MESSAGES FROM VARIOUS KOOKS”
Re: “The Pacifica Wars: A Debate” [August 1319]. I originally thought Marc Cooper to be naive and ill-informed about the thuggish behavior of the Pacifica board, but now I realize he is their chief defender, a very lonely place to be. The big KPFA fund-raisers he mentions — Zinn, Chomsky, et al. — have analyzed this sorry situation far more deeply, and have ended up excoriating the board and calling for its resignation. I find it pathetic that Cooper stoops to quoting e-mail messages from various kooks as if they represented responsible or majority positions.
Who is paying off Marc Cooper? His article on the KPFA and KPFK struggle was truly outrageous!!! In Mexico, the government co-opts journalists by payoffs and subsidization of newsprint. Who's pulling your chain!!! You and Marc Cooper disgust me! Half-truths, distortions and outright lies!!! The bigger the lie, the more people will buy it!!! Sound familiar, Herr Goebbels? I dare you to answer me!
I double-dog dare you to print the truth about the KPFA “takeover night.” Does Mr. Cooper honestly think you can get 10,000 people on the streets of Berkeley because of one crazed programmer? It has to be important to take your whole Saturday and commit it to showing up and showing off for what is dear to you. I drove 75 miles and used up all my daylight hours, because this is damn important. I write checks each year to KPFA and also ask my employer to match funds. You betcha it is my business when MY MONEY gets sent to security firms and PR firms, and when the staff I trust are treated like wicked little schoolchildren. I could go on, but — gotta get back to that boring job that enables me to support KPFA.
Hypocrisy is an embarrassing thing to observe. First Mary Frances Berry likens KPFA supporters to the pro-life demonstrators who attempt to deny women's right to abortion. Then Marc Cooper compares those of us who support KPFA and free-speech radio to the right-wing forces arrayed against Allende in Chile. This all brings to mind Hitler's remarks when he outlawed kosher butchering on grounds that it was inhumane.
Marc Cooper stands history on its head when he claims the popular defense of Allende's government against right-wing reactionaries (“It's our shitty govern-
ment!”) as his defense of the dictatorial Pacifica governing board. In fact, it is station KPFA and its volunteer band of community supporters who are upholding free speech, self-determination and democracy against the onslaught of Pacifica's tyrannical and abusive usurpation of power. Far from addressing the real issues and principles involved, and despite his much-vaunted progressive credentials and authoritative positions at The Nation and Pacifica radio, Mr. Cooper now plays spinner and flack for the reactionaries.
In his criticism of Berkeley activists (such as myself) defending Pacifica Radio's KPFA, Marc Cooper may have some points worth considering. But he misses the central, fundamental issue.
The Pacifica national board is self-selecting. It voted in February to eliminate the last vestiges of community representation. It conducts far too much of its business in secret “executive sessions.”
Regardless of the intentions or credentials of the board members, there is no way that a “community radio” network can be legitimate when its controllers are not accountable to their constituents.
It is inconceivable that Pacifica — the producer of a radio program called Democracy Now! — can claim legitimacy or remain true to its mission while it is structured as a dictatorship, no matter how benevolent (or, lately, malevolent). Any claims to progressive ideals ring hollow as long as Pacifica's board and management ignore Gandhi's maxim “The means are the ends in the making.”
Let's try this again.
Myth: Current Pacifica management has no “secret agenda.”
Reality: The “agenda,” at least as regards KPFA, isn't so secret anymore. Board member Pete Bramson divulged the plan fully in a July 29 press conference — sell the station and reinvest the funds in a smaller, weaker station in the Silicon Valley with a nonunion staff. Did Cooper miss the press conference?
Myth: The “gag rule” refers only to internal disputes.
Reality: The “gag rule” (which â is still quite in effect at four of the five Pacifica stations and has only been temporarily waived at KPFA) has been used to censor episodes of Democracy Now! and lock out union staff who had not violated the rule. Not the usual process for resolving internal issues, at least not anywhere I've ever been employed. But then if Cooper works for Pacifica, perhaps this seems normal.
Pacifica management received $550,000 of the $620,000 raised from KPFA listeners under protest of current policies. I think the audience is listening. They're just not being heard.
Whatever the ultimate source of the malaise at Pacifica, a vigorous movement has arisen. It is not composed, as Cooper suggests, of paranoid black-helicopter aficionados in a trance invoked by Dennis Bernstein's provocation. The activists up here know the history of the confrontation and thank Bernstein for making a stand. We are behind this movement because it is a chance to establish progressive values, in process as well as in product.
Thanks to Spiro Agnew, for coining the phrase “nattering nabobs of negativity,” and to “Anonymous” for “A firing squad of the left is a circle.” How else describe the participants in the latest — and most boring — imbroglio at Pacifica, on which Marc Cooper tries to shed light.
Through the years, I have seen various radical/progressive groups self-destruct while conservative organizations flourished. Although it's fun and often accurate to blame the CIA, black helicopters and dirty tricksters, I am beginning to feel that for a large percentage of the ills we lay at the doorstep of the “other,” we have only ourselves to blame.
At Pacifica, small groups of “activists” — frozen in adolescence, with too much time on their hands — are grinding axes unconsciously honed for parental necks. They feel threatened by any attempt at ideological flexibility, outreach or modernization. Under the guise of saving this, or freeing that, they summon enormous energy to subvert the organizers and poison the minds of the elder statespeople, the larger membership and the press.
The leadership, under attack, reacts, often heavy-handedly, ineptly or arbitrarily, and the fur begins to fly. Name-calling, power struggles and vindictiveness ensue. The doors close. On to the next debacle.
Meanwhile, the world in its handbasket hurtles toward its destination unimpeded by a strong, intelligent, cohesive movement to thwart the true enemy and its all too real “censorship, top-down conservatism and fascist corporatizing.”
AND LEST WE FORGET . . .
Thanks to David Bacon for his excellent coverage of the KPFA Berkeley Pacifica Radio story. As one of the first people arrested at the behest of the station manager at the radio station June 21, while expressing her constitutional rights of free speech and free assembly, I am dismayed by the costly and perhaps illegal use of my hard-earned dollars as a subscriber for 40-plus years. Listener-sponsored and community-based radio are in jeopardy. Stay tuned, folks. It's happening in your neighborhood — at KPFK.
–Sylvia P. Scherzer
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