Yesterday on KUOW's The Record, host Bill Radke spoke with the guy who got knocked out Monday morning for throwing a banana at a man while wearing a swastika armband. Many online cheered the punching of the Nazi, but listeners rose up in anger and anguish at the radio station's decision to give the Nazi a platform and to allow him to speak anonymously.
In response to the uproar, KUOW posted a request on Facebook for listeners to write in with their concerns. Right now, there are well over a hundred replies:
People generally seem to be criticizing the station for giving the idiot a platform for his views, which they didn't need to hear because a Nazi armband says enough. Others mention the insult of airing the interview on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, a time for reflection and dipping apples in honey.
I have struggles with this.
On one hand, I've seen enough of these stunt Nazis to know that I don't care what they say. Inviting him on the radio anonymously allows him to hide and offers him the safety he doesn't extend to others. It's a mistake to give him that.
On the other hand, during the show, the Nazi explained he wouldn't give his name because, he said, his landlord forbid him from doing so because she didn't want the Antifa showing up at her property. That excuse is so profoundly and transparently cowardly that I'm happy to know that information. It's unsurprising but useful to know that he calls concern about the rise of Neo Nazis “a witch hunt,” which is the same language the President uses to describe inquiry into his treasonous "Russia stuff." He also referred to the Holocaust as "something that wasn't great," and basically claimed to have dressed up like a Nazi TO SAVE CAPITALISM. I had my assumptions, but until he came on the radio, I had no idea what the fuck that guy's deal was. I couldn't have been 100 percent certain, or even 90 percent certain, what exactly happened during that punching incident, or even what the circumstances were, after watching the video. I don't like the idea of not caring to know for certain, either.
Criticism of "giving Nazis a platform" is to me overly cautious, and particularly rich when coming from people who shared the Nazi-punching video widely. The virality of Nazi-punching videos feeds into the Fox News hysteria about the so-called violent left, and serves in part to legitimize these assholes even if it strikes fear into some. Clearly, that idiot who wore the arm band hasn't yet been scared straight by all the Nazi punching videos going around.
That said, I'm not keen on KUOW running what amounts to a freak show segment on a neo Nazi. "Look! A Nazi called us! Give him a mic!"
When I asked KUOW why they granted the guy anonymity, KUOW Managing Producer Brendan Sweeney told me The Record team did so because the Nazi "claimed to be worried for his safety," which contradicts the Nazi's claim.
When I asked why they didn't just refuse the interview, Sweeney gave me a "both sides" reason: "The KUOW ethics guidelines state that anonymity can only be granted if we verify that the person is who he or she says they are; and if we have a compelling reason for doing so," he wrote via e-mail.
"Earlier this week," Sweeney continued, "we had spoken to Josh Dukes, the Anti-fascist activist who was shot at the Milo Yiannopoulos event. During that show (the interview starts at 13:00 in the link), Dukes had discussed the swastika video. At times in the interview Dukes expressed an interest in talking to the guy, but he also spoke approvingly of punching Nazis. The Record team made the call in this instance that a first hand, first person account warranted granting anonymity."
I can see wanting to know exactly what happened, but feeling compelled to grant a guy wearing a Nazi armband anonymity because you interviewed a guy earlier in the week who spoke approvingly of punching Nazis perpetuates a wildly false equivalency. Holding the view that the Holocaust only "wasn't great" in no way occupies the same moral plane as approving of punching someone who believes that.
FWIW, my mother's Jewish. My uncle and aunt are Orthodox Jews who live right here in Seattle. My sympathies will always lie with the Nazi-puncher, but I strongly dislike hearing people glorify the bullshit machismo that drives a lot of it.
After I pressed for clarification, Sweeney offered the following:
I'd say that we, like many Seattleites, were wondering what in the hell was going on with this story. And that the explanations we were hearing in the media felt inadequate and incomplete. We had hoped to get a first person, first hand explanation. What we got was a 20-minute dissembling interview, which we edited down to 4.
As a show and as a station, we believe deeply in the principle that it is better to talk to someone, rather than about them. But that ethos extends only so far. We cannot and will not allow our show to serve as a platform for hateful speech. If you listen to the interviews we have conducted on this topic thus, I don't think we did that