Bulletin Board: Readers Accuse Us of Normalizing a Nazi Sympathizer; We Respond
Our reporter went to Ohio to spend time with Mr. Hovater and submitted several drafts and updates in between assignments that included Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the Roy Moore campaign in Alabama. The story finally ran online Saturday.
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.
We described Mr. Hovater as a bigot, a Nazi sympathizer who posted images on Facebook of a Nazi-like America full of happy white people and swastikas everywhere.
We understand that some readers wanted more pushback, and we hear that loud and clear.
Some readers also criticized the article for including a link to a webpage that sells swastika armbands. This was intended to show the darker reality beyond the anodyne language of the website. But we saw the criticism, agreed and removed the link.
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.”
But far more were outraged by the article. “You know who had nice manners?” Bess Kalb, a writer for Jimmy Kimmel Live, said on Twitter. “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.”
Others urged us to focus our journalism less on those pushing hate and more on those on the receiving end of that hate. “Instead of long, glowing profiles of Nazis/White nationalists, why don’t we profile the victims of their ideologies?” asked Karen Attiah, an editor at The Washington Post. “Why not a piece about the mother of Heather Heyer, the woman who was killed in Charlottesville? Follow-ups on those who were injured? Or how PoC are coping?”
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.
As always, we want to continue hearing from our readers. Please share your thoughts in the comments. We will be reading them.
via NYT http://nyti.ms/2gVZ2VB
November 26, 2017 at 09:45AM