Why One Historian Thinks the Media Is 'Normalizing' Nazis

December 12th 2016

Almie Rose

In the wake of a rise in hate crimes after Donald Trump's presidential win, an Irish historian is taking on what he sees as the media's normalization of the far right.

Neo-Nazis Are Nothing New

On Twitter, Liam Hogan (@Limerick1914), a librarian and historian from Ireland, broke down how neo-Nazis are being normalized in 2016.

On December 10, Hogan tweeted a screen shot of an article from The New York Times with the headline "An Alt-Right Makeover Shrouds the Swastikas."

The article, by Serge F. Kovaleski, Julie Turkewitz, Joseph Goldstein and Dan Barry, profiles members of the National Socialist Movement, which the Times calls a "leading neo-Nazi group." At the beginning of the article, a leader is given space to discuss his group's decision to stop using the swastika:

"[...] the group chose a symbol from a pre-Roman alphabet that was also adopted by the Nazis.

According to Jeff Schoep, the movement’s leader, the decision to dispense with the swastika was 'an attempt to become more integrated and more mainstream.'"

Hogan argues that this is nothing new: the extremist right has long tried to clean up its image and hide its dark underbelly. But that's just the beginning of the critique.

"...utterly shameful."

Hogan refers to the Times' profiling of yet another Nazi, the leader of the Traditionalist Worker Party, as "utterly shameful." The party, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, "is a white nationalist group that advocates for racially pure nations and communities and blames Jews for many of the world’s problems."

Hogan continues:

Hogan's frustration with the Times extends to all media outlets he sees as downplaying and normalizing the hate of white supremacists.

By accepting terms of debate set by the far right, the media is "normalizing an acceptance of far-right discourse," Hogan argues.

Is Twitter Taking Neo-Nazis seriously?

Though Twitter banned Milo Yiannopoulos, a Trump supporter and leading "alt-right" figure, people are questioning if Twitter is enabling the "alt-right" (i.e., neo-Nazis) by giving them a platform. 

Hogan explains:

("@jack" is Jack Dorsey, one of Twitter's co-founders and its current CEO.)

In late November, Trump formally came out against the "alt-right" in a press conference. "I don't want to energize the group, and I disavow the group. It's not a group I want to energize, and if they are energized, I want to look into it and find out why."

This disavowal came after Trump chose Steve Bannon, the former head of the self-styled "alt-right" website Breitbart, as his chief political strategist. The movement's leaders, meanwhile, aren't discouraged — and are still getting platforms.