Sunday’s New York Times, Page A16… there it is… just your average Ohio neo-Nazi, white supremacist, Jew-hater buying groceries, walking down the aisle with his shopping cart. What gives, New York Times?
In the article titled, “A Voice of Hate in America’s Heartland,” reporter Richard Fausset, who wrote and rewrote the article over many months, profiles Tony Hovater. The article opens with Tony and his new bride, Maria, registering at Target for a muffin pan and pineapple slicer.
Oh how cute.
Let’s buy them a subscription to The Forward.
He is just the friendly Nazi-sympathizer-next-door. He loves cats, Seinfeld, and National Public Radio. Mothers adore him for their daughters. He said that his (hate) group has held food and school-supply drives in Appalachia. He eats turket at Panera Breadand reads books by Charles Murray and Pat Buchanan.
I get it. I see that the reporter and editors are showing that racists and neo-Nazis are around us; they are vile but just your average neighbor and shopper. They are not maniacs with blood dripping from their hands. They ARE your normal neighbor and few people care that they are filled with hate. Those marchers in Charlottesville Virginia who surrounded a syngaogue on a Friday night and threatened congregants with torches… they might be the shopper in your grocery aisle looking at the ice cream selections.
But the article went too far, IMHO. We think that readers of newspapers can read between the lines and know that The Times is not normalizing Nazis. The newspaper is not normalizing them, the communities, media, and neighbors are already normalizing them.
Within hours, Twitter was ablaze and #Nytimes was trending to the Top Five topics on Sunday afternoon.
Marc Lacey of The New York Times responded to readers’ criticisms HERE.
Bess Kalb, a writer for late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, tweeted that The NYT should Examine with more incisiveness, not more detail. Illuminate truths instead of broadcasting darkness. Also “the polite Nazis cleaned the chambers as best they could, but they couldn’t scrub the bloody scratches off the walls and ceilings. The ceilings. The bodies of children in mass graves were found clutching each other, their skeletal faces masks of abject terror.” and
“You know who had nice manners? The Nazi who shaved my uncle Willie’s head before escorting him into a cement chamber where he locked eyes with children as their lungs filled with poison and they suffocated to death in agony.” She added, “Fuck the Nazi’s house and fuck the Nazi’s name and fuck the Nazi’s faux intellectual books and fuck this editor for not replacing this awful headline with “White Male Inferiority Complex Incarnate Who Advocates for Murderous Racial Cleansing Buys Groceries, Too!”
This was in reponse to The Times sentence that, “In person, his Midwestern manners would please anyone’s mother.”
Jamelle Bouie @jbouie of SLATE tweeted that the article was irresponsible and blamed it on the whiteness of mainstream political reporters (but that should not be seen as self-serving, it is just a criticism I suppose)
Ezra Klein @EzraKlein – a founder of Vox.com – tweeted that “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.”
Symone D. Sanders – who appears on CNN and is helping to strat #CrookedMedia to combat #FakeNews, tweeted “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.”
The author of the story has posted that there “is a hole at the heart of my story about Tony Hovater, the white nationalist and Nazi sympathizer.” He wanted to show how a relatively normal, middle class, intelligent, socially adroit young man drifted to a hate group. But he failed. He writes that “Sometimes all we can bring you is the words of the police spokesman, the suspect’s picture from a high school yearbook, the acrid stench of the burned woods. Sometimes a soul, and its shape, remain obscure to both writer and reader.”
So maybe they should have held the story til they found out?