by Andrea Traietti ’21
On Saturday, November 25, the New York Times published a piece titled “A Voice of Hate in America’s Heartland.” If there is anything that should be called “fake news,” it should be this article—even though the article was, on all accounts, factually accurate.
What makes this piece worthy of the “fake news” categorization is the way that it normalizes Neo-Nazism in our society. In America, in 2017, even one of the most reliable and reputable media outlets has shown a frightening failure to condemn Nazism for what it truly is: discriminatory, racist, and entirely un-American.
The piece by the Times is a feature on the life of Tony Hovater, a white nationalist living in New Carlisle, Ohio. The author details aspects of Hovater’s life in an eerily normal way, describing his fairly standard American characteristics: his registory for his upcoming wedding, what kinds of tattoos he has, where he goes out to eat, the fact that he is a big Seinfeld fan.
The pictures in the piece show Hovater in front of his home and in his local grocery store. In every way, the piece makes Hovater look like the average, everyday American. Except this man is anything but normal. This man is a Nazi.
It is absolutely crucial that we recognize that there are Nazis living in our communities. And yes, they do look completely normal. If we are going to truly recognize the racism seeping into our society and the parts of our culture and political atmosphere that have given rise to it, we have to acknowledge how standardized this racist sentiment is becoming. On one level, this article brought this normalization to light. However, under no condition can we portray this normalization in a positive manner.
Under no condition should we fail to recognize this as a problem, something that simply must be condemned. While this article did succeed in showing us the ugly parts of our society—the things that desperately need to be fixed—it failed on all accounts to condemn Nazism, or even to portray it as a problem. That is why this article should be labeled “fake news.” Nazism is not okay. Let us stop pretending it is.
Free speech is one of the most, if not the most, important tool in protecting our democracy. Now more than ever, we need to uphold this right. However, we also must uphold its integrity. We should be exposing growing Nazism in America. But we have to expose it in a way that shows just how discriminatory and un-American it is. To do so would be quality, investigative journalism, which was missing from this article. Arguably, it goes so far as to promote the agenda of Hovater’s alt-right group, the “Traditionalist Worker Party.” According to the article, the group is looking for what they call “normies,” or simply ‘normal’ people within their group so that they can bolster their appearance as an accessible, everyday political association. If the article displays the normality of people like Hovater and groups like the “Traditionalist Worker Party,” does it not then simply promote the goals of Nazi groups?
Right now, we are at a time where we need to redefine what it means to be American. 16.1 million Americans served in World War II, fighting Nazism. We need to remember the sacrifice that so many people made to protect our freedom and our ideals, and to stand up against injustice. Approximately six million Jewish people were murdered in the Holocaust, by people who embraced Nazism, the evil ideology now growing in our country. In America, we pride ourselves on the ideal of equality—equality for those of all races and all religions.
If that is the case, if America truly does embody this ideal, it is time to reject Nazism and racism in all their ugly forms. The first step to the rejection of this ideology is exposing it and those who believe in it.
But we cannot in any way show this ideology to be positive or acceptable. We have to show that it exists, but also that it has to stop. We have to condemn this entirely un-American racism growing in our country. Nazism has no place in America.