Talk Radio

The ad line for the new Oliver Stone-Eric Bogosian film, Talk Radio, gets my first nomination for The 1989 William Jennings Bryan "Cross of Gold" Award. The Bryan Cross is a heretofore obscure honor awarded by this column to the best populist pop-cultural catch-phrase of the year. Each year's winner receives a gold-plated crucifix engraved on the back with Bryan's most famous quote: "You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns; you shall not crucify [hu]mankind upon a cross of gold."

Jesse Jackson took the award for the last two years running. But we can assume that he'll be semi-retired to the lecture treadmill for most of this decidedly "off" political year. So the field is open for some new blood.

The Stone-Bogosian movie is, of course, about the obsessive-abrasive host of one of those "vent-your-gripes" radio call-in shows. The prize-winning piece of hype reads simply, "Talk Radio: The Last Neighborhood in America."

I consider that piece of copywriting prizeworthy because, in its last five memorable words, it nails to the analytical wall one of the most amazing American phenomena of this ever-later 20th century--said phenom being the rise of Ad Hoc Electronic Communalism (herein dubbed AHEC). AHEC can be found most prominently in the film's shadow world of call-in radio, which has essentially taken over the a.m. side of the dial. It can also be seen in the popularity of audience-participation TV shows such as the crime-busting America's Most Wanted.

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