There is such a thing as views against humanity, and Tony Hovater has them.
Hovater was profiled a week ago in The New York Times in a story titled, “A Voice of Hate in America’s Heartland.” Times reporter Richard Fausset set out to learn more about the neighborhood Nazi sympathizer in New Carlisle, Ohio, and what he came up with was far from newsworthy. Fausset’s incomplete portrayal of Hovater, a self-proclaimed white nationalist and an online white supremacist, went to great lengths to explain why Hovater would fit into any small-town community. Widespread backlash pointed out what was notably missing from the piece: a simple clarification that his views are bad.
For the same reason President Trump was encouraged, even begged, by politicians and the public to condemn the hate groups in Charlottesville, any story on a modern Nazi would at least need to denounce the problematic words and actions at its center. And for the same reason we wondered whether that rally needed to be held, we should ask whether this story needed to be written. A crude expression of society’s worst opinions was not worth the life of Heather Heyer, the 32-year-old woman killed by alt-right protester James Alex Fields Jr. Similarly unsettling is the certainty that someone just like Fields could have read about Hovater this weekend and come away from the article with a sense of validation.
Most of the criticism converged on the story’s apparent spin to normalize Nazism, and rightfully so. Fausset explains Hovater’s journey to the far right with the following:
“His political evolution...was largely fueled by the kinds of frustrations that would not seem exotic to most American conservatives. He believes the federal government is too big, the news media is biased and that affirmative action programs for minorities are fundamentally unfair.”
What the author is trying to imply here is unclear, but if it’s the idea that those perceptions are the minimum needed to steer an individual towards Nazism, then we’re probably all screwed.