If it comforts the editorial staff at The Sun to believe that talk shows are flourishing because listeners "demand anger that entertains, and bottom-line station managers are eager to give it to them," (Editorial: "Talk Show Tantrums," April 26) well, OK. But if not wholly fictional, this reading of what drives talk radio's success is a distortion that conceals the real issue, which is the widening gap between the ruling establishment (of which The Sun is a part) and the majority of ordinary Americans who describe themselves as politically conservative. A recent poll found that 58 percent of Americans consider themselves conservative, compared to 34 percent who say they're liberal.
This sets up a difficult problem for those, led by President Clinton, who wish to make political gains from blaming the
Oklahoma City atrocity on a "climate" created by "venomous" rhetoric from the Right. You see, the people who are opposed to the liberal dictates of the elites are in the majority. They aren't in favor of bombing their political opponents, and it further alienates them when it is suggested they are somehow responsible for the actions of a demented few.
It isn't surprising to see such a misreading of the political landscape from the Democratic politicians and the Democratic media; after all these are the same people who have embarrassed themselves repeatedly in misreading political conservatism, the same people who thought Newt Gingrich's Contract with America was so mistaken it could be used to tilt the '94 elections toward the Democrats; and they are the same people who think the fiery deaths of the Branch Davidians in Waco was just a "mistake," and that the religious "cultists" brought about their own end.
One major area of misunderstanding on the part of the writers and commentators who ponder "Talk Show Tantrums" concerns Waco and the Randy Weaver case in Ruby Ridge, Ida- ho. These two incidents, the deaths of David Koresh and his followers and the siege at the Weaver cabin which saw federal agents shoot to death his wife and 13-year-old son, seem to be regarded as normal law-enforcement incidents by the major media, which immediately swallowed federal government justifications as to what took place. Michael Kinsley said he didn't really know anything about Ruby Ridge when the matter was broached on CNN's "Crossfire" program. He said, "Let's talk about something we know about."
What millions of Americans "know" about the Waco and Weaver cases, is that in their minds they were a virtual declaration of war by the federal government against people who just wanted to be left alone. What they saw in those sieges and their horrible ends was a government that while eager to try Los Angeles police officers for beating a defiant criminal was unwilling to accept responsibility for far more serious acts of violence on the part of its own agents.
As Sen. John McCain has said, there must be a full and fair investigation into Waco, and it should have been done months ago. That would do more to soothe those angered by the government than anything else I can think of. It would certainly contribute more to dismantling the "politics of hate," than does blaming the majority for the evil acts in Oklahoma City.
Talk radio does not, as The Sun said editorially, "feed the frustrations of millions of susceptible citizens." It just lets be heard what they have, for better or worse, concluded.
Ron Smith is host of a talk show on WBAL radio.