It’s worse than normalizing Nazis, it’s making them look cool

13 Dec 2016 02:51 pm
Posted by: Donna

I don’t plan to post much before the new year because I’m still processing the debacle to our country but I am on social media a lot (it’s my time suck I don’t judge yours!) and a pair of Tweets I did the other night got a lot of hits, so:

They drew some great responses, like the Fight Club one above. Others brought up Walter White, the anti-hero protagonist in Breaking Bad, a complex character who was a quite a dick through much of the series but is beloved by many of the show’s fans nonetheless. The tweets were in reference to this NYT profile of the so-called “Alt Right”, AKA Nazis, in America, which came under a lot of criticism for what people felt was a too humanizing treatment of the subjects. The reporters made it clear that the people they interviewed held bigoted views but also (in my, and others’, estimation), presented the subjects as ordinary people with families and hobbies who held views that just happen to exist along the wide spectrum of possible political stances.

The Times’ Public Editor Liz Spayd has defended the use of euphemisms like “alt right” or “populist” to describe the Nazis President-Elect Trump has surrounded himself with and a manner of coverage that leaves it to the reader to draw moral conclusions. Spayd scoffs at the notion that this is “normalizing” them. She may be right. It might be worse, as in opening up a Don Draper/Tyler Durden/Walter White problem.

A writer may think her nuanced portrayal of the articulate, well-dressed Nazi with the cherubic kiddies is also exposing him as a racist cretin but she can’t know it will be understood that way by all its readers. Think about someone who has been secretly sympathizing with Nazis for years but hasn’t expressed it fearing social sanctions. Do you think soft-focus portrayals like the one in Times or this one in LA Times make that person (and remember, they already agree with the Nazi views espoused by the interviewees) more or less likely to step out of the closet and go to full-throated support? Especially when that dude they saw in the news article is making it look really cool.

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