White Supremacists Ramp Up Efforts To Recruit College Kids

With racist fliers and Nazi-themed Valentine's Day cards, white supremacists are going after students

"Alt-right" leader Richard Spencer — The Washington Post/Getty Images
Mar 06, 2017 at 12:25 PM ET

White supremacist groups across the country are targeting college campuses for recruitment efforts in what observers are calling an “unprecedented” campaign to boost their numbers, according to a report released Monday.

In its report, the Anti-Defamation League, an advocacy group that tracks hate groups, said that these organizations have been emboldened by the election of President Donald Trump and are stepping up their recruitment efforts to capitalize on the anti-immigrant, anti-Islam sentiment brought back to the surface over the course of the 2016 campaign.

Hate groups like Identity Evropa, American Vanguard, and American Renaissance — all white nationalist organizations that align with the “alt-right” — are recruiting students at colleges across the country because young people are “prime targets” who are “still figuring out who they are,” the report found.

“White supremacists have consciously made the decision to focus their recruitment efforts on students and have in some cases openly boasted of efforts to establish a physical presence on campus,” said ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt. “While there have been recruitment efforts in the past, never have we seen anti-Semites and white supremacists so focused on outreach to students on campus.”

In their efforts, these groups are distributing racist fliers across campuses — a tactic frequently used by traditional hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan — and having their leaders go on college speaking tours. Richard Spencer, the de-facto leader of the “alt-right,” and former Breitbart News editor Milo Yiannopoulos each started college speaking tours. (Yiannopoulos’ tour was cut short after video emerged of him advocating for pedophilia.)

Identity Evropa launched its college recruitment plan under the banner of “Project Siege,” a plan to encourage members to go to campuses and engage with students. “It is imperative that we create space for our ideas at universities across the country,” the group writes, noting that it hopes to gain traction among college students because they are the “future managerial class.”

As of March 3, the ADL tallied 104 reported incidents of racist fliers distributed on college campuses across the country, most of which (61 percent) happened in January, around the time Trump took the oath of office. But it’s not just fliers — in February, a music video called “white power” was circulated by students at Old Dominion University in Virginia via Twitter. In Michigan, Nazi-themed Valentine’s Day cards that read “my love 4 u burns like 6,000 Jews” were distributed at Central Michigan University. At Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, university printers were hacked and began churning out anti-Semitic fliers.

The effect these fliers have goes far beyond just those who actually see them.

“The resulting social media and traditional media coverage [of racist fliers being distributed] will ensure that far, far more people will hear about the fliers than ever actually physically laid eyes on them,” Mark Pitcavage, a senior research fellow with the ADL, told us for a previous article. “Lots of bang for the buck; getting a lot of reach out of limited manpower.”