Anna Sheffer
November 27, 2017 1:07 pm

By now, you’ve probably heard about the New York Times profile about white nationalist Tony Hovater. The profile, published on November 25th, has received backlash for its portrayal of a Nazi sympathizer — which many argue normalized his hateful, dangerous world view.

In the piece, writer Richard Fausset describes Hovater’s day-to-day life, including his wedding plans, his cats, and his fondness for Seinfeld. Fausset refers to Hovater as “polite and low-key” and writes that Hovater “prefers to spread the gospel of white nationalism with satire.” The profile also mentions a website where swastika armbands are sold for $20.

Fausset defended his choices in the article in a separate piece, while also acknowledging the profile’s shortcomings. He wrote that he failed to find out why Hovater became a white nationalist, but decided to publish the piece anyway, despite the “hole.”

"I beat myself up about this for a while, until I decided that the unfilled hole would have to serve as both feature and defect," he wrote.

But Fausset’s explanation (understandably) did nothing to stop the backlash against his story. Other media outlets like the Washington Post and The Atlantic mocked Fausset’s angle. Readers also took to Twitter with criticism of the article, complaining that the piece normalizes a white nationalist agenda. Some even said that the profile was plain bad journalism.

One user tweeted a photo of Nazis at Auschwitz to remind us that normalizing Nazis is fundamentally dangerous.

Another noted that, "The danger in this article lies not in its portrayal of Nazis as "normal" but in its failure to convey how many atrocities have taken place behind that same veil of normalcy."

Others even took their criticism a step further and accused the Times staff of sympathizing with Nazis themselves.

The editorial board issued a response to reader feedback on November 26th stating that the paper did not intend to paint white nationalists in a sympathetic light.

"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," the statement reads.

While we understand the paper’s intent in theory, in practice, the piece misses the mark, and the paper’s failure to take true responsibility for the misstep incited even more anger.

We hope the Times owns up to its mistake and apologizes in earnest soon. Until then, we can always count on the people of Twitter to keep the world accountable.

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