Last week, The New York Times ran an article on Tony Hovater, a Nazi living in Huber Heights, Ohio. For whatever reason, instead of condemning this man, whose ideology advocates for genocide, The Times instead chose a delicate and pompous, privileged and apologist approach to their coverage of the racist and bigoted white nationalist.
In detail, they documented the Hovater’s upcoming wedding, how they registered at Target, and how their list contained even “a muffin pan, a four drawer dresser, and a pineapple slicer.” Tony Hovater bluntly denounced democracy, arguing for white power and openly calling himself a fascist.
While not only absolutely reprehensible, getting in bed with Fascists is nothing new for The New York Times, in fact, if we rewind 90 years, we find similar stories spilling from pens of journalists and columnists. In particular, we can see how major dailies such as The New York Times, bolstered up, and openly supported Benito Mussolini, on his oppressive quest to become a new Caesar.
In the first months of Mussolini’s rule, after becoming prime minister in October of 1922, The Times ran an article entitled: “Italy transformed; Money, Gems, Work Given to the State,” in which the author drools over the new government claiming Mussolini “…wanted to infuse into the tired arteries of the parliamentary state the new energizing current of Fascismo.”
Similarly, Times writer Alice Rohe, in her article “Mussolini, Hope of Youth, Italy’s Man of Tomorrow,” describes the tyrant as “a leader without political precedent,” “Italy’s man of tomorrow,” amongst other glowing appellations.
While The Times were giddy with their coverage of the new Dictator, Mussolini himself was unleashing his blackshirts across the Italian Peninsula. In April 1924, parliamentary elections were held. Despite the dressings of democracy, these elections were merely fictitious. In the year prior, the Fascists had passed the Acerbo Law, a law stipulating that the parliamentary party that won the most votes would in turn be awarded a two-thirds majority in parliament.
Even this warranted praise from The New York Times, columnist Anne O’Hare McCormick wrote, in 1923, on the newly passed Acerbo Law: That Mussolini and his inexperienced fascists acted “from the gut” but they also led a youthful movement that promised to revitalize Italy. McCormick similarly suggested that fascism was a “protest against the pretentious failures of parliament.”
As democracy waned, Mussolini’s cheerleaders continued to laud the dictator. The summer of 1924 brought the disappearance and murder of a prominent member of parliament, Giacomo Matteotti, who led the opposition to Mussolini in Italy. Further, throughout 1925, Mussolini shutdown free press, and eliminated political parties that he didn’t approve of.
Yet, The Times and their praise waned little, with authors such as McCormick saying that the fascist “revolution makes all other changes seem possible,” emphasizing that most Italians “have faith in the fascist gospel of national salvation.”
Another columnist, Arthur Livingston, writing in January 1926, four years into the dictatorship, falls heads over heels for the bloodstained tyrant: “Mussolini knows more politics than all his opponents combined.”
Thus Mussolini continued to charm American reporters even though Italy no longer resembled a democracy.
Even in the early 1930s, Mussolini’s own writings made their way into The New York Times, and the newspaper devoted nearly a full page for Mussolini to explain why “fascism [was] the doctrine of the century.”
Not until the late 1930s and early 1940s was Fascist Italy finally condemned. Quietly, pretending the past few decades of admiration of Fascism never existed, The Times began denouncing the dictatorship once Mussolini had cozied up to the vile of Hitler.
As Aldous Huxley’s said: “That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history.” By normalizing Mussolini, newspapers allowed for fascism to grow unchallenged by the international community.
Similarly, today, by normalizing neo-Nazis, proto-fascists, white-nationalists or any other bigoted group; by showing them through the lens of everyday people with boring wedding registries, we ignore the implications of what their vile and genocidal views entail.
It’s absolutely pointless in giving an international platform to someone who spews and promotes such dangerous ideologies.
Who cares that they want a pineapple slicer? They’re Nazis.
Adam Ramer ([email protected]) is a junior studying history and politics.