Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Writing sympathetically about Nazis helps them reach their goals

(Scott Beale/ Daily Collegian)

There are thousands of drummers in the United States. I’m a drummer. It is part of who I am. Do you know who else is a drummer? Tony Hovater. And if I didn’t know better, I’d use this information to humanize him; I’d empathize with him. But I do know better. I know that Hovater, the subject of Richard Fausset’s New York Times piece from Saturday, “A Voice of Hate in America’s Heartland,” is a Nazi. But rather than condemn an avowed white nationalist, Fausset’s article details Hovater’s life and gives a pretty face to a hateful movement.

If you need any proof that Hovater is a Nazi, look no further than the New York Times article about him. Hovater defends fascism by comparing it to the movie “Pacific Rim.” His argument is that, “They build a giant robot to try to stop [monsters]. And that’s essentially what fascism is. It’s like our version of centrally coming together to try to stop another already centralized force.” He helped start a group that marched in Charlottesville this summer — a group that sells swastika arm bands on its website. Hovater himself was in Charlottesville and after that day he wrote, “We made history. Hail victory.’” “Hail victory,” as the Times article helpfully points out, translates in German to “Sieg heil.”

You wouldn’t expect an article about such a man to romanticize his cultural interests or to spend paragraphs diving into his personal life, but Fausset’s article does exactly that. Hovater is someone whose “tattoos are innocuous pop-culture references.” In the article, he and his wife are at a local Applebee’s sitting “shoulder to shoulder at a table, young and in love.” They are normal people like you and me, with their “fondness for National Public Radio, their four cats, their bridal registry.”

Fausset isn’t wrong about their normalcy, but that is exactly what is dangerous about this article. As the piece elaborates, the alt-right is trying to appeal to ‘normal’ people. They are trying to spread their movement to individuals beyond the fringe bigots. As Matthew Heimbach, the leader of the group that Hovater helped start, explains in the article, “We need to have more families. We need to be able to just be normal.” The Times piece presents a white nationalist as ‘normal.’ This article, with its sympathetic, rosy passages, helps Nazis reach their goal.

Anti-Semitism and racism are real problems in America today, and they have gotten worse over the past few years. The Anti-Defamation League reported earlier this year that in 2016, acts of anti-Semitism in the U.S. increased by over a third. It also noted that during the first three months of 2017, there was an 86 percent jump in these acts. In the week after the election of President Donald Trump, there were over 200 complaints of hate crimes to the Southern Poverty Law Center, as reported by USA Today. It is also hard to forget the image of protesters in Charlottesville marching with torches yelling, “White lives matter” and “Jews will not replace us.”

Due to the backlash the Times received because of Fausset’s piece, they published a response, penned by National Editor Marc Lacey. According to Lacey, “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.” In addition, the Times response emphasized that they “regret the degree to which the piece offended so many readers,” and they “recognize that people can disagree on how best to tell a disagreeable story.” However, Lacey argued that “What [they] 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.” While it is reassuring to know that the Times is aware of their mistake, a response after-the-fact does not erase the damage done by the original article.

I understand what Fausset’s intention was when he wrote his article. He was trying, through his experiences with Hovater, to warn America that white nationalism can be in our own towns and our communities. While it is important that Americans understand the widespread nature of racism and anti-Semitism, this article failed to achieve its goal. Because it presents Hovater and his wife in a positive light, this piece gives strength to those who spread ideals that are dangerous to millions of Americans.

An individual who disputes that six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust, who wants a “white ethno-state” and who insists that “Jews run the worlds of finance and the media, and ‘appear to be working more in line with their own interests than everybody else’s,’” should not be portrayed in the national media as a man whose “Midwestern manners would please anyone’s mother.”

Joe Frank is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected].

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  • N

    NITZAKHONNov 30, 2017 at 8:33 am

    @Arafat: Why thank you! (That’s cash in small bills, right?)

    The author would do well to view this video.

  • A

    ArafatNov 29, 2017 at 2:50 pm


    Yours is an excellent comment. Thank you for taking the time.

  • N

    NITZAKHONNov 28, 2017 at 8:23 pm

    Let me state, right up front, that someone who looks at, let alone holds reverently / displays, a swastika with anything other than complete revulsion is someone *I* view with complete revulsion. My relatives, like my great uncle (and his family) who died in the Shoah, after whom my son takes his Hebrew name, deserve no less. Let alone someone who disputes the Shoah’s six million…

    Having said that, however, let me counter with a few things. The writer discusses the upswing of anti-Semitic incidents, without digging further – to wit:

    * How many incidents, of both anti-Semitism as well as other “hate” crimes, have later been shown to be faked? The answer: quite a few. This is not to trivialize the real incidents, but with so many faked ones, it’s harder to take the real ones seriously – let alone separate the wheat from the chaff.
    – E.g.:
    Fake Hate: Black Man Arrested for Vandalizing Five Black Churches in New Jersey (Video)

    Also peruse

    * With the rise of “intersectionality” and the adoption of the “Palestine” cause by others, e.g., Black Lives Matter, feminists (how DOES a feminist take sides with Muslims whose Sharia Law would turn them into domestic servants and baby factories?), gays (how DOES a gay take sides with Muslims whose Sharia Law openly calls for their deaths?), etc., the Left is now the new home of anti-Semitism.

    With regards to “Jews will not replace us” – has anyone actually thought to find out what this means? I have; I’ve engaged several of these people in discussion. It boils down to Jews who are open about their support for continued Islamic immigration (actually: invasion) of the West. For example, Barbara Spectre is notable, among others, for saying that “we Jews” have to be at the forefront of pushing for more Islamic immigration. Given that the Islamic Hijra into Europe has resulted in increased crime, no-go areas, an explosion of rapes, it’s not illogical to see such information (1) and make the (wrong) conclusion that ALL JEWS are in favor of this. The REAL significant variable is Liberal vs. Conservative. The politically-conservative Jews in my shul, few as we are, are all aghast at our liberal Tribe members and their Islamophilia.

    This “Jewish conspiracy” madness is not helped when articles like this one (2) come out, amongst myriad articles highlighting how hostile Europe is becoming to Jews thanks to Islam’s invasion, yet Jews – e.g., in my local Jewish Federation newsletter – continually advocate for more refugees to be admitted despite the CLEAR DATA of what happens next. Again, I’m not CONDONING the conclusion that there is a conspiracy, but to a person already inclined towards antipathy towards Jews, it’s not a stretch conclusion.

    Someone who hates me because I’m Jewish is scum. Pure and simple. But if this is a war against anti-Semitism – and it is a war – then it behooves our side fighting it to “know your enemy”. And their Islamic / Fakestinian helpers.

    Read these sites daily for two weeks:

    And then look at your fellow Jews who still want more Islamic immigration, and ask “Have you lost your survival instinct?” The same applies to women who don’t want to be beaten – even murdered – by their husbands for disobedience, confined to dressing in a tent, and turned into a baby factory… but want more Islamic immigration. The same applies to gays who don’t relish the idea of being hanged from construction cranes, or bound / gagged and thrown off roofs… but want more Islamic immigration. “Have you lost your survival instinct?”

    One last thing. Whenever I’ve traveled in the “deep dark south” – nothing but respect and, sometimes, open curiosity. Up here in New England is where I’ve experienced anti-Semitism, and been point-blank told while I was job searching that it was probably costing me job offers.

    ** Title: Zionist Jews Happily Brag About Being At The Center Of The Muslim Invasion Of Europe

    (2) France: Muslims In, Jews Out

  • E

    Ed Cutting, Ed.D.Nov 28, 2017 at 3:37 am

    An individual who disputes that six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust
    How many UMass students know what country the SS Death Camps (eg Auschwitz) were located in?
    Hint, it wasn’t Germany, but how many UMass students could find Germany on a map or globe?
    How many have ever heard of the Nuremburg laws? Or trials?
    This is what your problem is.