Wednesday, November 29, 2017

About that NYT Nazi Article...

Remember when we didn't need to discuss Nazis all the time? Like...back in the day...early 2016-2015. Good times, those were :(

So what's this big fuss over the New York Times Nazi Article? What's got everyone so upset? Are the Regressive Leftists being regressive again? God why can't they tolerate different ideas...

Did these lefty cucks really think an article would push people into being Nazis?


*deep sigh*


...While there were some (I didn't see too many tbh) people going overboard and calling the NYT a literal Nazi Sympathizing paper (like come on, I don't actually think they have a secret Nazi agenda), there were a lot of other good reasons to be disappointed with this article.

I'm wary of both ends of this too, carelessly throwing around the term Nazi *and* being overly defensive/underusing the term Nazi, even when it CLEARLY applies.

There are people who have accused me of being a 'Nazi sympathizer' because I have been critical of the hijab and niqab as a woman who had to live through 'modesty' enforced by the state in Saudi Arabia. You bet your ass I'm going to be critical...and it's not at all for the same xenophobic fear-mongering reasons most far-righters hate muslims/hijabs in this current climate....And then, there's the other side, where I'm surrounded by supposed 'Rational Skeptic' thinkers who are so 'anti-left' that downplaying Nazis is kind of their embarrassing trademark now. They will literally argue that someone shouting 'Heil Hitler' at a white nationalist speech is "not a Nazi" - because they aren't time-traveling from Nazi era Germany, you technically they can't be Nazis.

(clip via @neobabylon2)

Some are simply so anti-Muslim that it serves their interest to downplay
Nazis in a way that would be better suited to The Onion. 

There are great intellectual Atheist takes that will put the swastika and Star of David in the same category, and when someone politely explains why that's an issue they will double down and insist that Judaism is *worse* than Nazism actually....

There are tons of examples of this type of ignorant nonsense from Rational Skeptics in the online Atheist scene. If you were to go by some of these commentator's timelines...there is apparently *no* problem with a rise of (neo) Nazis in Trumpian America. It's all just leftist hysteria. According to them, time is best spent arguing against those who refer to Richard Spencer as a Nazi....because he's not a time traveler... *eyeroll*

So while I agree, that there are definitely people who overuse the term, I'm also increasingly frustrated by people who downplay the danger of the far-right, who insist Nazis don't exist at all today, who pretend like this is still some fringe issue and not a growing movement with a President who has has created a welcoming space for them.

The rest of us, as reasonable humans, should try and exist between these two incredibly stupid and toxic extremes.

And with this article, it seemed that NYT was sort of playing the tune of the 'Nazi downplayers'...


Let me jump right into why I think the piece was not well received....In fact it was so badly received that the editor had to chime in and explain wtf they were thinking. How the NYT put it in their headline, "Readers Accuse Us of Normalizing a Nazi Sympathizer; We Respond" is a fairly accurate description of most of the criticism.

So while not literally Nazi sympathizing, but *normalizing* a Nazi sympathizer....I think that's fair...a case can be made for this article doing exactly that, whether it intended to or not.

There's also the fact that the writer of this now notorious piece also wrote an additional piece about how he knew it was missing something, and how he could 'feel the failure' because he didn't get to the heart of why this Nazi turned to his vile belief system. It read like an excuse, something else to pin the colossal failure of this article on, other than the awfulness of the piece itself. I can tell he had enough to write a better piece on this very subject just by reading what he put out. And come on, if you're writing to explain your article and saying you could feel the failure, then I think you've conceded that it was pretty bad.

On top of that, there were also factual errors:

So much went wrong here.

--And it's not that I don't understand what was being attempted. I know this kind of piece, and it can indeed be done very well...the juxtaposition of horrific genocidal beliefs with mundane snippets of everyday existence. There is something to that contrast for sure...but there has to be an actual, proper contrast for that to work. It won't work if it's heavy on the minor details of what everyone was wearing and eating but glosses over the, ya know...genocidal beliefs part. That's when it becomes lopsided..and people start to wonder wtf you were even trying to do, if not a cushy profile?

There also has to come a point where the article serves a purpose beyond describing what the nazis were wearing/eating/having on their wedding registry. It should inform us in some way? Tell us something about the movement and radicalization process...other than making the Nazi grievances seem legit.

"His faith in mainstream solutions slipped as he toured the country with one of the metal bands. “I got to see people who were genuinely hurting,” he said. “We played coast to coast, but specifically places in Appalachia, and a lot of the Eastern Seaboard had really been hurt.”"

This type of article done properly, delves into the extremist's beliefs and frames them in a way that no borderline-nazis reading, could mistake for free promotion. It lets the subject hang himself by his own words, so to speak... but it doesn't jump immediately from him saying *Hitler was chill* to sympathetically telling his story about how society is not fair to him, and what his dream fascist-utopia would look like...punctuated with cute details about Cherry pie tattoos and wedding planning.

I mean yeah, of course I understand the need to humanize evil, and to show us that it doesn't come in the shape of an unrelatable monster, it can live, breathe and walk amongst us in the form of our neighbours, coworkers, teachers, friends, etc.

That's an important's just that this article failed to deliver it.

There is a line between 'humanize' and 'sanitize'...the same line exists between whether one is journalistically exploring an extremist subject or providing a glossy advert for them. This is the difference between Louis Theroux and Dave Rubin (alt-right propagandist) for example. Louis can explore all manner of disturbing extremist subjects but people don't assume he is sympathetic to them because of the way he frames those stories. Dave on the other hand enters his interviews with a clear agenda of wanting the extremists to present their best side, while talking shit about The Left with them.

Now, I don't think this NYT piece was like Dave Rubin sanitizing 'migrants are cockroaches' 'we need a final solution' Katie Hopkins bad....There was better intent behind it and it just didn't work out, I want to make that clear. Dave's is an intentional sanitization, this was a poor job of framing the article which resulted in what appeared to be a normalizing effect.

When you are trying to show that evil exists among us and goes to Applebee's just like us...then actually position the piece in that way. Then the absurdity of combining white supremacist ideology with a causal turkey sandwich will perhaps even be entertaining. But the key is you make it clear that you are trying to demonstrate how banal evil can be...

If done well, this kind of piece can be very effective. The 'banality of evil' genre isn't a write off...but you've got to get the tone right. Don't approach Nazism as if it's a mere cultural curiosity. Don't do it in a way that it serves no purpose other than simply boosting a white supremacist signal out into the world...on a popular, respected mainstream outlet - Because *that* could potentially embolden more borderline white nationalists in this particular white power-y climate....they'll see that they're getting such a fuzzy profile which isn't really demonizing them at all. One that's in fact helping to mainstreamize them! See guys, their hopes and dreams are just like ours! They have muffin tins on their wedding registries! They talk about having kids too! Aww...

Nazis *love* mainstream media coverage, so at least try to do it in a way that makes them not love it?

“I love mainstream liberals. Those are my favorite journalists.” - Richard Spencer 

If you're going to give someone space to say 'Hitler was chill' ffs, the next paragraph better be something to balance that and signal to others like him that this ideology is not tolerated. The shiny new Nazism of 2017 isn't some rare ornament that you can report on in a detached's a pretty urgent issue we're facing in the west, lives have been lost. Pieces on this subject without a sense of urgency or a sense of purpose will cause people to question the motives of such a project.

Picture this same type of article featuring a Jihadist or an Islamist.. the same people whining that The Left wants audiences spoonfed basic facts like 'Nazis are bad' would themselves be outraged.

Not an exact comparison, but this situation reminds me of the time a ridiculous Asim Qureshi of CAGE referred to ISIS murderer Jihadi John as 'a beautiful man', and people were rightfully appalled. Now obviously he wasn't referring to the ISIS version of the guy as beautiful, but rather the guy he knew in the past. But *still* wtf was he thinking saying that about a beheader?

Similarly, its not that people need to be spoonfed the position that Nazis are bad, but they are just appalled that someone with genocidal beliefs and sympathies for a monster like Hitler can be portrayed in such a soft lens.

People are understandably sensitive about how vile ideologies and their adherents are portrayed.

You just can't be downplaying this kind of thing....The Asim Qureshi thing was a sentence, but imagine the outrage if he was profiling a Jihadi for a known publication...and he focused on his wedding plans, and on the fact that he didn't see himself as a jihadist, just someone fighting for freedom for his family, the kinds of sandwiches they shared and didn't address the elephant in the room, that woah those are some very fucked up and dangerous beliefs.

The most upsetting thing to people is that this story ran in a climate where nazis are becoming emboldened by the day. Where the US president is inspiring them and is unable to properly condemn them. This article came across cold and with no comment on the victims of this ideology. Despite mentioning Charlottesville, there was no sympathy for Heather Heyer. They literally included a link to where you can purchase a swastika armband ffs. WHYYY.

'Facepalm' doesn't quite cut it. 

Now, I personally enjoy the use of absurd and comedic tactics to combat extremism, It's why I liked the real housewives of ISIS's why I enjoy Contrapoints' channel, especially her older videos involving bedazzling swastikas on her's why we've done two episodes together on a strangely specific topic like 'Fascist Fashion'. I absolutely think theres a way to talk about a Nazi's food preferences and make it valuable and entertaining. But it has to add something, it has to have a point...and the point can't just be detailing the kinds of sandwiches they eat. The article seems there could have been a useful point made afterwards but there just wasn't and the writer stopped at minor food details.

Ok, so he eats at Applebee's and? This could have been a piece about the tactics they use to mainstreamize their views and almost appear normie, but it wasn't. Heck this could have even been a piece about how Nazis consume the same pop culture as us and the cognitive dissonance behind that... it could have been a 'how to spot signs'....but instead it really served no purpose at all.


Here are some excerpts from the piece that I found particularly cringeworthy:

I mean look at how it starts off, painting them as any other sweet couple with a wedding registry at Target, people who bake muffins and slice pineapples.....and? AND wouldn't mind some ethnic cleansing of non-white about adding that? 

Then there was this


I had to check a couple of times to make sure I wasn't missing some quotation marks or something...because, did the writer really write that himself? Is that his opinion? Or is he sharing what he thinks the subject of his profile feels like? It's all too vague and blurry to be reassuring that it's not the writer himself saying that, "it can FEEL toxic to openly identify as a far right extremist" - What do you mean it can FEEL toxic? It is toxic, it's fucking extremism...  

What is he trying to do there, I don't know tbh....Aww poor white nationalist is having a hard time coming out of the closet because the horrible environment is too toxic for him to be his genuine self. Ffs. 

So here we start with how polite and 'low-key' he is, aww....he's literally the Nazi sympathizer next door...what a 'wholesome' image. And then we actually hear a tiny sprinkling of his vile views...almost as if they slipped in by accident to ruin his nazi-next-door image. No worries, the writer jumps straight to his cutesie cherry pie pop-culture tattoos because we can't dwell on the uncomfortable vile beliefs too long for some reason...

Here, again with the fucking manners. He's a fucking Nazi who thinks white people are superior to other races and Hitler wasn't so bad....that's not very polite is it now? 

It just seems odd to give him space to spout this anti semitic conspiracy on such a large platform without adding a remark or two, or at least a mildly disapproving adjective somewhere. 

See how harmless and non-racist he is? He's even having mixed-race couples at his wedding. 

--How about you don't add that right after talking about how he says he's not a white supremacist?--

People trying to split hairs between white nationalist and white supremacist should really be challenged on that at the very least if they are being given such a large platform. 

I don't know maybe it's just me but you've got to inject some expression or commentary as a writer when your subject is engaging in holocaust denial and saying Hitler was 'chill'. In a documentary profiling extremists perhaps the interviewer can rely on facial expressions or just a tense awkward atmosphere... to convey appropriate framing. But in an article if all we get is cold detached reporting and obsessive detail on nazi eating habits, people are not going to take it well. 

And it ends on a note of them sharing their hopes and dreams like any other couple (exactly how it began), woven badly with a quick mention of Charlottesville. And what. is. with. the. food. obsession. in. this. article? Turkey sandwiches, muffin pans, Applebees, Pasta.

What a normal year 2017 has been.


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  1. When I initially read the NYT article, it alternately sent chills down my spine and turned my stomach. Now I wonder if that was intentional or perhaps just bad journalism.

  2. Eiynah, what makes you call Dave Rubin an Alt-Right propagandist?
    I only see he let's his interviewees (from whichever side) have their say. He does definitely not endorse them , and letting them have their say is good journalistic practice (all too rare nowadays), I'd say.