The College Post
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Why are College Campuses Being Targeted by White Supremacists?

Over the past academic year, “growing white supremacy propaganda efforts” have fixated on college campuses across the U.S., according to a report released by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). But what is it about these campuses that make them a desirable target for white supremacist groups?

ADL, an organization that aims “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people, and to secure justice and fair treatment to all,” with ties to pro-Zionism and the Israeli government, has been monitoring white supremacist activity on college campuses in the U.S. since the spring of 2017. The organization noted a significant increase over the 2018-2019 academic year in white supremacist propaganda distribution. 

The report defined “propaganda efforts” as posting flyers, stickers and posters, and described that its Center on Extremism recorded 313 cases of such white supremacist propaganda on campuses nationwide over the 2018-2019 school year. This is a 7 percent increase from the previous year, when 292 incidents of white supremacist propaganda distrubition were documented. 

So why are college student bodies suddenly being increasingly targeted by these groups? 

The report explained that extremists target campuses because it creates an opportunity to recruit “new, young followers” which is “essential to the growth and sustainability of any movement.” Jake Hyman, a spokesperson for ADL, agreed. 

“Campuses, for white supremacist groups, provide a really fertile recruiting ground for where they believe they can attract young and impressionable students to their cause,” Hyman told The College Post

Hyman added that these groups believe that young people, students especially, are “more susceptible” to their messages. 

White supremacist groups, specifically the American Identity Movement and Patriot Front, see the act of posting flyers on college campuses as another way to gain public exposure and media attention. 

“Those flyers can be placed anywhere on campus,” Hyman said. “[The flyers] will also get immediate attention, and they can [put the flyers up] at any time.” 

He also noted that the anonymity that white supremacist recruiters are granted in posting flyers around college campuses can be appealing. 

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) released a report in August 2018 that provides insight into why white supremacists tend to target college campuses for recruitment as well. 

“College campuses have been the target for decades among white nationalists, racists and white supremacists, because the schools are seen as liberal bastions that either need to be exposed to right-wing ideologies or called out for their political leanings,” the report states. 

Hyman noted that the 2016 presidential election may also be a contributing factor to the increase in white supremacist propaganda distribution incidents. 

“[White supremacists] are emboldened by this political climate,” he said. “It’s been a very trying time for a lot of people [in the U.S.], and it has definitely allowed extremists to become more emboldened, and this has allowed for white supremacists to be more emboldened with their recruiting.”

Whether or not these incidents have led to local white supremacist groups forming at these universities is still unknown to the ADL. Hyman stated that the organization will continue to monitor white supremacist activity in the U.S. and across college campuses going forward.

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