Pennsylvania ranks as the third-most affected state in the country when it comes to white supremacist propaganda on college campuses, according to a recent report by the Anti-Defamation League.
Eighteen college campuses in Pennsylvania were targeted in 2017, including the University of Pittsburgh. Texas was the most affected state in the nation, with 61 incidents, followed by California with 43.
“The 18 incidents across the commonwealth marked a dramatic increase over 2016, which saw zero recorded instances of white supremacist propaganda on campus,” according to a Feb. 1 ADL news release.
“Institutions that witnessed white supremacist activity included Drexel University, Elizabethtown College, Kutztown University, Millersville University, Pennsylvania State University, Temple University, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Pittsburgh, York College and more.”
A group called Identity Evropa is one of the most active white supremacist groups on college campuses and the one responsible for the pasting of offensive fliers on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh last July. The group, which the ADL tracks on a continuing basis, was responsible for 158 of the 346 national incidents in 2017 and for 11 of the 18 incidents in Pennsylvania.
Identity Evropa focuses on the preservation of “white American culture” and promoting white European identity.
They point to Jews as the cause of the problems plaguing the country, and they say that Jews promote multiculturalism.
The Atomwaffen Division, another group that engages in fliering on college campuses in Pennsylvania, was recently implicated in the murder of 19-year-old Blaze Bernstein, a gay Jewish student at the University of Pennsylvania, by alleged white supremacist Samuel Lincoln Woodward.
The Identity Evropa fliers that were posted on the Pitt campus last summer read, “Our future belongs to us,” and, “Our destiny is ours,” according to Carla Hill, senior investigative researcher for the ADL’s Center on Extremism.
Hill, who spends her days tracking the activities of white supremacist groups, including on social media, first saw the fliers posted on Twitter by the group itself on July 22, 2017.
“Tracking this activity is important because the language in that flier doesn’t necessarily jump out at you,” Hill said. “The language seems more mainstream. That is intentional to bring people over to their side.”
While the ADL is a strong supporter of free speech, Hill said, it works to identify hate speech and “speak out against it.”
Identity Evropa started becoming active on college campuses in January 2016, according to Hill.
“It is looking to attract young people to the movement,” she said.
Identity Evropa also posted fliers on the campus of Westmoreland Community College.
Hill believes that because of a change in leadership in that group, white supremacist activity in Pennsylvania may decrease in 2018.
“I don’t think we need to be worried,” she said. “And Identity Evropa is fairly nonviolent.”
Other groups, such as the Keystone State Skinheads, who fliered at Temple University, are “more worrisome,” according to Hill, and use more direct hate language in their literature.
They do think [Trump] has not gone far enough. They don’t like that he went to Israel and touched the Western Wall. But they think he is the closest to a leader who is on their side.
All the white supremacist groups “hate Jews to varying degrees,” Hill said. Common canards spouted by those groups continue to be the same ones that have fueled anti-Semites throughout history, such as claims that Jews control the media, the banking system, and politics.
“They point to Jews as the cause of the problems plaguing the country, and they say that Jews promote multiculturalism,” Hill said.
It is no coincidence that the rise in white supremacist activity began immediately after the election of President Donald Trump, according to Hill.
“Trump’s election has emboldened these groups,” she said, basing her statement on the comments she reads every day posted by those groups on social media. “They think he’s their best chance, so they think this is their time. They think they should make a go of it now.”
“They do think [Trump] has not gone far enough,” Hill continued. “They don’t like it that he hasn’t built the wall yet. They don’t like that he went to Israel and touched the Western Wall. They don’t like that he is working on DACA. They say ugly things about that. But they think he is the closest to a leader who is on their side.”
Since Sept. 1, 2016, the ADL has recorded 346 incidents of white supremacist propaganda on college and university campuses. Fifteen incidents so far have been recorded in 2018. PJC
Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.