiting to stand trial in June.

The accused gunman allegedly learned about white supremacy in Ukraine and wearing a symbol worn by the Azov Battalion, a special operations group in the Ukraine linked to far-right extremism.

American James Alex Fields Jr murdered a protester with his car during a Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017.

He had been a member of Vanguard America, a group with ties to a British network that celebrated Thomas Mair, a far-right extremist who assassinated MP Jo Cox in 2016.

Recently in the UK, Mohiussunnath Chowdhury, a chicken shop worker who was acquitted two years ago of a sword attack outside Buckingham Palace has been found guilty of planning a series of terror attacks.

Chowdhury had used a signed edition of a far-right wing book written by Tommy Robinson and Peter McLoughlin called "Mohammed's Koran - Why Muslims Kill for Islam" to try and recruit people to his cause at his local mosque in Luton.

"I got a new book - it's the Quran decoded," he wrote on the Telegram encrypted messaging app.

"The Quran is encrypted, and if you read it in chronological order you will find that the majority of the peaceful verses have been cancelled out by the later verses commanding violence," The Independent reported that he wrote.

When he was asked about his purchase, Chowdhury said the English Defence League (EDL) founder "understands jihadi doctrine".

He told the jury that he started looking at anti-Islam sources after watching jihadi propaganda.

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