I couldn’t imagine much of a story at a protest staged at the Utah state Capitol, mostly because of who was staging it: the uninspired Merrill Cook. Despite his verbal fumbles, he somehow had bought his way into a developing form of entertainment in the ’80s—something called talk radio.
His positions on most important issues had more sides than the then-popular Rubik’s Cube. But on a key one at that time in Utah—taxes—he took a very basic approach. He simply would state over and over that state taxes were too high (which they weren’t, compared with other states) and the code too complicated (which it wasn’t, compared with the Internal Revenue Service code).
Then I pulled up to the Capitol and had my reportorial attitude adjusted. There was a sea of protesters spreading out over the steps and beyond. And there at the top step was the uncharismatic Cook, beaming with as many watts as the power from an AM radio station. And, indeed, his afternoon slot had given him the pulpit to pound, and he rode the tax-protest wave that was building.
Many in talk radio, and in all media, have been able to effect change by taking on a subject and not letting go. The tenacious pit-bull approach can be effective if the listener/reader is not bored to death by the subject matter.
Talk City radio host Christine Craft is relentlessly beating up on Governor Schwarzenegger as his popularity wave is breaking downward, and she, too, addressed a sea of protesters at a state capitol recently (see “On the air and oppositional”).
And, in an ironic fashion, conservatives are now starting to help build a base of opinion that it’s time to get out of Iraq (see “Exit strategically”).
As for Cook, he kept running for office (seven times) until he won. He beat on the electorate until he became a U.S. representative. But bizarre temper tantrums led the incumbent to lose in the 2000 primary. What he’s doing now? He’s back on talk radio, looking for the next wave. I’m guessing it will be immigration or possibly same-sex marriages.