There was a massive spike in the distribution of white nationalist fliers, stickers, banners and posters last year, according to a new report from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). “The propaganda, which includes everything from veiled white supremacist language to explicitly racist images and words, often features a recruitment element, and frequently targets minority groups, including Jews, Blacks, Muslims, non-white immigrants and the LGBTQ community,” the report states.
The ADL’s Center on Extremism, which compiled the report, found the number of 2018 incidents “far exceed any previous annual propaganda distribution counts.” There were 1,187 incidents reported nationwide, a 182 percent increase over the 2017 total of 421.
In previous years, the ADL found that white nationalist and other racist groups concentrated on distributing their propaganda on college campuses, but last year off-campus spiked, going from 129 reported incidents in 2017 to 868 in 2018, an increase of 572 percent.
But the report likely understates the scale of the problem nationwide, and definitely understates the number of incidents in Iowa City.
According to the report, there was only one incident — the distribution of white nationalist fliers in January 2018. The fliers from the neo-Nazi-affiliated National Alliance were left on driveway and front lawns in Wetherby Park, one of Iowa City’s most racially diverse neighborhoods. But there were other 2018 incidents that could have been included in ADL’s report.
Ten days after the Wetherby Park incident, a man plastered the Ped Mall with “It’s Okay to be White” stickers while the Women’s March was occurring. That episode took a strange turn, when the man, later revealed to be on probation after being convicted of possession of child pornography, attempted to hide in a meeting room in MERGE, the co-working space on the Ped Mall.
There were other incidents in Iowa City in 2018, including someone posting an ad for a white nationalist website on a bulletin board at The Mill, and white nationalist fliers being placed on cars in a downtown parking ramp.
One of the most active groups distributing white nationalist propaganda is Identity Evropa (IE), according to the ADL. The Southern Poverty Law Center describes IE as “at the forefront of the racist ‘alt-right’s’ effort to recruit white, college-aged men and transform them into the fashionable new face of white nationalism. Rather than denigrating people of color, the campus-based organization focuses on raising white racial consciousness, building community based on shared racial identity and intellectualizing white supremacist ideology.” Although none of the propaganda distributed in Iowa City last year featured the IE insignia — “a teal triangle with three lines that meet in the middle” — the publication last week of chatroom messages by IE members revealed an interesting connection between the group and Iowa’s best known politician, Steve King.
King appears to be very popular with IE members, according to leaked messages posted in chatrooms between September 2017 and February 2019 and published by HuffPo’s Andy Campbell.
“Steve king [sic] is my dude,” one of the posters wrote. Another wrote, “Steve King is the closest thing we have to /ourguy/ in govt right now.”
Posters became excited when King would retweet white nationalists (King even retweeted a British neo-Nazi) or repeat white nationalist themes and propaganda. “We all know Steve King is literally dog whistling with ‘western civilization,’” an IE member wrote last October.
As the race in Iowa’s 4th Congressional District tightened last fall, IE members declared they would start donating to King’s campaign. “We need to keep him in office. We need 100 Steve Kings in office,” a poster wrote. It’s unclear from the messages how effective the attempt to encourage donations for King was.
And after King’s reelection, when Republicans in the House of Representatives finally decided the nine-term congressman’s long history of white nationalist rhetoric, associating with white nationalist groups and endorsing white nationalist politicians was unacceptable and Rep. Kevin McCarthy moved to strip King of his committee assignment, IE rallied in King’s defense.
“Attention @everyone,” a poster using the name Reinhard Wolff, a known alias of IE leader Patrick Casey, posted. “Your task for today is to call Kevin McCarthy’s office and let them know that you stand with Steve King—that you take issue with McCarthy’s kowtowing to the left.” Wolff then provided phone numbers for McCarthy’s office.
The IE messages were published by the nonprofit journalism organization Unicorn Riot.
Beginning in 2017, the “decentralized media collective,” (as Unicorn Riot describes itself) has received leaks of message logs of various alt-right and white nationalist groups that use the chat app Discord. Unicorn Riot has published searchable databases of the messages as part of its efforts to shed light on the groups involved in the violent Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
IE is currently being sued for its role in the August 2017 rally. Since the violence at Charlottesville, IE has claimed it is wrong to call the group either “alt-right” or “white nationalist,” since it is only interested in promoting white identity.
“While Identity Evropa presents itself as ‘identitarian’ and merely ‘pro-white’ without advocating hate for other races,” Unicorn Riot wrote when it published the chat logs, “a look behind the curtain lays bare the group’s basis in crudely watered-down National Socialist ideology.”