By Robert Downen, The Texas Tribune
“Texas led nation in white supremacist propaganda in 2022, report finds” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.
Sign up for The Brief, The Texas Tribune’s daily newsletter that keeps readers up to speed on the most essential Texas news.
Texas led the nation in white supremacist propaganda incidents last year, according to a new report from the Anti-Defamation League.
All told, Texas accounted for 527 of the 6,750 incidents tallied by the ADL in 2022 — a 61% increase statewide and a 38% jump nationally since 2021. The total, which hit an all-time high last year, includes the distribution or display of antisemitic, racist or anti-LGBTQ stickers, banners, graffiti, posters and laser projections.
The rise corresponds with a wave of antisemitic and extremist violence that has steadily grown in recent years, driven by white supremacist groups and worldviews that have been increasingly popularized online and in conservative politics. Reported incidents of “explicitly antisemitic propaganda” more than doubled last year, according to the ADL.
The Texas-based extremist group Patriot Front was responsible for roughly 80% of all propaganda incidents nationally, according to the report. Two other groups — Goyim Defense League and White Lives Matter — accounted for a bulk of the remaining propaganda incidents and were also active in Texas.
“Hardly a day goes by without communities being targeted by these coordinated, hateful actions, which are designed to sow anxiety and create fear,” said Oren Segal, vice president of the ADL’s Center on Extremism. “These actions are also being documented by the extremists themselves in order to signal back to their communities online, which provides an on-ramp to further engagement with white supremacy and hate.”
Extremism experts have warned for years that white supremacist groups have been targeting Texas communities for recruiting, particularly those in urban areas where they believe they can exacerbate racial tensions and create a broader climate of fear among communities of color.
Last year in Austin, Dallas and Houston — the latter being one of the most diverse cities in the country — white supremacists repeatedly peppered Black and Jewish neighborhoods with antisemitic and racist flyers. Across the state, they flew banners over major highways and defaced schools and homes with swastikas and other hate symbols. And they continue to coalesce around anti-LGBTQ events, including drag show protests, where they’ve sought to recruit and slowly mainstream their more radical views.
Extremism experts and longtime antifascist activists say such groups have been emboldened by the Republican Party and its amplification of things such as “great replacement theory,” a longtime white supremacist worldview that claims there is an intentional, Jewish-driven effort to destroy white people through immigration, interracial marriage and the LGBTQ community.
Meanwhile, Republican Party leaders continue to cozy up to outright fascists and white supremacists. Last year, former President Donald Trump met with Nick Fuentes, a Holocaust-denying Christian Nationalist who wants to expel Jews from the United States, and other top GOP figures — including U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene — have appeared at conferences with Fuentes and other extremists.
Such normalization has increased the likelihood that propaganda campaigns could lead to actual hate crimes, experts said.
Mark Toubin, the Houston-based director of the ADL’s southwest region, said propaganda campaigns have long been favored by white supremacist groups because they allow a small group of people to have an outsized effect – with little fear of being arrested because their actions are often protected under the First Amendment.
He noted that the ADL’s annual figures are likely only a small fraction of the total nationwide incidents because of how few law enforcement agencies report hate crimes or propaganda incidents to national databases. Still, he said, it’s crucial for law enforcement to stop treating propaganda campaigns as harmless words – and to investigate them to see if there were any crimes committed in the process.
“It does lead to violence,” he said. “People will be hurt and people will die.”
We can’t wait to welcome you Sept. 21-23 to the 2023 Texas Tribune Festival, our multiday celebration of big, bold ideas about politics, public policy and the day’s news — all taking place just steps away from the Texas Capitol. When tickets go on sale in May, Tribune members will save big. Donate to join or renew today.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2023/03/09/Texas-white-supremacist-propaganda/.
The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.