New York Times Puff Piece on White Supremacist is Dangerous

Tony Hovater, the subject of a New York Times article, walks into Lee Park with the Traditionalist Workers Party in Charlottesville, VA on August 12, 2017. (Photo by Stephanie Keith)

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by Zach D Roberts

This weekend the New York Times published a profile of a white supremacist named Tony Hovater. Mr. Hovater is the co-founder of the Traditionalist Worker Party, one of the hate groups that jackbooted into Charlottesville in August of 2017, they also stomped into Shelbyville, TN.  The Visu.News crew was at both rallies, clearly the author of this puff piece was not.

The piece opens with the sort of writing that you’d expect in their culture section (assuming that the Times culture section ever looked in the direction of people making less than 250k a year):

“HUBER HEIGHTS, Ohio — Tony and Maria Hovater were married this fall. They registered at Target. On their list was a muffin pan, a four-drawer dresser and a pineapple slicer.”

Ms. Hovater, 25, was worried about Antifa bashing up the ceremony. Weddings are hard enough to plan for when your fiancé is not an avowed white nationalist.

Yes, her deepest worry was not that her fiancee wouldn’t show, or the DJ would play Rick Astley but that a bunch of anti-fascists would show up at her wedding and ‘bash’ the ceremony.

Yeah, these are ordinary folks. The sort that Trump was referring to when he said “You also had some very fine people on both sides.” Now mind you I’ve gotten into a scuffle or two with antifa at a protest – but if my theoretical fiancee was worried enough that they’d show up to our wedding – I’d want to rethink my life. Ms. Hovater though is in on the game, the Times reports “…she and Mr. Hovater are “pretty lined up” politically.”

Screenshot of Tony Hovater’s facebook page post on August 11th, one day before the murder of Heather Heyer.

To be honest, I’m not really sure what the NY Times was trying to do in their latest installment of “Let’s meet the Nazi Next door.” I say “installment” as it’s not the first time they delved into doing feather weight profiles of those on the far right. Last December The NY Times published a piece with a four person bi-line with four photographers and a researcher, something I’ve never heard of before. It was just over a month after the the election of Donald Trump, and clearly they were, like most of the media, trying to figure out what the fuck just happened. The piece lamely attempted to explain the newly coined “alt-right.”  I don’t blame the small village of people that worked on the 1700 word piece, as clearly no one could have had a coherent voice in an article like that.

Tony Hovater (right) sits with Matthew Heimbach (center right) and the man made famous by Vice, Christopher Cantwell aka the “Crying Nazi” center left. At time of publishing, the man on the left is unknown. Screenshot from Tony Hovater’s facebook page. 

The NYT is not alone either. Politico, Mother Jones and others have have all published glowing features and profiles on members of the alt-right, it’s enough of a problem that the Southern Poverty Law Center wrote a critique and helpful guide. At some point, I’ll try and publish a piece on how photojournalists might document these hatemongers, without doing what The LA Times and so many other publications have done to make the men (and they’re almost always men) that make up this part of American politics handsome, rustic, working-class… anything but the open racists that they are.

Screenshot from Tony Hovater’s facebook page.

With that said, those all happened before Charlottesville. An event that no journalist – even one working for the Times could have missed. But it seems that they found one. Richard Fausett’s November 25th piece in the paper of record originally titled “In America’s Heartland, a Voice of Hate Among ‘Normies’,” now renamed “A Voice of Hatred in America’s Heartland” is a must read for up and coming journalists that want to cover the rise of white supremacy in America. Not because it’s an amazing example of what TO DO – but more of what to stay the hell away from doing.

If you’ve read my past work at Nation of Change and here at Visu.News, then you know I was at Charlottesville. You know what happened there. Heather Heyer was murdered by a member of Vanguard America. DeAndre Harris was brutally beaten by a mixed bag of white supremacists from the League of the South and other affiliated groups – including Vanguard America, the group that the murderer of Heather Heyer was affiliated with.

It also included a colleague of Tony Hovater – Jacob Scott Goodwin clad in a military surplus helmet, large goggles and a head to knee shield can be seen here standing over DeAndre Harris beating him. The only reason he was ever found was do to the perseverance of Shaun King and his social media followers. They figured out who he was based on photos of him taken by myself and others. The fact that he was wearing a 88 pin and a Traditionalist Workers Party symbol on the right sleeve of his shirt.

The man with the shield on the right is a member of Tony Hovater’s Traditionalist Workers Party, later photos show him kicking and beating DeAndre Harris.

So, what is the “Traditionalist Workers Party” – the Southern Poverty Law Center describes it as “a white nationalist group that advocates for racially pure nations and communities and blames Jews for many of the world’s problems. Even as it claims to oppose racism, saying every race deserves its own lands and culture, the group is intimately allied with neo-Nazi and other hardline racist organizations that espouse unvarnished white supremacist views.”

Tony Hovater isn’t just a co-founder, he also was the TWP’s first candidate nominated for a place in government. The TWP ran him as a candidate for city council in his home town of New Carlisle, Ohio.

The piece also, links directly to his hate filled screeds on the TWP site. One of which includes a swastika arm band. But doesn’t actually include any of the text from the pieces which he writes or his colleagues write. It doesn’t describe the podcast that he runs for the group. Something that Agnus Johnston, a historian and CUNY Professor did.

I don’t have the budget and resources of the NY Times, and neither does Shaun King, or Professor Johnston. Hell, I doubt even the Southern Poverty Law Center does. And yet we were all able to easily produce this information, some of us within 48 hours of this piece being produced.

As a photojournalist, I would be hard pressed not to mention the complete lack of photos of Hovater at Charlottesville or in Tennessee, something i was able to produce in 5 hours, simply by asking my facebook page, which thankfully includes Stephanie Keith who provided me with the photo you see at the top of the page.

The basics of journalism were not met here. The fact that the Times has allowed the journalist to write a page A2 response in the print version of the Sunday New York Times – something I personally have never seen or heard of – and has themselves written a quite aggressive response themselves titled “Readers Accuse Us of Normalizing a Nazi Sympathizer; We Respond.”

I’m not just accusing the Times of “Normalizing a Nazi Sympathizer.” I’m accusing them of committing a fraud through journalistic malfeasance. By omitting facts they are allowing the white supremacist movement to use this article as a beacon to new members that may have some of the same issues with America – economic strife, anger over Black Lives Matter or whatever to excuse their joining one of the many groups like the Traditionalist Workers Party.

This is how we got Trump as President in the first place – allowing a mad man to spout off his rants of hate and lies without calling them what they were, hate and lies.

The New York Times should know better, one only needs to look at its past coverage of hate filled demagogues like Hitler to know how this can end. Here’s an excerpt of a University of Buffalo article that describes an August 20, 1939 NYT Magazine article about the man that was in the middle of committing the world most heinous crime:

This was 12 days before Germany invaded Poland and started World War II, nine months after the violent anti-Jewish pogroms of Kristallnacht, and six years after the first Nazi concentration camp opened at Dachau.

The article commented that Hitler’s estate on the Obersalzberg, a mountain retreat near the Austrian border, was “furnished harmoniously, according to the best of German traditions.” Unstained wainscoting and handwoven rugs combined to “create an atmosphere of quiet cheerfulness” in the Führer’s study, the New York Times reported.

Hitler had a tomato garden and a fondness for chocolate, the story said. He was a man “who can eat a gooseberry pie or a well-done pudding with relish.” He liked to take an afternoon nap.

(There was no mention of Kristallnacht in the article, even though it was known to the paper.)

How many times does history have to repeat itself before we learn? We need to call out and confront these people at every turn. If you feel uncomfortable doing that as a journalist – then I recommend a job in PR, or at Fox News – you are fake news.

Tony Hovater center far back in Shelbyville, Tenn.

 

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