History surely has taught that Hitler's intentions were hideous, monstrous. But it's uncomfortable to realize that Hitler, at least in his early days, used language to attack Jews that was more temperate, or at least more carefully measured, than what Severin said about Mexicans.
Comparing anyone's words to Hitler's is a tricky exercise. Hitler, after all, did more than talk. He presided over the murder of approximately six million Jews, as many as 500,000 gypsies, at least 250,000 physically or mentally disabled people, and a smaller, undetermined number of homosexuals.
We are not suggesting that, as foul as Severin was, he was advocating violence or murder — on any scale.
Still, denying the essential equality of any individual, or group of people, is often a step in establishing or maintaining the supposedly second-class status of the group into which that individual was born. Hitler and anti-Semites did and still do this to Jews, segregationists to African-Americans, homophobes to gays and lesbians, and nativists to immigrants — legal and illegal.
Like all good civil libertarians, we support the right of neo-Nazis — or any other haters for that matter — to demonstrate, or publish, or communicate in any form they might choose. But just as we would defend WTKK's right to have a neo-Nazi or a racist as a guest on one of its talk shows, so, too, would we question the wisdom of giving someone of such questionable sentiments a permanent soapbox as a talk-show host.
Rather than give Severin back his radio platform, WTKK should exercise its countervailing right to broadcast something else. In other words, Severin's right to say what he wants is trumped by WTKK's right to broadcast as it sees fit.
The Phoenix will be fast to congratulate the station if it does the right thing and tells Severin to peddle his views elsewhere. We're under no delusion that he'll not find a taker.