Is Marc Cooper a Very Nasty Man with Lots of Hats?by Dennis Bernstein
I say Marc Cooper puts on three hats every time he opens his mouth about the "KPFA" problem. As host of Radio/Nation distributed by Pacifica Radio, and of a daily talk show on KPFK, he is unabashedly protecting his chunk of the Pacifica/Nation pie. Cooper has spent weeks trying to vilify me and others for raising key questions about Pacifica's troubling actions. His self-serving analysis first appeared in The Nation and L. A. Times, and now he's back at it in the L. A. Weekly. In between the big hits, Cooper's been busy on the internet, bubbling up variations on the facts and shooting poison e-mails to strangers, informing them that Dennis Bernstein is at the core of the Pacifica problem, stirring it all up for his own hellish purposes.
Cooper's most recent article in the L. A. Weekly, as with his less polished private attacks, is a fantasy based largely on here-say from interested parties. Cooper never attempted to interview me about the incident. The one eyewitness he did interview, KPFA News man, Marc Mericle, said "Cooper either got it totally wrong, or he made it up all together. It was a total distortion of what I told him," said Mericle, "and I went over it meticulously with him. "
Apparently, Cooper made it up long before he jammed it into his L. A. Weekly piece. Here's an example of what Cooper wrote to one KPFA listener who engaged him on the subject of Pacifica.
"Back on July 13 after Dennis Bernstein played a tape full of lies about Pacifica's intention to sell KPFA, he came off the air and was told he would be put on administrative leave. If he felt aggrieved, all he had to do was use the ample union machinery available to him as a KPFA staffer and lodge a grievance that would have gone if necessary to independent arbitration. But it was Bernstein who ignored and broke the union contract by instead literally running through the bldg. claiming he was going to be hurt. That was a lie.. , an outrageous lie. He ran into the newsroom, hid under a tape machine and refused to come out. After a few minutes his buddy the news anchor took the evening news off the air, gave Benrstein a mic and then Bernstein began yelling over the air that he was going to be hurt (!). Alarmed listeners came to the station, someone let them in and 50 people thinking Bernstein was being beaten occupied the bldg., It was after they refused to leave that the police were very properly called in (Pacifica has an obligation under its Federal license to maintain physical control over its facility). As the police took hours to arrest everyone, Bernstein was on the second floor and free to go. Instead he waited four hours to be arrested after he again refused to leave. So you tell me.. well.. actually don't tell me because I have filtered you out of my email. But think about it at least and ask yourself if this whole thing might not have gotten onto a more productive track if Bernstein had used the proper union channels available instead of deciding that he owned the air to screech out his personal and alarmist view of things. Or do you believe that the next time an editor or type setter at the Nation feels wronged b mgmt they should break into the shop at night and scratch their call for a demo against the Nation into the white space around the articles?"
Cooper launched a similar personal attack on David Adelson, a local board member in Los Angeles. Cooper is now actively trying to discredit Adelson with a petition to run him off the local board in LA. Adelson has played a key role in pushing the lawsuit against Pacifica. Cooper wrote to Adelson:
"David: Hearing what happened at today's LAB[meeting], I want to express the following to you: You have ZERO credibility within the walls of KPFK. The staff -- and I assure you it was the entire staff, not just management-- was APPALLED to learn of your lawsuit. You are looked on by those of us who do the real work in the station as an obstructionist parasite. No one can think of one positive contribution that either you or the LAB has made to the station: no real fundraising, no promotion, no nothing. Instead you are an active conspirator with the likes of the Pacifica Accountability Committee whose leading lights are such mislead people as Vince Ivory. I find it astounding that you should accept political leadership and be led around by the nose by someone as confused and ill-motivated as Ivory. Your actions cannot be interpreted by us as anything but subversive to the growth and flourishing of KPFK. The fact that today you argued that the "concerns" of Ivory and Company should not be marginalized while you and your handful of UNELECTED AND COMPLETLY UNACCOUNTABLE fellow board members at the same time discount the sentiment of the entire KPFK staff reveals you as the enemy that you are. The only redeeming aspect of this affair is the comfort of knowing that you and the LAB are totally irrelevant to the station and the people who work there. It says volumes about what must be the gaping holes in your life that you derive some sort of recognition and/or satisfaction from chairing such a despicable, but ultimately laughable crew of clowns. With this note I sever all communications with you. If you answer, your message will be filtered out. I find contact with you repulsive. MARC COOPER"
I am informed that Cooper and Manager KPFK Mark Schubb make a formidable pair when it comes to crushing staff static. On Friday April 16 , Schubb pulled CounterSpin, the radio show of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. The show featured an interview with the fired host of Pacifica's Sunday Salon, Larry Bensky. On July 16, KPFK again pulled a CounterSpin broadcast featuring interviews with KPFA local board member, J. Imani, and syndicated media critic, Norman Solomon. Schubb came on air on the 16th and spent the duration of CounterSpin's time slot defending Pacifica. Schubb, a former member of FAIR, has been such an obedient censor of "All Things Pacifica," he damn near landed the job of daily censor over Amy Goodman and Democracy Now. More on this later.
The following open letter was written before reading the above diatribes. I mean to share it with you for clarification and to expand the dialogue on the future of free speech radio. This is not in the end about Marc Cooper or Dennis Bernstein, but rather about saving the only remaining non-commercial free speech network in the country. /DB
An Open Letter To KPFK Staff And Listeners
FROM: DENNIS BERNSTEIN,
Producer/Host Flashpoints, KPFA'S Daily Investigative News Magazine
I'm writing this open letter because I believe that the future of Pacifica as an independent, listener-sponsored, non-commercial network is at stake. I'm also very concerned that KPFK's staff and listeners have not had the opportunity to hear the full story of what's happened at KPFA, but are instead being presented with falsehoods, distortions, and personal attacks -- not facts and truth -- concerning Pacifica's actions and the KPFA staff's response. So this is the first of a series of memos I'll be writing in an attempt to explain what is driving us in the bay-area to oppose current Pacifica leadership and to expand the current dialogue regarding Pacifica's future as a viable alternative radio network.
Some of you may be familiar with my work at Pacifica, including many appearances around the network on Democracy Now, Counterspin, Making Contact, Marc Cooper's Pacifica/Nation show. You may have read my syndicated articles for Pacific News Service where I am an associate editor. Or you may have read one of my many features/investigative reports and political essays written over the years. They've appeared widely in the Nation Magazine, Boston Globe, Baltimore Sun, Newsday, Village Voice, The Progressive, Southern Exposure, VIBE, San Francisco Examiner, The New York Times, Dallas Morning Herald, Texas Observer, International Herald Tribune, and many others. At Pacifica I have produced a daily investigative newsmagazine for the last twelve years, first on WBAI and later on KPFA. I have risked my life on occasion to report for the network and have personally raised millions of dollars to keep it running. I have trained many young people, from the South Bronx to Berkeley, and brought them to Pacifica microphones to do their thing. In short, I have a deep abiding belief in concepts of non-commercial listener sponsorship of the airwaves, as well as using the airwaves to speak truth to power.
For the first twelve years I produced a daily program on WBAI and KPFA, I never once mentioned internal Pacifica matters on the air, though I knew there were serious questions being raised about the motives and direction of national leadership, its handling of our very valuable archives, and other key issues of concern to the future of non-commercial network. Until March 31, I bought into the idea that public silence was best and that working within channels was the way to resolve problems. But when our highly effective and very popular station manager, Nicole Sawaya, was fired on that day, without so much as a word of explanation, I realized that my silence had been a huge mistake.
The realization that change and progress could only come through openly and publicly discussing the situation at Pacifica was deepened by the events of this spring, and was again confirmed on the night of Tuesday, July 13th. That night Pacifica set a new standard for censorship when they pulled me off the air for playing a 15 minute clip of a public press conference and two related commentaries.  
This press conference, attended by many mainstream journalists, was called by Media Alliance. The media group had obtained a copy of a highly damaging e-mail from Houston-based Pacifica board member Michael Palmer to Board chair Mary Frances Berry, discussing the possibility of selling KPFA and WBAI, its sister station in New York City.
The Palmer e-mail was revelatory and relevant to KPFA listeners -- indeed all Pacifica staff and supporters -- because it discussed the shutting down and reprogramming of KPFA, an action that was completed by Pacifica's hostile take-over team on July 14th. "I was under the impression," Palmer wrote in his authenticated e-mail, "that there was support in the proper quarters, and a definite majority, for shutting down that unit and re-programming immediately. Has that changed? Is there consensus among the national staff that anything other than that is acceptable/bearable?"
What does "shutting down and . . . reprogramming" sound like to you, the staff of KPFK? (Please read the entire e-mail from Palmer to determine whether Palmer's just a loose cannon that Dr. Berry likes to have around to keep things lively, or whether he appears to be engaged in an ongoing dialogue about KPFA's future behind closed doors. ) What would you as a news and public affairs producer have done with this material, while the rest of the mainstream press was putting it on their covers and news leads? (For further documentation, I've enclosed a copy of the public statement by National Board member, Pete Bramson, regarding ongoing discussion of selling KPFA, even as Pacifica was claiming to be engaged in good faith negotiations with the KPFA community. )
I am troubled to learn that instead of a serious and truthful discussion of these very disturbing facts, some have launched a personal attack on me for speaking out. Some Members of KPFK's staff have characterized me as a "drama queen" and an "obstreperous" troublemaker.
I understand that the staff is being "informed" about events at KPFA by Mr. Mark Cooper, whose ideas Mary Frances Berry likes these days, and Mark Torres, a Pacifica archive employee set up to scab and intimidate KPFA staff into silence (along with Houston Manager Garland Ganter). But Mark Torres was not an eyewitness to the events that took place on July 13th and was not near the newsroom where the confrontation took place. Is it true that Torres is a source for staff information on this? If so, is his source Garland Ganter, the man who arrested and locked out KPFA's staff and saw to it that programming was streamed in from Houston?
THE SET UP
To be clear, Torres was present at a 2:00 pm meeting that day attended by KPFA staff, Lynn Chadwick and Pacifica's new hire and fire man and asset appraiser, Gene Edwards. There, Torres and Ganter were presented as the ones who would take control of the station and reprogram it if there were any gag rule violations. For weeks the archives had been sending up tapes to fill our airwaves in preparation for the station takeover and on the 13th Torres arrived in person to jam them onto our airwaves until such times as the transmitter equipment, which had already been purchased by Pacifica, could be installed and programs could be streamed in from another location.
Torres witnessed a key interchange between Mr. Ganter and I at that heavily attended staff meeting. During the meeting, I asked Mr. Ganter, as Mark Torres should recall, if I'd "be allowed to report on that which was widely covered in the mainstream press regarding Pacifica. " Ganter answered with an unequivocal "yes," and everyone in that meeting heard it loud and clear. (You might recall that the day before, Dr. Berry was in the Bay Area talking to selected press about the issues the staff had been gagged on. ) In light of subsequent events, it is now clear that Garland Ganter had set me and the rest of the staff up -- right before Mark Torres' eyes!
As for what happened after that 2:00 meeting on the 13th, we have the video tape of the two guards and Ganter in the news studio and eyewitnesses of Ganter himself shoving me and pursuing me into the news studio. As for turning up the mike and putting myself on the air, I was, in fact, four feet from the controls at all times. (And even if I'd been close enough, it would not have changed anything: I don't know how to use the mixing board. ) It's also a matter of record that the news engineer put up the mic at the request of news director Marc Mericle, and it was Mericle who was last heard narrating what is going on in the news studio.
But what's crucial is what happened before that encounter. I was shown the door by Ganter for playing a fifteen minute clip of a public press conference that made headlines in all the mainstream media. Seven staff members -- including the two co-news directors with a combined 30 years of experience -- were also arrested on the 13th for trespassing in their own news room. Are they also "drama queens"? I urge staff at KPFK to join the call to throw open the books at Pacifica and let us once and for all get a look at how and where they have been spending listener money. As of the writing of this letter, the board has denied two of its own members -- L. A. -based Rabbi Kriegal and S. F. based Pete Bramson -- access to the books. If Pacifica is telling the truth and doing the right thing, what do they have to hide?
I would like to invite any representative of KPFK staff, management or Pacifica to meet for an open discussion of the merits of Pacifica's actions over the last several years. This invitation includes any Pacifica rep now part of its expanding national bureaucracy. Or why not convene a teach-in or panel discussion with both sides equally represented, in all Pacifica cities?
Let's put an end to censorship at Pacifica and start an open dialogue before we lose our precious network in the rush to the corporate bottom line.