Here’s how the mainstream media normalizes right wing extremism: Instead of talking about how insane, violent, or dangerous the right is becoming, they talk about how just downright normal the right wing lunatics are and how they’re just trying to be heard in a country they just don’t understand anymore.
This is why after the Bush administration imploded and the Tea Party magically sprang into existence, the media couldn’t get enough of them. It’s also why there’s a thriving cottage industry focused on reporting “how Trump voters feel“. Do you remember the constant reporting on Obama voters? I don’t. Maybe it was lost in between the 24/7 Tea Party coverage.
The bottom line is that the “liberal” media loves to treat right wing extremism with kid’s gloves.
But Saturday’s “A Voice of Hate in America’s Heartland” by the New York Times is something else altogether.
I’m not entirely clear on what author Richard Fausset’s goal was, but despite the title of the article, Fausset managed to almost entirely wash the hate out of his profile of white nationalist Tony Hovater.
HUBER HEIGHTS, Ohio — Tony and Maria Hovater were married this fall. They registered at Target. On their list was a muffin pan, a four-drawer dresser and a pineapple slicer.
Ms. Hovater, 25, was worried about Antifa bashing up the ceremony. Weddings are hard enough to plan for when your fiancé is not an avowed white nationalist.
Already, Fausset has set up an obnoxious false equivalence, neglecting to point out that Antifa doesn’t actually attack weddings. By tossing in Antifa as an imaginary wedding-crashing villain, the Hovaters are rendered sympathetic before it’s even mentioned that Tony is a white nationalist. By way of comparison, there is exactly one mention of white nationalist violence in the entire article and it’s buried midway in the lengthy piece. Antifa’s violence gets a prominent mention but the violence of Hovater’s movement is not worth discussing until much later. Almost like one shouldn’t be all that concerned about it.
And it goes downhill from there:
But Mr. Hovater, in the days leading up to the wedding, was somewhat less anxious. There are times when it can feel toxic to openly identify as a far-right extremist in the Ohio of 2017. But not always. He said the election of President Trump helped open a space for people like him, demonstrating that it is not the end of the world to be attacked as the bigot he surely is: “You can just say, ‘Yeah, so?’ And move on.”
And why is that? Because of articles like this one that depict neo-Nazis as just like you and me. Except, of course, for their penchant for genocide, a fact conveniently left out of the discussion about what a nice kid Hovater is:
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.
Awwwww….isn’t that nice? He like Seinfeld! But he also likes Hitler so, really, it balances out.
Bullshit. This is normalization on steroids. When Fausset writes, “But his tattoos are innocuous pop-culture references”, what he’s saying is, “But he doesn’t look or act like a Nazi so how extreme can he be?”
This is an actual passage talking about a man that thinks Hitler is pretty cool:
Mr. Hovater, 29, is a welder by trade. He is not a star among the resurgent radical American right so much as a committed foot soldier — an organizer, an occasional podcast guest on a website called Radio Aryan, and a self-described “social media villain,” although, in person, his Midwestern manners would please anyone’s mother.
I can only imagine that Fausset labors under the impression that the Nazis spent their days murdering Jews, Gays, Roma, the mentally ill, etc. in the Concentration Camps and then went home at night and tortured puppies for fun. That’s not how it worked. The Nazis spent their days committing some of the worst crimes against humanity in recorded history. Then they went home to their families, hugged their children, read them bedtime stories, kissed them on the forehead and sang them lullabies.
Did that make them good parents? Maybe. Were they still monsters that deserved to be hung by the neck until dead at Nuremberg? Absolutely.
Fausset paints a picture of Hovater that leaves out the evil at the center of his worldview. Not “political differences” or “fringe beliefs”: Evil. Unadulterated evil. You do not get to “sympathize” with genocidal animals and brush it off as being an “internet villain” and Fausset should be ashamed of himself for writing what is essentially a puff piece for Nazis:
He said he wanted to see the United States become “an actually fair, meritocratic society.” Absent that, he would settle for a white ethno-state “where things are fair, because there’s no competing demographics for government power or for resources.”
How does one achieve a white ethno-state, exactly, without murdering and enslaving millions? Fausset doesn’t discuss it because it would interfere with his “aw-shucks” narrative of Hovater. Instead, he allows his subject to separate Nazism from genocide which is like separating the Confederacy from slavery. It’s possible, but only if you ignore history, logic, and the entire concept of honesty.
In fact, the word “genocide” does not appear once in an article about a Nazi sympathizer. “Nazi” only appears 4 times. “Holocaust” only pops up the one time because Hovater is, surprise, a Holocaust denier. “Jew” and “Jewish” appears 4 times despite the obvious antisemitism which is downplayed to the point of invisibility. Amazingly, “Hitler” appears 5 times and, I kid you not, 2 of them are in a positive context with zero historical context from Fausset:
He declared the widely accepted estimate that six million Jews died in the Holocaust “overblown.” He said that while the Nazi leader Heinrich Himmler wanted to exterminate groups like Slavs and homosexuals, Hitler “was a lot more kind of chill on those subjects.”
“I think he was a guy who really believed in his cause,” he said of Hitler. “He really believed he was fighting for his people and doing what he thought was right.”
Breitbart couldn’t have written a more sympathetic article and they literally write for a neo-Nazi audience.
Lest you think I’m overreacting, the internet is raking the Times over the coals because normalizing Nazis is considered by rational people to be a really bad idea:
— Soledad O'Brien (@soledadobrien) November 26, 2017
As the NY Times writes about "the Nazi sympathizer next door, polite and low-key," it's worth remembering other "Nazi sympathizers next door," like these Auschwitz personnel (1944), "polite and low-key" parts of a mass murder machine. pic.twitter.com/njAcr2Lj13
— Andrew Stroehlein (@astroehlein) November 26, 2017
It's critical for the press, when covering professional hatemongers, to avoid treating the abnormal as normal or to humanize the inhumane. By that basic measure, I'd score this @NYTimes piece: #Nazis– 1, @Public– 0. https://t.co/ydUIv9b7G6
— Jonathan Greenblatt (@JGreenblattADL) November 25, 2017
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.
Too much? Exactly. That's how you write about Nazis.
— Bess Kalb (@bessbell) November 25, 2017
The New York Times article goes into detail about a Nazi's tattoos and never takes a moment to reflect on Jews who were forcefully inked with their prison numbers at concentration camps.
To miss a parallel like that isn't simply morally reprehensible; it's bad writing. https://t.co/cMAjl4WSxy
— Geraldine (@everywhereist) November 26, 2017
Curiously, I can’t seem to find a comparable article for a member of Black Lives Matter or a Standing Rock protester. There might be one but I would be surprised if it were as sympathetic. I’d be astonished if ever Antifa was treated with gloves even marginally this soft. After all, they fight Nazis, not sympathize with them, so clearly they’re dangerous.
It’s possible that Fausset was trying to let the reader come to their own conclusion about Hovater. It’s possible that he assumed that people would be hostile enough to Nazi ideology to naturally be repulsed by Hovater’s beliefs. More likely, Fausset was going for the “view from nowhere” that dictates no value judgments. The problem is that stripping the context away from Nazi ideology is, itself, a value judgement. By allowing Hovater to present the sanitized Hitler as his inspiration and himself as just your average nice guy with nice manners, Fausset goes a long way in normalizing Nazism, the ideology inextricably bound to methodical genocide on a scale never imagined in human history.
That’s not journalism, that’s propaganda. The Times needs to issue an apology for putting a happy face on a monster.
After the article was released, Fausset wrote a second, shorter piece complaining that he had not been able to fully understand Hovater; that “Sometimes a soul, and its shape, remain obscure to both writer and reader.”
That because Nazis and Nazi sympathizers do not have souls, a fact that should be blindingly obvious to anyone who has even the most cursory knowledge of the atrocities committed under the ideology of the Nazi Party. Fausett tried to understand evil in human terms and only succeeded in putting a human mask over it instead.
There are 344 days left to the 2018 elections.
– This article kills fascists
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