https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/22/opin ... mfort.html
Stephens is far from the first person to voice similar concerns, but his speech is one of the best and most honest arguments I've read on the subject. There's been an increasing trend in recent years towards dogmatism in a certain very loud portion of both sides of the political spectrum wherein you either agree *exactly* with the opinion of the moment or are a traitor to the cause. We like to consider ourselves a rare bastion of internet civility on VGF, but even here we've lost three longtime members in just the last few years to our refusal to unquestioningly accept their politics....
An example: Last November, The New York Times published a profile of a 29-year-old Ohio man named Tony Hovater. Mr. Hovater is a welder from a suburb of Dayton. He’s happily married, middle class, polite, plays drums, cooks pasta aglio e olio, and loves “Seinfeld.”
He is also a proud and avowed Nazi sympathizer. He started out on the political left, moved over to the Ron Paul right, and ended up marching with the anti-Semitic white nationalists at Charlottesville. He doesn’t believe six million Jews died in the Holocaust, and thinks Hitler was “kind of chill.”
The profile, by Times reporter Richard Fausset, was a brilliant case study in Hannah Arendt’s “banality of evil.” Hovater is not a thug, even if his ideas are thuggish; not a monster, even if he takes inspiration from one; not insane, even if his ideas are crazy. He reminds us that a diabolical ideology gains strength not because devils propagate it, but because ordinary men embrace it. And he warns us, as Bertolt Brecht put it after the war, “The womb is fertile still, from which that crawled.”
Lest anyone doubt what Fausset and his editors at the Times think of Hovater and his ideas, the article was titled “A Voice of Hate in America’s Heartland.” This is not, to say the least, a neutral way of introducing the subject.
Yet that did not seem enough for some Times readers, who erupted with fury at the publication of the article. Nate Silver, the Times’s former polling guru, said the article did “more to normalize neo-Nazism than anything I’ve read in long time.” An editor at The Washington Post accused us of producing “long, glowing profiles of Nazis” when we should have focused on the “victims of their ideologies.” The Times followed up with an explanatory, and somewhat apologetic, note from the national editor.
No doubt, there may have been ways to improve the profile. There always are. But there was something disproportionate, not to say dismaying, about the way that so many readers rained scorn on The Times’s good-faith effort to better understand just what it is that makes someone like Hovater tick.
Just what do these readers think a newspaper is supposed to do?
It's a movement that is at once profoundly pointless, because that kind of vitriol will never convert anyone who doesn't already agree with the underlying ideas, and extraordinarily dangerous, because ideological fundamentalism so absolute as to have great difficulty accepting the views of even what is supposedly own its side is inherently incompatible with democracy. Listening to, understanding, and yes, ultimately, working with people who hold views very different from your own is an inescapable part of a free society, and while I know better than to claim humanity has ever come close to that ideal, I think recent trends are threatening hard-fought progress towards it. It's hard to be passionate about not being angry, but we need adults on all sides of politics to stand up and protect that progress, uncomfortable opinions and all.