Monday, August 11, 2014

Milton William Cooper

By most measures (including mine) Milton William Cooper was a bit crazy. As a conspiracy theorist he crossed that community's version of the Maginot line into Ufology, the occult, Illuminati, numerology, Freemasons, AIDs denialism, and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion—the whole wacky enchilada. But radioland has a lot of eccentrics worth discussing. So yes, he was a conspiracy nut. But more importantly, he was a shortwave radio broadcaster.

On the bad side, I have to admit that Bill Cooper had a bad side. But he is hardly as memorable as the cranks that listened to him.  Reportedly Timothy J. McVeigh was a fan. The only loose confirmation of that fact is a statement by a Southern Poverty Law Center spokesman  that Cooper was well known within the militia movement.Without a corroborating statement I can only class that as a rumor. But his connection to militia movements is undisputed.

His program aired on 7.415 MHz WWCR , a shortwave radio station broadcasting our of Nashville, TN.  It's programming is very similar to that of WBCQ in Maine. The call letters stand for "World Wide Christian Radio" but listeners often call it World Wide Conspiracy Radio. Cooper's show was aired on weeknights from 1993 to 2001 and always began with air raid sirens. The program provided 8 solid years of programming that makes Alex Jones sound like a puff ball. Cooper read letters from listeners, and often broadcast live taking live callers. His show also streamed online, which was a real novelty back in the 1990s. You can listen here if you feel you must. (more here)

His undoing was his IRS denialism. There is a special sub-group of conspiracy nuts who believe the IRS has no right to levy taxes. This is a special kind of crazy because it's in such plain language in our most important founding document.. Article I of the Constitution "The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises...etc."  Bill's reading comprehension aside, the real problem was that Bill took the step of not paying income taxes. In July 1998 he was charged with tax evasion and an arrest warrant was issued. But the Feds didn't try very hard to arrest him. Two years later the US Marshals Service got around to naming him a major fugitive. By all reports, they still hadn't tried looking for him at his home. In November of 2001 Apache County sheriff's deputies finally knocked on the door of his trailer home.

According to the police Cooper fired on the deputies and they returned fire. In the exchange Cooper was killed. Interestingly the Apache County police hadn't come to serve a warrant on tax evasion. One version of the story holds that they were there only on an unrelated complaint. Bill was allegedly accused of threatening someone with a firearm. He died November 5th 2001 at the age of 58. More here.