The coronavirus wasn’t the only contagion running rampant across the United States in 2020.

A prominent Jewish organization reported that white supremacist propaganda “hit an all-time high” last year.

And here in North Carolina, reports of propaganda fueled by white bigotry more than tripled, the Anti-Defamation League reported late Wednesday afternoon.

The ADL’s report comes one day after a 21-year-old self-proclaimed sex addict in a racial, religious, and ethnically charged climate unleashed a one-man wave of violence that left eight dead, including six Asian women.

Three states in the Washington, D.C., region—Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina—were all ranked among the top 10 states where the propaganda was disseminated, according to the report.

The ADL’s Center on Extremism said there were 5,125 nationwide incidents of “racist, anti-Semitic and other hateful messages” introduced into the public sphere in 2020.

“Last year marked the highest level of incidents reported since the ADL began tracking such data—an average of about 14 incidents per day, and nearly double the 2,724 cases reported in 2019,” the agency reported in an email to the INDY.

The annual report also found that “at least 30 known white supremacist groups were behind hate propaganda efforts, affecting 49 states in 2020.”

But the report also noted that while at least 30 white supremacist groups distributed propaganda, just three—the Patriot Front, New Jersey European Heritage Association, and Nationalist Socialist Club—were responsible for 92 percent of the grievous activity.

The Washington, D.C., region accounted for a little over 12 percent of the incidents nationwide last year, with Virginia ranking No. 7, followed by North Carolina at No. 9, and Maryland, 10th.

The raw numbers in the region are telling, with more than twice as many incidents reported last year than 2019.

D.C. incidents increased from 19 in 2019 to 30 in 2020; Maryland, 59 to 163; North Carolina 53 to 195; and Virginia 138 to 249, the ADL reported.

“Propaganda gives white supremacists the ability to maximize media and online attention, while limiting the risk of individual exposure, negative media coverage, arrests and public backlash that often accompanies more public events,” Doron F. Ezickson, an ADL vice president said in the news release.

“The 2020 data in the D.C. region shows a huge increase from the previous year where white supremacist propaganda reports nearly doubled. This is an alarming number of incidents, which overwhelmingly features veiled white supremacist language with a patriotic slant that is used to bolster recruitment efforts while targeting minority groups including the Jewish, Black, Muslim and LGBTQ+ communities, as well as non-white immigrants,” Ezickson added.

ADL officials said they track the incidents by collecting public reports, law enforcement data, and community information.

The press release also noted that the majority of the incidents in the D.C. region were fomented by the Patriot Front or the Loyal White Knights, a Klan group. 

The ADL said that 283 instances of racial, ethnic, and religious bigotry in the region last year featured “Anti-Semitic language or specifically targeted Jewish institutions.” That’s a 68 percent increase from 2019.

So far this year, the ADL has documented what officials describe as 56 “white supremacist events” compared to 76 events last year over the same period. 

More than half of the events were “privately planned, unannounced flash demonstrations orchestrated for quick photo and video opportunities that are then used to create online content,” according to the release.

So far, the largest event this year took place last month, when about 100 Patriot Front members participated in a flash demonstration on the National Mall.

“It’s important to note that propaganda efforts are not always covered by hate crime statutes since most are expressions of constitutionally protected speech,” Ezickson, the ADL vice president, said.

“If it involves graffiti on private property it may be illegal or if a hate flier is posted at a religious institution it can be considered a hate crime in many states. Therefore, it’s important for communities to report any local hate group activity to law enforcement and to ADL.”

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