AdTech, the New York Times, and Normalizing Fascism

4 min read

Today, the New York Times published a piece that normalized and humanized Nazis. I'm not linking to it; feel free to find it on your own, but I'm not giving it any additional traffic.

As was noted on Twitter, Hitler also received flattering press. 

However, because the NYT puts ads on its online content, they make money even when they put out dangerously irresponsible journalism. Due to the perversities of human nature, they probably make more money on the dangerously irresponsible pieces.

But, so does the adtech industry that the NYT uses to target ads. The adtech industry collects and combines information from everyone who visits this page. They aren't as visible as the NY Times, because they operate in the background, but adtech companies are happy to profit while the rest of us suffer. 

Here are some of the companies that had ads placed alongside a disgusting story that normalizes Nazis, fascism, racism, and everything that is wrong with how we are currently failing to address hate in our country. To state what should be obvious, none of these brands chose to advertise on this specific story. However, their presence alongside this story gives an explicit stamp of approval to prose that normalizes fascism. We'll return to this at the end of the piece.

Citi wants us all to know that, provided you use a Citi card, they are okay with Nazis.

Fascist literature and firepits

You know what goes great with fascist literature? A firepit from

sig heil and grills

If your ex-band mate whitewashes fascism as being "proud of their heritage" why not invite them over for a cookout? thinks grilling with Nazis is great.

Hitler and Mussolini and toys

Better make room for some gifts from Fat Brain Toys alsongside your Hitler and Mussolini literature.

T-Mobile, your network for Nazis

And if you're calling your Nazi friends, T Mobile wants you to do it on their network.

Nazis and firepits

And, Starfire Direct wants that special Nazi to Reignite Your Life.

As I said earlier, none of these companies chose to advertise on this page. But, because of the lazy mechanism that is modern adtech, "mistakes" like this happen all the time. These "mistakes" rely on an industry that operates in the shadows, makes vague promises to do better, and is predicated on constant monitoring of the web sites we visit, the places we shop (including using facial recognition), and connecting online and offline behavior. Despite industry promises of how this near-constant tracking doesn't impact our privacy, a recent study highlighted that, using AdTech as it was designed, it takes about $1,000 US to identify an individual using mobile ads.

But returning to the NY Times piece that normalizes fascism in the United States and the advertising technology used by the NY Times and just about every other publisher out there: sloppy journalism and lazy advertising both take shortcuts that we can't afford.

Modern adtech is appealing because, for brands, it offers ease of access alongside the promise of precisely targeting users. Sloppy journalism is "appealing" because it looks suspiciously like the real thing, and -- due to how adtech works -- it can ring up revenue in the short term.

But, given where we are, we need to stop looking for shortcuts. Doing things well feels like more work as we get started, but we are currently experiencing what happens in our information and political systems when we take shortcuts.

End Note: The article had tracking calls from over 50 different adtech companies, which is actually on the average to low side of other mainstream news sites. The adtech companies used by NY Times include most of the usual suspects, including Facebook, Google/Doubleclick, LinkedIn, Moat, Twitter, Amazon, AppNexus,, Bluekai, and AddThis.