On the evening of June 18, 1984, Alan Berg, an outspoken Denver talk-show host,was murdered in front of his home, shot in the face as he emerged from his Volkswagen.The crime received a great deal of coverage, and while it was surprising that thekilling of a local radio personality would command network TV airtime and headlinesacross the United States, the media’s intuition about the death was right.The slaying had political, racial, religious, and historical overtones.
An irrepressible loudmouth, Berg would argue with anyone about anything at any time.This rude comic genius was operating in a new medium – talk radio –and presented himself as the West’s Last Angry Man, earning the highest ratingsever given to a talk-show host in his market. In one local survey, he won the awardfor being the most liked and most disliked media figure in Denver. His humor wasalways political, and he was merciless with sanctimonious right-wing Christiansor Ku Klux Klan members who called his show, but he could be just as nasty withknee-jerk liberals or self-righteous members of minority groups. He criticized withoutany prejudice.
His death unleashed the FBI’s largest investigation into domestic terrorismin American history and the murder weapon was found in the home of Gary Lee Yarbroughof Sandpoint, Idaho. Yarbrough was a member of a heavily armed, neo-Nazi factionof young men, called the Order, who preached revolution against Jews, African Americans,homosexuals, feminists, and white people who supported progressive causes. Theirfirst assassination target was Alan Berg.
Talked to Death details the rise, growth, and influence of these organizations– self-acknowledged descendants of Hitler’s Nazi party — and shows how theopposing forces of a truth-telling Jewish radio commentator and a band of violentracists collided at the moment of Berg’s death. The book was the first todocument the dangerous phenomenon of groups like the Order, and heralded darkerevents. In the 1990s, white rage surfaced again and again: in Timothy McVeigh’sbombing of an Oklahoma City federal building in 1995, which killed 168 people; inMark Fuhrman’s racist role in the O.J. Simpson trial; in the recorded messagesof the Columbine High School killers in 1999; and in the increasing intolerancebroadcast on America’s airwaves and promoted in certain religions. The storyin Talked to Death would echo again and again in our culture and in futurebooks written by Stephen Singular, laying the foundation for much to come.