The New York Times found itself at the center of much outrage on Saturday after the nation’s leading newspaper published a profile on a Nazi sympathizer and white nationalist. The profile, critics said, was one step further toward normalizing Nazi-hate.
What did the NYT profile say?
Indeed, the profile — before the Times edited it — was titled, “In America’s Heartland, the Nazi Sympathizer Next Door.” It profiled Tony Hovater of southwestern Ohio. It said:
In Ohio, amid the row crops and rolling hills, the Olive Gardens and Steak ’n Shakes, Mr. Hovater’s presence can make hardly a ripple. He is the Nazi sympathizer next door, polite and low-key at a time the old boundaries of accepted political activity can seem alarmingly in flux. Most Americans would be disgusted and baffled by his casually approving remarks about Hitler, disdain for democracy and belief that the races are better off separate. But his tattoos are innocuous pop-culture references: a slice of cherry pie adorns one arm, a homage to the TV show “Twin Peaks.” He says he prefers to spread the gospel of white nationalism with satire. He is a big “Seinfeld” fan.
The profile’s author, Richard Fausset, indicated Hovater’s relatively normal life as a married, working man in his late-20’s. The one part of Hovater’s life that isn’t normal, Fausset noted, is Hovater’s online presence. That is where Hovater spews his white nationalist hate and Nazi propaganda.
Fausset later wrote in the Times’ Insider page — a page for its staff — that the question he wanted to answer with the profile was: “Why did this man — intelligent, socially adroit and raised middle class amid the relatively well-integrated environments of United States military bases — gravitate toward the furthest extremes of American political discourse?”
In the end, Fausset admitted he was unable to answer that question. However, that didn’t stop the criticism from pouring in.
What did the Twitter critics say?
This dreck and the “dapper Nazi” dreck is what led us here.
Newspapers, you have a responsibility. I mean, I wouldn’t think this would need to be spelled out but…
DO 👏🏾NOT👏🏾NORMALIZE👏🏾NAZISM👏🏾 https://t.co/jMPdkyv8P2
— Kumail Nanjiani (@kumailn) November 25, 2017
The problem with this article isn't that it's about a Nazi but that it doesn't add anything to our understanding of modern Nazis. Of course racists shop at supermarkets and play in bands and enjoy Seinfeld and own cats. That evil is also banal is not new. https://t.co/bOIQU4pOzu
— Ezra Klein (@ezraklein) November 25, 2017
— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) November 25, 2017
Let me explain to some of you why this is trash & why the NYTs needs more people of color at the decision making table: 1st this is “reporting” on something that IS NOT FREAKING NORMAL, but the profile in & of it self, normalizes white nationalism. https://t.co/cjnHubbR74
— Symone D. Sanders (@SymoneDSanders) November 25, 2017
Imagine a profile like this for an antifa activist. For a street medic. For a BLM organizer. https://t.co/xdagdJ5qwA
— Angus Johnston (@studentactivism) November 25, 2017
Someone needs to tell this guy that real Americans fight and defeat Nazis. Being a Nazi sympathizer should never be “normal” in our country. Period. https://t.co/6z3nzCII2O
— Renato Mariotti (@renato_mariotti) November 25, 2017
The journalist in me understands that your job sometimes is to explain why awful people are so awful. It’s a delicate process. It’s a fine line between explaining and giving hateful people a platform that normalizes their hate. Swing and a miss, here https://t.co/KkEE2rmhTv
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) November 25, 2017
The danger in this article lies not in its portrayal of Nazis as "normal," but in its failure to convey how many atrocities have taken place behind the same veil of normality.https://t.co/tF85V5cbR7
— Caroline O. (@RVAwonk) November 26, 2017
NAZIS EVERYWHERE!!!! What a load of crap.
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