Antisemitism (illustrative)
Antisemitism (illustrative)Reuters

White supremacist propaganda distribution reached historic levels across the United States in 2023, with a total of 7,567 incidents, a 12-percent increase from 2022, according to the ADL (Anti-Defamation League) Center on Extremism’s annual assessment.

With an average of about 20 incidents per day, 2023 marked the highest level of incidents since ADL began tracking such data in 2017. This was the second consecutive year that ADL has recorded record-breaking propaganda numbers, illustrating a troubling trend that coincides with other data showing that antisemitism and other forms of hate are on the rise.

Specifically, antisemitic propaganda increased by 30 percent in 2023, rising to 1,112 incidents in 2023 from 852 in 2022. This increase was largely due to the white supremacist group Patriot Front reincorporating antisemitic phrases into their propaganda. It was also buoyed by online reactions to the October 7 attack on Israel by Hamas, as white supremacist leaders applauded the terrorist group and violence against Israelis.

Additionally, anti-LGBTQ+ propaganda by white supremacists saw a massive 141-percent increase, jumping from 68 incidents in 2022 to 164 in 2023.

“At a time when antisemitic sentiment and incidents are at historic levels, white supremacists are increasingly resorting to hate propaganda to spread pernicious ideas against Jews and other marginalized groups,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL CEO. “Hardly a day goes by without communities being targeted by this odious rhetoric that terrorizes and harasses people at increasingly disturbing rates. This growing threat reminds us we must stay committed to the fight against all forms of hate.”

The ADL Center on Extremism data includes the distribution of racist, antisemitic and anti-LGBTQ+ fliers, stickers, banners, graffiti, posters and laser projections by members of various white supremacist groups. While more than 50 different white supremacist groups and networks distributed propaganda, three of them – Patriot Front, National Justice Party (NJP) and Goyim Defense League (GDL) – were responsible for 92 percent of the activity.

In 2023, white supremacist propaganda was reported in the District of Columbia and every US state except Hawaii and Alaska, with the highest levels of activity (from most to least active) in Virginia, Texas, California, New York, Massachusetts, Missouri, Tennessee, Michigan, Maryland and North Carolina. This year’s assessment includes a citizen’s toolkit for responding to hate propaganda, which provides information and guidance for responding to any encounters with hate propaganda in a safe and positive way.

There were 282 documented white supremacist events in 2023, a 63-percent increase from the 173 recorded in 2022. Events took place in 40 states, with the most activity (from most to least active) in Texas, Ohio, Washington, Florida, California, Michigan and Tennessee.

The findings show that for the fourth straight year, the number of overall propaganda incidents on college campuses dropped, from 219 to 59, the lowest since ADL began tracking campus incidents in 2017.

In addition, for the fifth year in a row, Texas-based Patriot Front was responsible for the vast majority – 60 percent – of the propaganda distributions in 2023. The group distributed propaganda in every state except Alaska, Delaware and Hawaii, but was most active (from most to least active) in Virginia, Massachusetts, Texas, Oklahoma and Missouri.

Not previously known for distributing propaganda, National Justice Party (NJP) launched an aggressive propaganda campaign in 2023, and was responsible for at least 1,924 propaganda incidents, roughly 25 percent of the total propaganda activity nationwide.

The Goyim Defense League (GDL), an antisemitic network with significant crossover with other white supremacist groups and movements, was responsible for at least 511 propaganda incidents in 2023, representing roughly 7 percent of the total propaganda nationwide and 46 percent of the year’s antisemitic propaganda incidents. This is a slight increase from the 492 GDL propaganda incidents recorded in 2022.

"ADL has been documenting incidents of white supremacist propaganda in the United States since 2017 and we have never before seen such levels of activity," said Oren Segal, Vice President for the Center on Extremism. "In addition - the hateful messages pushed by such propaganda are as diverse as their targets. That's why our citizen's toolkit, Responding to Hate Propaganda: What You Need to Know, includes step-by-step instructions on what to do when you see hateful propaganda in your hometown, so you can safely document these incidents and help protect your community."

The incidents referenced in this report and other extremist activity across the country are detailed in the ADL H.E.A.T. Map, which tracks incidents of hate and violence nationwide.