The New York Times says it assigned one of its “smartest thinkers and best writers” to profile a white supremacist who participated in the Charlottesville riot and came away with a story that was neither smart nor well written, touching off a torrent of criticism over the reporting.
The profile of Ohio couple Tony Hovater and Maria Hovater, had the same impact as old Nazi photos showing concentration camp guards enjoying a day off from their grim work.
The photos were taken for propaganda purposes as a way of normalizing the death camps. But the bucolic scenes only reinforced the monstrosity of their criminal acts and their shocking indifference to human suffering.
Sadly The Times, in its zeal to capture the Hovater’s banality, failed to convey the monstrosity of their existence.
At best, the piece only reinforced President Trump’s view that Charlottesville’s Nazi protesters included “many fine people.”
After all, the Hovaters were portrayed as pretty typical suburbanites, with a couple of cats in the yard, weekly runs to the WalMart and a night out at Applebee’s.
The Times’ treatment is tantamount to profiling Hitler’s penchant for gardening with only a passing mention of his responsibility for World War II.
The Hovaters displayed the same wanton indifference as the Nazi prison guards. But you wouldn’t know it from The Times story.
His “Midwestern manners would please anyone’s mother,” The Times chimed about the White Supremacist.
Readers were quick to call out the publication for it.
“We already know Nazis are not space aliens with huge heads. What is news is your normalization of people who subscribe to an ideology that has slaughtered millions of human beings & would slaughter more,” wrote one Twitter critic.
“Why hasn’t an indie or alternative news source investigated why nyt is self destructing?” wrote another.
The backlash was fervent enough to merit a response from the newspaper’s “Reader’s Center,” described as an initiative to “help The Times build deeper relations with its readers.”
“Our reporter and his editors agonized over the tone and content of the article,” the paper said.
“The point was not to normalize anything, but to describe the degree to which hate and extremism have become far more normal in American life than any of us want to think.”
So, now we know. The people at the next table at Applebee’s may be neo-Nazis.
But did we really need The Times to tell us that?