The New York Times is getting flak for publishing a profile of an Ohio man and Nazi sympathizer in what many are calling an attempt to normalize white nationalism and supremacy.
The story, written by Richard Fausset, was published Saturday. The subject is Tony Hovater, 29, who works as a welder from Dayton. Once upon a time, he was a “vaguely leftist rock musician” but is now an “avowed white nationalist” and Nazi sympathizer.
Many readers did not feel the piece was critical enough of Hovater’s ideology concerning race, his affection for Hitler or his role in starting the extreme right-wing Traditionalist Worker Party. This is a group that marched at the white supremacy rally in Charlottesville over the summer where a female protester was killed and dozens injured when a white nationalist Trump supporter ran them down with his car.
Hovater feels that races should be separated and thinks that Hitler was “kind of chill” while also stating that the total number of deaths at the hands of Nazi’s have been “overblown.”
Fausset attempts to use Hovater’s, who is a newlywed, normal-seeming life to portray how easy it is for the average American to be sucked into a life of radical and hateful ideas and actions.
But that’s not what many people saw in the article, rather, they saw it as an attempt to normalize white supremacist views, the neo-Nazi movement as well as fascism in general.
Bess Kalb, who writes for Jimmy Kimmel Live, was not happy about Fausset’s claim that Hovater is a polite man. In the piece, and in the same sentence even, Fausset writes of Hovater as a Nazi sympathizer but then goes on to call him “polite and low-key.”
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Then, when writing about how Hovater is a self-described “social media villain” he adds that the man’s “Midwestern manners would please anyone’s mother.”
Even the title of the piece seems to suggest that Hovater isn’t a bad guy even though he has such racist views on race and white supremacy: “In America’s Heartland, the Nazi Sympathizer Next Door.”
Most people agree that when one attempts to make the unacceptable ideals of someone worth overlooking, there is a problem. A love of American television shows should not make hateful views more acceptable and many took to Twitter to remind the NY Times of that fact.
Fausset himself has acknowledged that his piece didn’t answer the one question he wanted to find the answer to, how did an “intelligent, socially adroit and raised middle class” 29-year-old become a white nationalist and Nazi sympathizer?
He attempted to address the issue in a column that he wrote following the story.
“I beat myself up about all of this for a while, until I decided that the unfilled hole would have to serve as both feature and defect,” he wrote.
“What I had were quotidian details, though to be honest, I’m not even sure what these add up to. Like other committed extremists I have known, Mr. Hovater had little time for a life beyond his full-time job and his line of activism. When he is not doing those things, he likes to be at home with his girlfriend (now his wife) and their cats.”
Even with the column, Fausset still did not address the problematic nature of the Hovater’s ideology.
Fausset’s writing just highlighted a problem that many have seen at the NYT for some time now, their lack of minorities in high-ranking editorial positions.