Yesterday, the New York Times ran two articles about an obscure heavy metal drummer in a small town in Ohio who articulates far right extremist views, such as that the media’s telling of the Lessons of George Zimmerman (whom the NYT refers to as “the white man who shot the black teenager”) was tendentious.
Today, the NYT apologized to its readers for …
Readers Accuse Us of Normalizing a Nazi Sympathizer; We Respond
By MARC LACEY NOV. 26, 2017
We have asked our national editor, Marc Lacey, to respond to feedback on our recent profile of a white nationalist.
A profile in The Times of Tony Hovater, a white nationalist and Nazi sympathizer in Ohio, elicited a huge amount of feedback this weekend, most of it sharply critical. Here’s how the piece came about, why we wrote it and why we think it was important to do so.
The genesis of the story was the aftermath of the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., in August, the terrifying Ku Klux Klan-like images of young white men carrying tiki torches and shouting “Jews will not replace us,” and the subsequent violence that included the killing of a woman, Heather D. Heyer.
Who were those people? We assigned Richard Fausset, one of our smartest thinkers and best writers, to profile one of the far-right foot soldiers at the rally. We ended up settling on Mr. Hovater, who, it turned out, was a few years older than another Ohio man, James Alex Fields Jr., who was charged with murder after the authorities said he drove his car into a crowd of protesters, killing Ms. Heyer. …
Thus, they are practically the same guy. Why isn’t Hovater in jail too? In India they know how to deal with uppity ethnic groups: collective guilt, collective punishment.
Whatever our goal, a lot of readers found the story offensive, with many seizing on the idea we were normalizing neo-Nazi views and behavior. “How to normalize Nazis 101!” one reader wrote on Twitter. “I’m both shocked and disgusted by this article,” wrote another. “Attempting to ‘normalize’ white supremacist groups – should Never have been printed!”
Our reporter and his editors agonized over the tone and content of the article. The point of the story was not to normalize anything but to describe the degree to which hate and extremism have become far more normal in American life than many of us want to think.
Some readers did see value in the piece. Shane Bauer, a senior reporter at Mother Jones and a winner of the National Magazine Award, tweeted: “People mad about this article want to believe that Nazis are monsters we cannot relate to. White supremacists are normal ass white people and it’s been that way in America since 1776. We will continue to be in trouble till we understand that.” …
We regret the degree to which the piece offended so many readers. We recognize that people can disagree on how best to tell a disagreeable story. What we think is indisputable, though, is the need to shed more light, not less, on the most extreme corners of American life and the people who inhabit them. That’s what the story, however imperfectly, tried to do.
By the way, the metal drummer in question explained his reasons in a 2016 essay. Here are drummer Tony Hovater’s last two paragraphs:
I really think a lot of the anger from both sides started and grew from the State of Florida v. George Zimmerman case. We learned that simple self defense was now a mortal sin if your attacker is darker than you. To this day, people still believe that Trayvon was murdered by a racist white man. Or that Michael Brown had his hands up, beginning for his life when he was shot. No amount of physical evidence will ever convince them. Many have picked up on the outright lies that were reported during these events by supposed trusted news sources and won’t soon forget it.
The Martin, and Brown cases have done more to increase white racial consciousness than we could have hoped to with any amount of activism. White resentment is going to continue to grow faster and faster if the media keeps on its current track. I wouldn’t be surprised if a white secessionist movement starts independent of alt-right circles as a response either. If that happens, I hope they have the foresight to keep the ‘white privilege’ types out. Nobody wants to start a new society with the likes of Macklemore chick or that Maddow fellow, do they?