On Sunday, the New York Times Editorial Board published a lengthy column about about the dangers of white nationalism after two devastating mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, the former of which was explicitly motivated by white nationalism. The editorial dreamed up an alternate future where the attacks were perpetrated by Muslims, and made the easy conclusion that yeah, Republicans would be having a field day if that were the case.
It also included this breathtaking proposition:
Those who sympathize with the white nationalist ideology but who deplore the violence should work closely with law enforcement to see that fellow travelers who may be prone to violence do not have access to firearms like semiautomatic assault-style weapons that are massively destructive.
What... the fuck? The point of this graf, which somehow made it past edits, is that explicit Nazis should... self police? Like, this is the brain genius editors of the most powerful newspaper in the country saying the violent extremists who advocate for a white nation-state should uh... narc on their buddies for owning guns. This is utterly insane!
The Editorial Board fleshed out the piece with a series of observations that pretty much anyone who reads anything other than only the NYT Sunday edition already knew: Extremism flourishes in online communities that gamify violence, law enforcement is ill-equipped to handle the threat, and mainstream conservative media outlets often push the same explicitly violent rhetoric that surfaces in acts of white supremacist violence. None of this is new, but still, the editorial board was on it.
Asking a community to self-police is a common reaction to extremist violence—in keeping with the Times original comparison to Islamic extremism, American Muslim communities have been asked to self-police again and again and again after terrorist attacks. It’s stupid and wildly insulting, however, to treat the two communities as analogous in any way. White nationalists are a group of racist extremists united by their desire to live in a homogenous ethnostate and willing to enact any violence possible to get there. But sure, yeah, they’ll definitely start turning each other in for owning weapons. The graf in question also shows how out of touch they are with the real threat. By appealing to the idea that there’s a more sensible, moderate wing of this movement—which is inherently violent—the Times only helps carve out a place for violent racism in our public discourse.