Is that a gun in Dr. Norm Resnick's pocket? Yes, and he's not glad to see you. The beleaguered radio talk-show host on the USA Patriot Network can't really say who would shoot him, but he has been packing double heat since the April 19 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City.

For two years, Dr. Norm's shout has been heard round the world from the KHNC studios in Johnstown, fifty miles north of Denver. But now that average Americans are beginning to hear about the startling calls to arms by "patriot" celebrities such as "Mark from Michigan," a former KHNC stalwart, Resnick's little universe may be blowing up around him.

"Am I inflammatory? Clinton is attacking talk-show hosts--that seems inflammatory," Resnick says mournfully as he trudges back into his studio after a break in his afternoon show. It's April 24, the day after President Bill Clinton criticized "angry talk" during an emotional speech to the nation. "We're in for some very hard times. The government and the media--I mean, it's a feeding frenzy out there. I'm carrying two guns now."

Then he seizes his microphone and plugs into the world. "At what point do we take a moral stand and stop being wimps?" he asks his audience. "We are under massive pressure here. We will not back down. We all deplore the tragedy in Oklahoma City. But I'm serious: Without your support, we'll go off the air. Tune in tomorrow: We're having explosives experts on."

He talks like a man under siege.
Once Resnick was a professor of educational psychology at the University of Northern Colorado, one of the few Orthodox Jews in the town of Greeley. Now he's the top gun on a radio network owned by a Christian preacher (who thinks he's a Jew) that peddles anti-government paranoia--along with guns, ammo and precious metals--to angry and scared people everywhere. KHNC, 1360 on your AM dial, is one of the country's main outlets for a variety of mad-as-hell talk, and it hooks up through Nashville station WWCR (World Wide Christian Radio) for a shortwave ride around the planet.

At least two of the station's newfound affiliates have canceled in the wake of the Oklahoma City tragedy. But the calls keep pouring in, mostly from "patriots" or militia members wounded by news stories that they say imply all of them are gun-toting crazies and that one or more of them may have been responsible for killing all those innocent people.

"Heidi from Fort Collins" insists that all patriots aren't loonies with guns. "I don't wear camouflage," she says. "I wear bifocals."

"Jim from Longmont" calls to say, "If we're going to look for a group to blame, look at the 103rd brigade of Congress. Now will you give us hearings on Waco?"

Most of Resnick's callers claim the federal government probably blew up its own building, and they compare the feds' deadly 1993 raid on the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas, with the bombing in Oklahoma City.

Maybe the carpeting on the walls of Resnick's soundproofed studio ought to be replaced by thick rubber padding. Resnick is losing it. One minute he's on the air, dead serious: "I apologize. I am out of control and very emotional. A great many Americans are willing to give up our civil rights for security. I'm afraid we'll get neither." The next minute he chortles in an off-the-air aside, "It's unbelievable that they're picking me up from Pensacola, Florida--from this shitty little station! I've got affiliates!" And then he's back on the air, saying, "They're calling us white supremacists, neo-Nazis. The media paint us as racists, anti-Semites, nameless, faceless bombers. Those allegations are bizarre--as bizarre as blaming President Clinton for last week."

What's bizarre are the ideas that, thanks in large part to KHNC, have burbled up among patriots in the past two years:

Chinese troops are conducting maneuvers in Montana.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has set up concentration camps across the country.

Microchips have been implanted in the heads and butts of unsuspecting Americans.

The New World Order and the United Nations will seize control of the country at any moment. George Bush will celebrate the final takeover by the New World Order during a ceremony in the year 2000 while a secretly launched U.S. nuclear missile sets fire to the planet Jupiter.

Ohio is not legally a state.
Simple craziness? Crazy like a fox, say some people inside the patriot movement, who contend that the constant political preaching about protecting the U.S. Constitution has a more mundane purpose: To stir people's anger and fear and then make money off them. Some of the more rational patriots detest the movement's hucksters and warmongers, many of whom are beamed into the air by KHNC, and they fear a massive backlash by the public and more intrusion by a government they distrust.

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Ward Harkavy
Contact: Ward Harkavy