new york times

The New York Times Published an Article That Gave a White Supremacist a Voice

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This is only my opinion and not the representation of Saintel Daily, LLC.

The New York Times is getting some severe online backlash from media figures this weekend after they attempted to portray how everyday citizens, who live in America, could harbor white supremacism.  Let me back this up a bit.  The article was intended to showcase how people live with these ideologies, but they aren’t so all-consuming that it takes over their entire life.  But that’s not really how it was portrayed.  Instead, it seemed like the New York Times was giving a voice to white supremacists.  I am not defending the New York Times with this one, but they were trying to give another side to a story.  But they missed the mark quite a bit with this one.

On Saturday, the Times published a story online that was titled “A Voice of Hate in America’s Heartland”, which detailed the relatively pedestrian existence of Tony Hovater in New Carlisle, Ohio.  The story attempted to unpack how Hovater’s disturbing views didn’t dominate his life or turn him into a pariah in his community.  But the reaction to the piece felt like it was “normalizing” the neo-Nazi ideology and it ended up giving Hovater too much space in one of the nation’s most prominent newspapers.  Should they have done this?  Maybe, but like I said, they did it in a way that almost suggested support.

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Celebrities took to Twitter to voice their concern.  Including Jemele Hill, who has been in the news herself lately – on this specific topic.  Hill tweeted: “The journalist in me understands that your job sometimes is to explain why awful people are so awful. It’s a delicate process. It’s a fine line between explaining and giving hateful people a platform that normalizes their hate. Swing and a miss, here.”  And she’s right, there is a fine balance between outlining a story, but at the same time this felt like they were giving a platform to white supremacists.

What’s really interesting to me is that through all of this, it doesn’t appear like the author of the story was able to get to what motivated Hovater in his hate in the first place.  The philosophical side of me says that you’re not going to find the answer.  Why? Because, in my opinion, there isn’t going to be an answer.  What can anyone justifiably say that would make it ok to hate someone just because they had a different skin color?  This is just my opinion, but I think this is why they didn’t come to a conclusion with that.  You can have a disagreement with someone about their ideologies.  You can dislike someone for things they do or say even.  But, that doesn’t mean you should hate someone for the way they look.

Which is why I think its interesting that the Times decided to run with this.  On Sunday, the times responded to the criticism by saying they “agonized over the tone and content of the article”.  And maybe they did.  But if there was that much agony in trying to figure out the tone, they probably shouldn’t have published it in the first place.