Echo Chamber

Talk radio talks to itself for argument's sake

But nobody could say exactly how the government was trying to chill anybody's freedom to speak on the radio, other than citing President Clinton's criticism of Liddy and talk radio after the Oklahoma City bombing. And nobody was willing to concede that the same First Amendment that apparently gives Liddy the right to shout "shoot a federal agent in the groin" in a crowded theater also gives Clinton the right to verbally abuse talk radio, no matter how lame a political ploy that might be.

Standing in for Clinton and the government was Gephardt, who in a speech that read much better on paper chided talk radio's "pandering and ideological backslapping," joined Pete Wilson in equating Liddy with gangsta rappers who rhyme about cop-killing and asked that the conventioneers boycott the award ceremony that evening at Space Center Houston. The host of the convention, a talk-radio magazine editor named Michael Harrison, tried to look as indignant as humanly possible in informing Gephardt that his request was "as outrageous as anything that Gordon Liddy has said!"

It certainly would have been outrageous for any red-blooded talk show host to pass on the abundance of food and drink that awaited in Clear Lake. About 150 of them and assorted hangers-on were seated at the Space Center pavilion when Liddy, sporting the fashionable penis-on-hind-legs-with-a-mustache look once found only on wrestling villains with names like Boris and Mr. Sputnik, lived up to his talk show host's sacred duty to say something outrageous (it was to the effect that the only way to keep Clinton from using the Bill of Rights as asswipe was for the citizenry to remain "heavily armed"). Gloria Allred, who earlier had promised a Houston Press photographer she would provide "a visual statement" to protest Liddy's award, ran to the front of the stage, waved a couple of signs, yelled something that nobody could hear, then stalked off. America yawned and rolled over.

Afterward, Liddy smiled and graciously posed for pictures with his new award. Then he and America's talk show hosts concluded their evening, which had been made possible by a grant from the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers Association, by heading off for a special showing of the IMAX film at the Space Center Theater.

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