Hey, I'm not a Joe McCarthy looking for a Nazi under every bed. But my father was in a Nazi concentration camp in Poland during World War II. I'm sure he and the people around him discounted Nazism. I just wanted to make students at [American University] aware of the threat.
SO DAVID ADLER, a 19-year-old student at the university and talk-show host on the student-run radio station, explained his inviting the director of the anti-Semitic, white-supremacist National Socialist White Peoples Party to appear on his program Sunday evening. Mr. Adler's invitation to the Nazi group, whose headquarters are in Arlington, provoked several anonymous threats, both to Mr. Adler and to university officials. It also provoked the storming of the radio station Sunday night by about 30 members of the Committee Against Racism (CAR), a group of self-styled "freedom fighters," none of whom apparently are university students.
Mr. Alder, fearful of just such an occurrence, had arranged for the Nazi Party director to participate in the program's question-and-answer format via a telephone hookup from Arlington. The intruders soon left WAMU and the two-hour program continued with little harm done. The incident is rich in irony. For one thing, CAR's attitude and actions point up how easily some people, in their rush to "protect" us from "wrong" opinions, would actually diminish our freedom. For another, CAR's attempt at intimidation and disruption against a Nazi group resembles nothing so much as the storm-trooper tactics the Nazis themselves used to gain power in Germany 40 years ago. The point is simply that the Nazis should enjoy exactly the same right to freedom of speech that all other Americans enjoy.
Were any WAMU listeners persuaded Sunday night to accept the Nazi doctrine? No one can say for certain. We do know, according to both David Adler and the Nazi Party director, that every one of the calls they fielded during the evening was critical, often harshly so, of everything the Nazis stand for. And we know that about 50 members of a campus Jewish students group held a peaceful candlelight demonstration outside the station. But these responses, while heartening, are beside the point - which is that only by being willing to tolerate the free expression of views with which we may profoundly disagree will we ourselves remain free to express our disagreements.