On Saturday, the New York Times published an article highlighting the day-to-day life of Nazi Sympathizer Tony Hovater, a 29-year-old welder from Ohio, and delved into his psyche to reveal that he just wants his hateful ideology to be more mainstream.
And by the reaction to the profile on Twitter, the Times just seemingly granted Hovater's wish, almost portraying him as some sort of victim due to his beliefs. The article describes him as "the Nazi sympathizer next door, polite and low-key at a time the old boundaries of accepted political activity can seem alarmingly in flux."
For all of the alt-right's disdain for "normies," many in the movement want their extremist views to be normalized https://t.co/Uyw0z05bts— NYT National News (@NYT National News)1511643781.0
Part of the article has to do with Hovater and his now-wife's wedding earlier this fall, which they feared might be ruined by "Antifa bashing up the ceremony." Especially since Hovater was one of the founders of the Traditionalist Worker Party, a far-right group that protested in Charlottesville, and again at a "White Lives Matter" rally in Tennessee in October.
All 4 of my grandparents were concentration camp survivors. Most of their families--parents, siblings, children--pe… https://t.co/lNmJJOi3SF— Andrei Cherny (@Andrei Cherny)1511661432.0
For some reason, the article even included a link to the group's website, where a Nazi armband could be purchased for $20. It was later removed:
why did the NYT actually link to the page where you can buy a swastika armband https://t.co/tTBIr1n6CA— Michael Whitney (@Michael Whitney)1511634223.0
The article, which features photos of Hovater outside his house, driving around in his car, and grocery shopping, definitely felt to some like "normalization:"
Hi @nytimes, normalizing Nazis does not mean unbiased reporting. Normalizing Nazis means the NYTimes is normalizin… https://t.co/7BWSDqg3Gd— Matty (@Matty)1511631810.0
NYT: nazi who are you??? what do you want NAZI: white power, cops even more murdering black people w impunity, feud… https://t.co/GzH92FgP6L— Alice Sola Kim (@Alice Sola Kim)1511652720.0
And it wouldn't be the first time that the Times wrote a "normalizing" profile of a Nazi either:
On August 20, 1939, the New York Times wrote an article profiling Hitler's daily life in his mountain chalet, featu… https://t.co/4R0VXrtmLy— J.H. Swanson (@J.H. Swanson)1511646463.0
The profile led to calls of more inclusivity in newsrooms:
Why we need more people of color working in newsrooms in one article: https://t.co/14GAqijKv7 https://t.co/9uITrFsVVD— Rani Molla (@Rani Molla)1511641901.0
If there were a profile of Black Lives Matter, it would have white experts quoted. But profiles of Nazis always let the Nazis self-describe— Heidi N Moore (@Heidi N Moore)1511659886.0
People were unsettled by Hovater's comments about Jewish people (even though he listed himself as an avid Seinfeld fan):
Sure, let's just let Nazis talk in the NYT about how Jews are running finance and the media, why not https://t.co/txwKHR9DP5— Daniel Dale (@Daniel Dale)1511633113.0
There is a genre of profile journalism that lets the subject hang themselves by their own words. But sometimes the… https://t.co/PfdDoUI0ZO— Daniel Dale (@Daniel Dale)1511633236.0
The backlash was enough that the Times made several edits, including changing the title:
Now the NYT has changed the “Nazi sympathizer next door” headline to this https://t.co/SNLQfQOKIg— Will Sommer (@Will Sommer)1511656855.0
And while some felt like the writer of the profile should've shelved the piece:
the nyt reporter who profiled the ohio nazi basically confesses he didn't get much. and that the intvws didn't conn… https://t.co/LUlYt7Wc1X— Charlie Warzel (@Charlie Warzel)1511637703.0
Others felt like it's up to the reader to know right from wrong:
People have a weird expectation that profiles should explicitly tell the reader what to think, instead of trusting… https://t.co/kuXpT7kTaN— Josh Barro (@Josh Barro)1511654776.0
Perhaps it's part of a larger issue with media in general:
I think people may be killing the messenger on that actually-quite-terrifying NYT Nazi-next-door piece. But yeah, t… https://t.co/4GFwWimP4V— Mark Harris (@Mark Harris)1511648127.0
@JasminMuj I think it's part privilege, and partly the media default of fitting any president into the standard mec… https://t.co/o9lQUwRxNt— Joy Reid (@Joy Reid)1511673341.0
A few others poked fun at the article, including a parody by The Atlantic titled "Nazis Are Just Like You and Me, Except They're Nazis:"
Perfect parody of the NYT Nazi profile. https://t.co/J9gaL6Otmg https://t.co/kGwUUOCDVb— Emily Nussbaum (@Emily Nussbaum)1511673553.0
Figures that the first New York Times article ever showing sympathy to a millennial would be about a Nazi.— Jeet Heer (@Jeet Heer)1511668899.0
Marc Lacey, the National Editor for the Times later issued a statement addressing the criticism, saying in part:
"White supremacy is a major area of coverage of our national correspondents at The Times, which is a sad commentary on the state of our country. I get the criticism of this article. I get the outrage. My outrage is directed at the fact that bigotry is going mainstream, which is what this piece was trying to describe."
Statement from @nytimes to @amjoyshow on the controversial story many see as sympathizing with a white supremacist… https://t.co/8sxFzcaaaA— AM Joy w/Joy Reid (@AM Joy w/Joy Reid)1511713679.0
But for many, it wasn't enough to redeem the article:
@amjoyshow @nytimes The horror of the trend was not conveyed nor was it criticized. A big fail.— karen munro (@karen munro)1511714131.0
@amjoyshow @nytimes "I get the outrage" yeah. I don't think you do.— She Bougie (@She Bougie)1511713976.0
@amjoyshow @nytimes Nope. There are many ways to demonstrate outrage over bigotry. This isn't one. Apologize and do… https://t.co/zbUiomNtbw— dalutman (@dalutman)1511714195.0
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