Normalizing Nazis Is Bad Journalism

On Saturday, the NY Times inexplicably published an article that essentially normalized a Nazi radical. One weird thing is that there were two different headlines for the story, “In America’s Heartland, the Nazi Sympathizer Next Door” and “A Voice of Hate in America’s Heartland”, with the former being the first version, and is no longer present on the site.

Needless to say, online condemnations, for what they’re worth, were fast and furious. What struck me about the article was that the reporter did a really bad job, which he sort of hinted at in a companion article. Before getting to why he did a lousy job, let’s described how he fucked up. Simply put, Nazis are not ‘traditional’ American racists. The traditional racist wants a caste system (though he would’t call it that). That is, everyone knows his and her place: white Christian male at the top, black people at the bottom, with other minorities somewhere in between. However, they are not exterminationist in that they want a ‘pure’ homeland (that other groups will attempt to overturn this caste system, requiring various forms of coercion to maintain it, is glossed over–everyone is happy with their places, are they not?).

But Nazis are different. They want an ethnically pure homeland. Other minorities are a problem to be solved. To use a phrase. And this is where the NY Times utterly failed.

As best as I can tell, Hovater (the Nazi) was never asked what would happen if the ‘alt-right’–which is to say, Nazis–came to power. A good interviewer would have asked him what would happen if people like him gained power. How would he achieve his “white ethno-state”? Would would happen to black, Asian, Latino, or Jewish news editors? What if these groups owned various companies, media or otherwise? Would their property be confiscated? Given that “His fascist ideal, he said, would resemble the early days in the United States, when power was reserved for landowners “and, you know, normies didn’t really have a whole hell of a lot to say”, how would he achieve this in a ‘majority minority’ nation?

Because the answers to these questions will, by necessity, be awful. They will resemble 8chan posts with the vulgarity stripped out. That being said, I can’t simply blame the reporter, though he did fail at his job. It’s clear this was an editorial failure as well (speaking of which, maybe the former editors on the op-ed page, Gail Collins and Charles Blow, have something to say about this article?). This story, having missed the key element of Nazism, should not have been published. Either follow up with the questions I outlined above, or spike the story.

Over the long term, it’s clear the NY Times, as presently configured, is incapable of covering white nationalism in its various forms (which is nothing new at all). They need to find a reporter (and an editor) who is knowledgeable about the various forms of white nationalism, and who can cover this accurately. At this point, it’s too important to leave to journalists who do a little background work and then parachute in for a few days. And the editorial oversight needs to know enough to know what questions need to be asked.

Instead, we get these de facto Nazi puff pieces–which, incidentally, the NY Times never seems to run, for instance, about Black Lives Matter or economic lefty types. Just saying.

I’ve already scaled back my NY Times subscription; now, I’m seriously considering cancelling it and using the money to support journalism that doesn’t whitewash (SEE WHAT I DID THERE?) Nazis. For this Jew, it’s an existential issue.

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2 Responses to Normalizing Nazis Is Bad Journalism

  1. John Magoun says:

    I looked at the headline, the photo caption, and the full page of coverage, and moved on. In the caption, the guy said Trump had “made room for us” or something like that. And I thought, right, room for him on a full page of the Times.
    Good piece on why our so-called Nazis are really, weirdly, un-American and everyone’s treating them like the KKK with snazzier uniforms.
    As for the Times, they really do seem to be at sea in this brave new world. The best I can say is that their headlines about the president drip contempt, in both phrasing and placement on the page.

  2. I got rid of my NY Time subscription a long time ago. I would love to have a subscription to the WP but they don’t even allow people to read 6 or 10 free articles anymore, so the hell with them. Democracy doesn’t die in darkness, it dies in capitalist greed.

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