Sunday, November 26, 2017


Marc Lacey of The New York Times has written a response to critics of Richard Fausset's profile of an Ohio Nazi named Tony Hovater. Lacey acknowledges reader criticism of Fausset's piece...
Whatever our goal, a lot of readers found the story offensive, with many seizing on the idea we were normalizing neo-Nazi views and behavior. “How to normalize Nazis 101!” one reader wrote on Twitter. “I’m both shocked and disgusted by this article,” wrote another. “Attempting to ‘normalize’ white supremacist groups – should Never have been printed!”
But Lacey's response can summed up in one sentence: You're wrong, and we were right to publish this.

Here are Lacey's arguments:

You have no right to criticize Fausset because he's really, really smart.
We assigned Richard Fausset, one of our smartest thinkers and best writers, to profile one of the far-right foot soldiers at the rally.
It's really not fair to criticize Fausset, given how hard he worked and how many assignments he was juggling when he wrote this piece.
Our reporter went to Ohio to spend time with Mr. Hovater and submitted several drafts and updates in between assignments that included Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the Roy Moore campaign in Alabama. The story finally ran online Saturday.
We work really hard, and you have people have no gratitude.
Our reporter and his editors agonized over the tone and content of the article.
You're not even smart enough to understand what we were trying to do.
The point of the story was not to normalize anything but to describe the degree to which hate and extremism have become far more normal in American life than many of us want to think.
Ultimately, even if we made mistakes, our instincts were right.
We recognize that people can disagree on how best to tell a disagreeable story. What we think is indisputable, though, is the need to shed more light, not less, on the most extreme corners of American life and the people who inhabit them. That’s what the story, however imperfectly, tried to do.
I don't think it's "indisputable" that we "need to shed more light ... on the most extreme corners of American life and the people who inhabit them" if what that means is that we see extremists going to the grocery store and cooking pasta. If all you have to say as a reporter is that the Nazis next door are not cartoon villains, that's not "shedding light," because they are engaged in monstrous activity when they're not shopping for food and cooking and you're ignoring that. That's what we need to know about. Or we need to know what happens to people on the receiving end of what these Nazis do. Banality of evil? Stipulated. Don't waste our time on what we already know.

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