Tony Hovater is a man just like any other. He puts his pants on one leg at a time. He’s just your average working-class man — or rather he was. There’s just this one thing that sets him apart from most folks.
He’s a Nazi-sympathizer.
And we never would have heard of him if the New York Times hadn’t made the decision to write a profile, humanizing his reprehensible beliefs. The article went up last week and since its inception, Hovater has been forced to leave his home and has since lost his job. He and his family however have received upward of $6,000 for their pain and suffering, from right-wing supporters. This is the problem. Mr. Hovater has an influence now he might not have had if he hadn’t been given a platform to normalize his pro-Nazi beliefs. While he probably won’t rise to become the voice of the neo-Nazis, it’s still extremely damaging to publish something like this.
And if the Times weren’t already in enough trouble, they add fuel to the dumpster-fire that has been their publication as of late by publishing a condescending response to their naysayers. In this rebuttal, they explain that their goal was to get a closer look into the minds of those who have beliefs that “stray from the norm.” Their argument is centered on the narrative that it’s important to know who these people are. We can tell you that. They’re white supremacists. At this point, who cares that they like reality TV and eating avocado toast for breakfast like the rest of us?
The Times claims the writer “agonized over the tone and content.” Well, he could have saved himself the agony and just not decided to write it.
Their take is that regardless of their good intentions, people still magically found a way to be offended by their content. This is a stance that is so far removed from reality. You really can’t see how “hey folks, Nazis are just like us!” is offensive?
Articles aiming to get a peek at what it’s like to be a bigot, validates people whose values should have been left in the past. Stories like this, make Nazism make sense.
And while showing varying perspectives is a concept held dear in the field of journalism, we should all be drawing the line at sympathizing with people who think Hitler had the right idea.
We as a society seem to be trying to move toward tolerance. This isn’t inherently a bad goal. Unfortunately people want to try and place importance on every single perspective there is because every topic of discussion has its “gray areas.” This is true for a lot of social or political issues.
But alternatively, some issues really are just black and white. Occasionally, there is a situation in which there’s only a good or a bad side. Whether you’re an individual making political and social decisions for yourself, or you’re a well-known news organization with influence, you’re going to have to pick a side sometimes and you might want it to be the side that doesn’t have Nazis on it.