A week after this post originally appeared, I thought it was important enough to convert it into a “Best” list and added more links at the bottom to important commentaries on the article
The New York Times today published a profile of a Nazi living in the United States today that portrayed him as typical guy who just happened to have white supremacist views.
The article was originally headlined “In America’s Heartland, The Nazi Sympathizer Next Door” and then was changed in the online version to “A Voice of Hate In America’s Heartland” (see tweet below). I’m assuming an editor made that change in a welcome, but feeble, attempt to communicate in the headline what the article should have, but did not, communicate.
Also somewhat disturbing is that there are (or were) two versions of the headline for the article. One is definitely more sympathetic. Which was shown to which readers? If it was changed, why, and why was there no acknowledgment? pic.twitter.com/Qxo3PIDDmo
— c_stl (@u30af) November 25, 2017
The article clearly demonstrates what Hannah Arendt called “the banality of evil” (see Quote Of The Day: Hannah Arendt & The Origin Of Evil and Video: “Hannah Arendt” — The Movie (& The Importance Of Reflection).
What it does not do, and which makes it shocking that it made it into the Times, is that it does not name it as evil. It’s a simple profile that makes it seem normal, does not include any discussion of its dangers, shares no critical voices, does not talk about how it should be confronted.
The problem with this article isn’t that it’s about a Nazi but that it doesn’t add anything to our understanding of modern Nazis. Of course racists shop at supermarkets and play in bands and enjoy Seinfeld and own cats. That evil is also banal is not new. https://t.co/bOIQU4pOzu
— Ezra Klein (@ezraklein) November 25, 2017
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 https://t.co/KkEE2rmhTv
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) November 25, 2017
— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) November 25, 2017
For an alternative model of how to do a profile of a Nazi, see The Atlantic’s article, The Making of an American Nazi.
I’m thinking about how I can use both articles, or portions of each, in my IB Theory of Knowledge class. All ideas are welcome.
(Boy, The Atlantic is fast! Three hours after The Times story was published, they came out with a parody)
This Twitter “thread,” which you can see by clicking on the tweet itself, is a great commentary on the article:
1/ The NYTimes is densely defending their article by claiming it was intended to shed light on the normalcy of racism in American society.
I agree this is a worthy topic of discussion.
So, let’s talk about all the things the Times could have *actually* achieved this. . . . pic.twitter.com/9ZsHMxsz8p
— Mangy Jay (@magi_jay) November 26, 2017
— Sam Wineburg (@samwineburg) November 28, 2017
— Sonia W. Soltero (@soniawsoltero) November 28, 2017
— Catherine Cusick (@CusickCatherine) November 28, 2017
ADDENDUM: Why We Should Read Hannah Arendt Now