White Supremacists Step Up Recruiting on Campus, Report Says

The New York Times/March 6, 2017

By Tamara Best

At Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., a printer, suspected to have been hacked, spurted out anti-Semitic fliers in January.

At Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant, Mich., an Adolf Hitler-themed Valentine’s Day card, unauthorized by the school’s College Republicans, made its way into a bag at one of the group’s meetings in February.

And at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, a vendor was discovered to be selling items with swastika symbols before being asked to leave.

The three episodes are among more than 100 since the school year started in September that the Anti-Defamation League lists in a new report tracking efforts by white supremacists to recruit students on college campuses.

Most of the events — 65 of them — have occurred since January, the report found.

Jonathan A. Greenblatt, the chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, said in a telephone interview on Mondaythat hate groups have increased their presence at colleges through visits, rallies, speeches and alt-right online spaces. However, the seemingly antiquated approach of distributing fliers, often touting messages of white supremacy, has been a focus for increasing their physical presence on campuses.

“Fliers allow them to not only recruit but get public attention,” Mr. Greenblatt said, adding, “it’s not only part of the way they can identify sympathizers but terrorize marginalized communities.

“Social media allows them to go to very targeted audiences in specific ways. Fliers starting to show up saying that any one of these organizations is here and present will not only raise eyebrows but I think really heighten concerns among organizations of students and that’s what they want.”

The fliers have been a common tactic for hate groups, one that allows them to spread their message without requiring many resources or much energy and that allows for a level of anonymity.

According to the report, racist, anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim fliers have been spotted in 32 states at 66 campuses since September. The list included a speaking engagement in December by the white nationalist leader Richard Spencer. The appearance, at Texas A&M University in College Station, ended in violent protests.

The report identified several groups, including Identity Evropa, American Vanguard and American Renaissance, that have made concerted efforts to distribute fliers on campuses. Identity Evropa and American Vanguard were both founded in 2016, it said.

Mr. Greenblatt said the groups were emboldened by a sort of middle-of-the-road acceptance in recent months.

“In a political environment where white supremacists have felt more welcome than any time in recent memory, we saw them move from their margins to the mainstream,” Mr. Greenblatt said. “We saw their language and images really penetrate the political process and to a large degree the public conversation,” he said, adding, “so what we see is people like Richard Spencer and other organizations try to exploit this newfound idea of legitimacy to grow their ranks.”

At Vanderbilt, meanwhile, officials condemned the anti-Semitic fliers that appeared in January, said they would not tolerate any effort to intimidate any members of the campus community, and encouraged people to report such incidents to the authorities.

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