White nationalist groups have significantly ramped up recruitment and propaganda efforts on American college campuses in the past year, but it’s not clear whether they’re getting more takers.
In the fall semester of 2017 alone, according to a new report, the anti-Defamation League recorded 147 incidents of white nationalist propaganda showing up on college campuses, everywhere from Ivy League schools to community colleges, mostly in California and Texas.
That’s three times the 41 incidents recorded in the fall semester of 2016. From Sept 1. 2016 to Jan. 28, 2018, ADL found 363 total incidents of white nationalist propaganda — meaning fliering, putting up posters, hanging banners, and distributing stickers — on 216 college campuses across 44 states, plus the District of Columbia.
The increase was driven largely by Identity Evropa, the preppy white nationalist group who’ve eschewed swastikas and overt neo-Nazism in favor of a khaki-and-polo aesthetic and faux-intellectualism.
Identity Evropa accounted for roughly half all propaganda activity on college campuses in the last year. They’re among the white nationalist groups that rose to prominence last year during what the alt-right has dubbed “The Summer of Hate,” defined by the violent “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August that left three dead and dozens injured.
It’s hard to tell whether their recruitment efforts are having any real success. Experts say that groups like Identity Evropa often exaggerate their membership figures in order to seem more influential than they actually are. Last July, pre-Charlottesville, Identity Evropa founder and then-leader Nathan Damigo claimed the group had a 300-strong membership. His successor, Eli Moseley (aka Elliott Kline), contacted by VICE News for a different story in September 2017, said membership numbers soared in the wake of Charlottesville but declined to offer substantiating evidence. Moseley stepped down as Identity Evropa leader in November and was replaced by former chief of staff Patrick Casey (aka Reinhard Wolff). Casey declined to share membership rolls with VICE News.
Identity Evropa’s presence on campuses has sometimes ventured beyond propaganda distribution. For example, a number of recent incidents at University of California San Diego involved students claiming to be members of Identity Evropa disrupting ethnic studies classes.
Other groups active on college campuses in the last year include Patriot Front and Vanguard America, whose flavor of white nationalism is more blatantly neo-Nazi than their Identity Evropa cousins.
The Texas-based Patriot Front, led by 18-year-old Thomas Rousseau, formed as a splinter group of Vanguard America amid infighting after Charlottesville. Vanguard America is best known for its alleged affiliation to James Alex Fields, the young man with neo-Nazi sympathies who is facing first-degree murder charges for ramming his vehicle into a crowd of counterprotesters in Charlottesville, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.
Fields was photographed at the Unite the Right rally carrying a shield emblazoned with Vanguard America’s logo -— the group meanwhile has denied any relationship to him. Like Identity Evropa, Vanguard America is one of the many new hate groups that have emerged in recent years and are pandering to a new, younger generation of angry, young white men.
The Atomwaffen Division has also been reported fliering on college campuses. Atomwaffen is the violent, Charles-Manson obsessed neo-Nazi group who’ve made headlines in recent weeks after outlets including ProPublica and the Washington Post linked them to suspects in five killings. Atomwaffen’s mission is encouraging real-life action and violence over what they call “keyboard warriorism.”
Cover: The home page of Identity Evropa, with the tagline "We Are the Future", shows a banner they hung over a roadway.
This article originally appeared on VICE News US.