The staff of the Foghorn questions whether the New York Times should have published its Nov. 25 story “A Voice of Hate in America’s Heartland,” written by Richard Fausset. The article raised a storm of controversy over the implied notion that it normalized the life of a white nationalist. Our staff collectively agreed the article is weak in addressing the obvious contradictions of this white nationalist and the reporter does not pushback enough on such an abhorrent view. However, we believe that an article which demonstrates the new tide of white nationalism should be published if it serves to inform Americans on the danger of such a political opinion. The New York Times should have published this article only after addressing the greater concern presented by the piece.
At the center of the story is Tony Hovater, a white nationalist. The author takes pains to describe the daily life of Hovater in Huber Heights, Ohio. Captured by his shopping trips and wedding planning with his wife, Hovater’s life appears normal. However, the inherent contradictions between his beliefs and his daily life emerge almost immediately. Targeting Jews as an ill of society, Mr. Hovater still finds himself enjoying reruns of Seinfeld — a ‘90s sitcom written by Jewish comedian Jerry Seinfeld. Here, the author fails to show him questioning the contradiction (if he even did) and drags on with the profile.
Of course, the New York Times does not wish to champion the ideology of white nationalism, but the author of this article does not help in signaling the threat of normalization. Disturbingly, Hovater states in the article, “The fact that we’re seeing more and more normal people come is because things have gotten so bad. And if they keep getting worse, we’ll keep getting more, just, normal people.” This phenomenon of normalizing is exactly what the staff of the Foghorn fears. Such beliefs, while constitutionally protected, must exist on the fringes of political discourse. In an ideal world, no such beliefs of segregation, xenophobia and intolerance should exist. Yet, we see today that these fringes are encroaching on mainstream American politics.
The threat of such normalization is apparent in the article. Normalization, with regards to the beliefs of white nationalism, is the process through which these opinions become commonly held by rational people. However, the New York Times failed to capitalize on the opportunity to highlight on the fallacies of white nationalism. It is absolutely necessary for Americans to understand that such anti-social views are being accepted and internalized by their fellow citizens — especially those that would not fit the build of a stereotypical Nazi. It is not the duty of journalists to critique theses, however it is necessary that accurately portray the rise of Nazism in unsuspecting communities.
No matter the subject, an effective political profile must show the holes in irrational views. According to the article, his group hovers near 1,000. Even though the Anti-Defamation League claims in the article that the true number is only 250. Yet, the Traditionalist Workers Party has already engaged in public events and gained even more attention from alt-right sympathizers on the internet. It is important for the Foghorn to note that sympathizing is not humanizing. It is possible for us as Americans to acknowledge the human qualities of a man like Mr. Hovater while not sympathizing with his views.
The views and the movement that champions such views deserves no sympathy from us. However, the staff of the Foghorn are truly concerned with the soft light cast on Mr. Hovater. Casting these people down and allowing them the opportunity to wallow in martyrdom will only give them more strength. Instead, we must let them bring forth their views so we may challenge them with facts. This article only did the former.