An article in yesterday’s New York Times – “In America’s Heartland, the Voice of Hate Next Door / Seeking Acceptance In the Mainstream”, by reporter Richard Fausset — takes an up-close look at one “alt-right” Trump supporter. His name? Tony Hovater.
This same article was the subject of The Times’s “Inside the Times” / “The Story Behind the Story,” a regular page two feature appearing in the main news section. Here, in this feature news column — “A White Nationalist, Yes. But Why?” — Fausset begins by stating: “There is a hole at the heart of my story about Tony Hovater, the white nationalist and Nazi sympathizer.” What is that hole? Fausset doesn’t believe he sufficiently answered his own question: “Why did this man — intelligent, socially adroit and raised middle class amid the relatively well-integrated environments of United States military bases — gravitate toward the furthest extremes of American political discourse?”
Further down, Fausset writes: “After I had filed an early version of the article, an editor at The Times told me he felt like the question had not been sufficiently addressed. So I went back to Mr. Hovater in search of answers. I still don’t think I really found them.”
Trying to get inside the mind of someone else and determine how they arrived at pivotal junctures in their life, is no simple task, even for a skilled and experienced journalist like Fausset. What might seem momentarily within easy reach, could prove as elusive as trying to catch houseflies with your bare hands. As Fausset states: “Sometimes a soul, and its shape, remain obscure to both writer and reader.”
Nevertheless, it was an interesting read. Very disturbing — to say the least — but interesting.
In nine days, Time magazine will reveal its 2017 “Person of the Year.” As pointed out on Wikipedia, Time chooses “a person, a group, an idea, or an object that ‘for better or worse … has done the most to influence the events of the year.’ ” Who or what will receive that distinction this year? Might it be the gene-editing tool CRISPR? Perhaps. It certainly won’t be Trump, not two years in a row. Climate Change would be a brilliant choice. “Endangered Earth” was once chosen (almost thirty years ago — demonstrating how rare it is for that subject to be on our radar).
But this year it could also be Steve Bannon, or the “alt-right,” or the wave of nationalism/nativism that we saw ripple throughout the globe – a creeping shadow of much darker things yet to come? We’ll just have to wait and see. Only Time will tell.