These comments, gaining attention on social media first through The DM Reporter, show exactly why the media must stop with its sympathetic articles on Nazis.
Content note: discussion of Adolf Hitler, anti-Semitism, racism, ableism and other forms of bigotry.
The media right now has a serious problem with trust, and it continues to refuse to accept responsibility for the rise of the ‘alt-right’, otherwise known as neo-Nazis. If it’s not soft pieces on Milo as though he’s a silly boy and not the dangerous racist he is, Fallon patting Trump on the head like he’s some sort of lovable rogue, it’s The New York Times giving sympathetic profiles of neo-Nazis. These acts all fall on a spectrum that indulge hate rather than stand up to it, no matter how well meaning the authors/creators/hosts intend to be. The left is as guilty as the right, and the impact is that suddenly neo-Nazis don’t seem so bad to society, and they’re granted more and more space out of the shadows.
The most despicable example of this weak willed liberalism though has only just started getting attention on social media.
Drawing attention recently, are comments from within the last year on a completely pointless piece that the Mail Online ran with. Pictures were published of Hitler with children, presenting the idea that Hitler had a human, and softer side. It was a disgrace, and Hitler doesn’t deserve to be remembered in any sort of sympathetic light. The only facts that matter are the acts of atrocity he committed. This isn’t about historical accuracy of trying to show that even bad men have a good side, and therefore any person among us who seems ordinary could be evil. Any argument along those lines is totally destroyed when the comments section is used to defend Hitler.
The comments read: “what a beautiful picture”, “Until you get you get passed the victors propergander [sic] and open your eyes to historical fact this man loved children and animals. He was also a pin up for German women. This statement doesn’t condone what happened”, “We do have far worse leaders these days ,,, just look around”, “I wonder how Merkel will be remembered, she single hand as destroyed Europe beyond repair, with her dictatorship of open borders policy which no one else in the EU was consulted over”, and “history is written by the victor”.
The Mail Online points out in the headline that these pictures were designed as propaganda to elicit exactly those reactions. It does try to say that this shows no matter how a picture is framed, bad people are still bad. However, the comments have been left unmoderated and the piece itself is filled with more pictures than critical text looking at the danger of the images. To handle the photos in such a way is reckless and irresponsible. So suddenly it isn’t about pointing out propaganda, but it becomes a weapon that people can use to say “look, there are two sides to every story”. It is also precisely what is expected of the media, as quick hits continue to be the driving force behind content.
The comments are disgraceful – and they’re also still visible on the ‘best rated’ section. They excuse Hitler, evoke apologism, sink into misogyny about Merkel for reasons beyond any comprehension, and make light of the utter evil he committed. There are even comments praising his love of protecting animals from vivisections – and yet ignore the forced medical experiments Hitler pushed and allowed on disabled people. This is the most blunt and extreme example right now of the dangers of not ardently criticising hate and bigotry.
By allowing such content, suddenly trolls, bots and everyday people have a forum to debate whether a mass murderer was truly completely evil. There is an argument to saying that dehumanising bad people means we fail to tackle evil because we just assume they’re monsters hiding in alleys rather than everyday people around us – but the way the media is carrying out its reporting shows no consideration beyond getting clicks. The ramifications are severe, and if a piece is read that an alt-right troll or even Hitler himself had a different, softer side few saw, suddenly it’s an excuse for apologists and fans to come out of the woodwork.
It’s time for all us in the media to just stop. Even if we have the right reasons, and the best of intentions, it doesn’t matter when there will always be people waiting for an opportunity to spread hate. We have to unequivocally denounce them, and keep hammering that message home. The time for retrospectives and great character analysis is over. The fight is on now. Stop giving hate a platform, and start supporting those in the firing line.