Utah among top 10 states with highest levels of white supremacist propaganda

Mar 19, 2023, 8:52 PM

The Beehive State had the seventh highest level of white supremacist propaganda incidents in the co...

The Beehive State had the seventh highest level of white supremacist propaganda incidents in the country during 2022, according to a report by the Anti-Defamation League. (Ariya J, Shutterstock)

(Ariya J, Shutterstock)

SALT LAKE CITY — The Beehive State had the seventh highest level of white supremacist propaganda incidents in the country during 2022, according to a report by the Anti-Defamation League.

Utah accounted for 222 of the 6,751 incidents reported across the country, which include the distribution of racist, antisemitic and anti-LGBTQ fliers, stickers, banners, graffiti, posters and laser projections. The numbers represent record highs for both the state and the U.S., as well as a statewide increase of 134% and a national increase of 38% from 2021.

The Utah incidents took place largely along the Wasatch Front, although a handful took place in more rural parts of the state. Texas-based Patriot Front was responsible for all but six of the Utah incidents, as well as 80% of nationwide incidents. According to the report, Utah was one of the six states where the group was the most active. Members of Patriot Front, including six Utahns, were arrested in Idaho last summer and accused of planning a riot at an LGBTQ rally.

Patriot Front hung about 17 banners from freeway overpasses last year across Salt Lake County and in Lehi, Parleys Canyon, Ogden and Bountiful with links to the group’s website and phrases like “Reclaim America” and “One nation, against invasion.” White Lives Matter, which Anti-Defamation League characterizes as “a network of anonymous white supremacists,” was responsible for a handful of other incidents and used more explicit white supremacy in its propaganda.

University of Utah professor Richard Medina, whose research focuses on extremism and conflict, said the groups’ messaging might become more violent and radical as they become more desperate.

“A lot of these white supremacist groups, like the KKK, shifted years ago from a message of hate to a message of love for your own people and your own ethnicity,” Medina said. “But as people become more desperate, as things get more intensified, people tend to step up their game and their message becomes much more radical and violent. … I think they’re feeling that right now because there’s kind of this idea of the white male, you know, it’s OK to be white; or this idea that they’re victimized or they’ve been marginalized by society. It’s making these younger white males desperate.”

Those feelings may play a factor in white supremacist groups’ increasingly common tactic: targeting college campuses. Patriot Front distributed propaganda at Brigham Young University on three occasions and at Salt Lake Community College once last year.

“Targeting younger white males on college campuses, especially during this time our country is still relatively polarized, could be an effective way to gain recruits,” Medina said. “But for a lot of these groups, I think their membership is down. It just doesn’t seem to be working out for them right now. But who knows, maybe it’ll pick up and start working here in the future.”


Putting data into context


Medina said higher levels of propaganda in Utah don’t necessarily mean that white supremacist groups are finding success in the state. In fact, it may mean the opposite.

“I thought that the groups were kind of diminishing at this point; and if that’s the case, it makes sense that we’re going to see a lot more propaganda because they need to grow their numbers,” he said. “There’s a national movement for recruitment and growing these groups. That doesn’t mean it’s not going to work in Utah, but all of the research and evidence that I have show that Utah is a relatively peaceful state at this time — at least given this type of violence. I would be more worried if these groups were founded and based in Utah.”

Medina said low numbers of hate crimes and violence are a positive sign, clarifying that there is a big difference between propaganda distribution and physical activity, like hate crimes and other types of violence.

“That doesn’t mean that people aren’t biased towards people of color or biased in different ways; it just means that we’re not acting on that in a physical way.” Medina said. “If this is just propaganda and the populations aren’t picking up on that, then we don’t really have that much of an issue. I know this propaganda is hurtful, and it can be scary for a lot of populations, but what we really don’t want to see is violence.”

KSL 5 TV Live

Local News

FILE PHOTO (Grand County Sheriff's Office/Facebook)...

Josh Ellis

Four killed after small plane crashes north of Moab airport

Four people have died after a small plane crashed shortly after taking off from the Canyonlands Regional Airport north of Moab.

3 hours ago

Juno Uyematsu picks fruit on the Anderson farm for employment as a kid." (Courtesy: Juno Uyematsu)...

Erin Cox

Utah museum calls for oral histories, trying to share Utah’s Japanese history

One family is partnering with their local museum to help tell a story we know very little about, and they need your help.

12 hours ago

The scene of the fatal hit and run near 900 E 6300 S....

Brianna Chavez

Murray police search for suspect who killed an elderly man in hit-and-run crash

Murray City police say a man in his 70s was hit and killed by a car on Friday night, and they are looking for the person responsible.

16 hours ago

FILE: Attendees at the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Conference Center....

Eliza Pace

20 new temples announced during October 2023 General Conference

The locations of 20 new temples were announced during the 193rd Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

17 hours ago

Car accident on US189 on October 1, 2023. (Steve Fisher)...

Mary Culbertson and Shelby Lofton, KSL TV

One killed in collision near Deer Creek Reservoir

A fatal car crash in Provo Canyon involving a truck pulling a trailer and a semi-truck killed at least one person.

19 hours ago

The Osmonds: Faith, Family, and Fame is a documentary celebrating the amazing contributions the Osm...

Carole Mikita

The Osmonds: Faith, Family and Fame

The Osmonds is a documentary that gives a behind-the-scenes look inside the iconic Osmond Family. Through rare archival footage and interviews, the segment is a tribute and celebration of the remarkable contributions the family made to music, entertainment, and the world at large.

21 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Design mockup half in white and half in color of luxury house interior with open plan living room a...

Lighting Design

Lighting Design 101: Learn the Basics

These lighting design basics will help you when designing your home, so you can meet both practical and aesthetic needs.

an antler with large horns int he wilderness...

Three Bear Lodge

Yellowstone in the Fall: A Wildlife Spectacle Worth Witnessing

While most people travel to this park in the summer, late fall in Yellowstone provides a wealth of highlights to make a memorable experience.

a diverse group of students raising their hands in a classroom...

Little Orchard Preschool

6 Benefits of Preschool for Kids

Some of the benefits of preschool for kids include developing independence, curiosity, and learning more about the world.

rodeo contestant on a saddle bronc...


Get Ready for the Days of ‘47 Rodeo!

The Days of '47 Rodeo is a series of events everyone in the family can enjoy, with world-class rodeo contestants vying for the gold medal.

Electric LED Lightbulb Change In Light At Home...

Lighting Design

How to Know When to Upgrade Your Lighting

This guide explores indicators that suggest it’s time for a lighting upgrade with tips to make an informed decision when you’re ready to buy. 

Brunette guy in headphones playing games on his desktop computer...

PC Laptops

Looking For a New Computer? Use This Desktop Buying Guide

Choosing a new desktop computer can come with a lot of questions, so we created this desktop buying guide.

Utah among top 10 states with highest levels of white supremacist propaganda