Money and Access: Saul Landau falls face first in Frog Soup

The strike against censorship by more than 40 of the Pacifica Network News' stringers has drawn widespread support, as well as condemnation from a surprising quarter: Saul Landau. Below is Landau's letter sent to a variety of left academics and opinion makers, apparently meant to offset a pledge to honor the PNN stringers "picket line" signed by  approximately 100 academics. Below is Landau's letter, with counterpoint commentary from those involved in the movement to free Pacifica. Landau's portrayal of the situation is very much in line with "official" Pacifica attacks on the strikers. Of the signers listed below, in addition to Mr. Landau, Jon Weiner and Barbara Osborn have airtime on KPFK. [All typos are in the original e-mail from Landau]

Saul Landau's Letter

From:   Saul Landau <
Subject:        appeal to stop Pacifica bashing

Dear .......
I appeal to you to consider signing this letter. I am horrified at the new wave of Pacifica bashing, this time  by a group of people who allegedly produce the news show and demand of me and others to stop offering our commentaries and reports on the air. After some investigation, I determined that the group had produced 9 of the 180 hours of Pacifica news last year. Fourteen of the "strikers" had never produced anything and several had produced only one or two pieces-in the remote past. Only a few were actually Pacifica stringers. One of the "strike" organizers, Aaron Glantz, who appealed to everyone to make sacrifices, is on Pacifica payroll. This is a first in labor history, where "strikers" who don't belong to a union, strike against union members. I have little good to say about the Pacifica Board or Executive Director, but the war against it may lead to the death of our only alternative radio. So, this is the context for the letter.

Please let me know your thoughts. Thus far about a dozen people have signed it .Bob Borosage, John Cavanagh and Marcus Raskin (IPS), Scott Armstrong, Mike Farrell, Haskell Wexler, Martha Honey (IPS), Borosage, David Corn, Wash Editor The Nation, Bruce Shapiro, journalist, Miah Sifry, journalist, author, Doug Ireland, political columnist, Jon Wiener, UCI historian, Barbara Osborn, journalist,  Harold Meyerson, exec editor LA Weekly.

An Appeal to All Progressives: Stop The Pacifica Bashing!
Over the last year, an enormous amount of progressive energy has Been spent organizing around issues of Pacifica Radio's policies and governance. As a result, the sort of pickets, protests and pressure that we might expect to see progressives mount against the corporate media have Instead been directed against America's only authentically listener-sponsored and politically progressive network.

Pacifica is far from a perfect institution. Many of the issues raised by critics in the past months have some grounding. But in our opinion, the honest debate over Pacifica has degenerated into an ugly spectacle of Pacifica bashing and defamation. Much of the sober and well-intentioned criticism has ceded to a destructive and alarmist exaggeration. The continuation of what has become a veritable war against Pacifica could lead to the death of the only alternative radio network progressives possess. This would be tragic. It would hurt all sides in the Pacifica dispute and benefit only those who would love to see all alternative voices vanish from the airwaves.

This war suffered its most recent escalation when a small group of  part-time and free lance correspondents to Pacifica's National News news program called for a three-month "strike" and boycott against the Pacifica National News. Others have joined in this movement by calling for the witholding of some or all financial support for Pacifica and its five stations. We call for an immediate end to such tactics. There is, indeed, no sanctioned strike or authorized labor dispute underway at Pacifica National News. Some of those urging the boycott have differences with Pacifica news management. That is their right. But they do not have the right to cloak  their factional grievances in the language of a bona fide labor dispute.

Boycotts, defunding  campaigns and negative public relations strategies are powerful tools that can be used against recalcitrant and abusive corporate employers. To turn them against Pacifica is unconcsionable. The only victims of such actions are the listeners, many of whom are activists who need information, analysis and debate from radio to help nourish their world views. While the inner workings and conflicts of Pacifica might be of some interest to some of these listeners, the chief mission of Pacifica is to bring much bigger and univeral issues to its audience.

Sadly, the amount of time spent this past year bashing Pacifica, we calculate, was subtracted from the time available to fight against racism, sexism, exploitation, injustice, inequality, environmental contamination, corporate capitalism and imperialism. It's time to stop the Pacifica fighting, catch our breath, tone down the rhetoric, stop the name-calling and the exaggerated accusations of looming corporate and commercial takeover of the network. Pacifica has pledged that no such moves are underway and there is no evidence to suggest otherwise.

We recognize that there are legitmate debates to be had around Pacifica's structure, its governance, its management of news, its vision of the future. There always have been and there always will be. But we need debate and cooperation-not polariziation, vilification and destructive campaigns of defamation where  listeners are misled into believing that somehow this worthy but troubled 50 year old progressive radio network is now "the enemy." Whatever grievances exist against Pacifica, they should be judged in the broader context of the corporate-dominated society we live in.

Surely, Pacifica's shortcomings should be seen as such: shortcomings and mistakes, not betrayals and conspiracies. It's time now for the National Board, the local station boards, the inidvidual station managements and their staff employees and volunteers to reunite as a Pacifica family and seek greater cooperation. This can only occur if all sides pledge to engage in honest, open and civilized discussion and refrain from any further public defamation and political mischaracterization.

Pacifica's Board and its national leadership, we believe, has not shown great wisdom in confronting these crises. But crises often force mistakes. Similar lapses in judgement and resulting mistakes have also been made by some of Pacifica's critics who have tended to paint this progressive radio network as some sort of runaway, right-wing juggernaut in the grips of a dark conspiracy. Any more such mistakes from either side at this point and the whole debate could become moot as Pacifica collapses.

We hope that in a less tense atmosphere, some of the festering issues can be resolved so that progressives can again focus on their political and social interests and use their one radio link as a source of informtation, analysis and connection - that Pacifica was intended to be and still is for hundreds of thousands of listeners. We the undersigned members of this ad hoc group pledge to help facilitate the needed rapprochement. We ask you to join us now. 


Saul Landau is the Hugh O. LaBounty Chair
of Interdisciplinary Applied Knowledge at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, 3801 W. Temple Ave. Pomona, CA 91768 tel -
909-869-3115 fax - 909-869-4751

Response of Eileen Sutton
PNN strike organizer

From: Eileen Sutton <>
Subject: {FP} Saul Landau's Latest Commentary


Saul Landau, long-time Pacifica commentator, is now circulating the letter below.  There is much that can be said in response, but at the least, Saul is a shameless liar and clearly a new mouthpiece for Pacifica.  It's difficult to imagine why someone who, in my opinion, has written beautifully about grass-roots struggle, would seek to undermine a true attempt to save this network and bring many crucial issues into open

Saul seems in the dark as to just how much many believe this network is under threat from forces within.  Many of the names starting his list are friends of Marc Cooper, Mumia-basher and also-enemy of the stringer
strike.  Saul's comment about unionism is particularly egregious, and an affront to every American worker, unionized or no. Pacifica cannot have it both ways:  it uses its stringers as free-lance, contingent labor, at uncompetitive wages, then cries foul when that labor force calls a strike,
as is our legal right.

Perhaps just a coincidence, but Saul just got his own show at KPFK in Los Angeles, one of the "unliberated" sister stations.

Please circulate to anyone you think might be interested in this debate-writers, academics, scholars, journalists.  And please feel free to respond to Saul.  His e-mail is below.  The strike committee would also be interested in your comments: 

Eileen Sutton

Pacifica Reporters Against Censorship (212) 439-8087

Following the Money: Prof. Landau's IPS/PNB Link 
by Bob Feldman

From: "Bob Feldman" <
Subject: Prof. Landau's IPS/PNB Link
Date: Sat, 19 Feb 2000 13:29:28 -0500

The California State Polytechnic University Professor who moonlights as a PNN commentator, Saul Landau, is apparently trying to discourage Pacifica Radio listeners from supporting the Pacifica Reporters Against Censorship's strike.  And, according to Professor Landau, at least two Institute for Policy Studies (IPB)--afiliated people, Marcus Raskin and Martha Honey--have actually signed a letter he drafted in opposition to the Pacifica Reporters Against Censorship strike.  

The Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) to which the signers of Professor Landau's letter are linked, however, has received at least $150,000 in grant money since 1997 from a foundation (the Boehm Foundation) whose executive director, June Makela, is one of the unelected Pacifica National Board members responsible for continued censorship on the PNN show.  

In addition to being funded by the Boehm Foundation, the Institute for Policy Studies has also (like the Pacifica National Board) received grant money in recent years from a foundation (the Ford Foundation) on whose board of trustees sits a Clinton crony named Vernon Jordan.  

Another signer of Professor Landau's letter, David Corn, is the Washington Editor of  The Nation magazine.  A major investor in The Nation, Alan Sagner, sat on the Corporation for Public Broadcasting board of directors around the same time the CPB-sponsored PNB first began airing a radio show (Radio Nation) which promoted the magazine that Sagner partially owns.  The CPB (whose  president is a former VOA Deputy Director and Radio Marti head) also directly subsidizes the PNN show which censors news about Pacifica Radio listener and staff actions that express opposition to the undemocratic actions of the CPB-sponsored Pacifica National Board.  

Listener elections at Pacifica in 2000


FROG SOUP*  A Response to Saul Landau
by Carol Spooner, Plaintiff in a lawsuit to remove the Pacifica Board of Directors

 The myth that Pacifica is "America's only authentically
 listener-sponsored and politically progressive network" is more dangerous to politically progressive discourse in America than would be the actual death of Pacifica.

Ersatz Pacifica is now broadcast from the five Pacifica network stations; ersatz Pacifica Network News is now broadcast by more than 60 Pacifica affiliate stations across the country.  Pacifica's "down-market" slide to popular music, chat rooms, "rip and read" news from the wire services, etc., has been in progress throughout the '90s.  Acceptance of this banality, this narcotizing, flippant, cynical, shallow "thought" as "politically progressive" is a redefinition of terms that leaves us with no polarity.

Acceptance of ersatz Pacifica deadens the progressive spirit.  Better it should die than continue as a fraud.  That said, I have joined thousands of others in doing everything in my power to save Pacifica and to help restore it to its fundamental principles.  But, if we fail, would we rather the patient lie in a vegetative state for years while we listen longingly for signs of life at the sick bed -- or let it die so that other progressive media may rise and have their day?

Pacifica is no longer "listener sponsored," either.  Take a look at the "History" page on Pacifica's website, which begins with the statement: "Pacifica Radio is the nation's first listener- supported, community-based radio network."  This change in terminology from sponsored to supported is not accidental.  "Sponsorship", as Lew Hill well knew when he eschewed commercial sponsorship, indicates power.  "Support" does not.

Beginning in 1995, if not sooner, the directors of Pacifica began taking aim at local community-based power within the organization.  They fully succeeded in February 1999 by amending the bylaws to eliminate the legal right and power of local station boards to nominate and elect directors to the national board of directors.  This coup was accomplished with the help of a letter Pacifica Executive Director Lynn Chadwick solicited from Robert Coonrod, President and CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (and former deputy director of the Voice of America, where he oversaw the Office of Cuba Broadcasting and both Radio and TV Marti).  Mr.Coonrod helpfully threatened to cut off all CPB funding for Pacifica if station "advisory" board members were not removed from the board of directors.

Anyone who believes progressives "possess" Pacifica is childish, at best. Progressives did not install armed guards from IPSA International -- whose personnel "all have law enforcement background" -- at KPFA in Berkeley and thereby put at risk the security of "progressive" news sources around the globe whose names may have been in reporters' files, rolodexes, etc. Those in possession of Pacifica are the board of directors.  They have the power and exercised it to take KPFA off the air for 21 days in July and force "The Sounds of Texas" through its transmitter.  Those are the legal operative facts of "possession" here.

Pacifica's board of directors is chaired by Mary Frances Berry, who is concurrently a high federal government political appointee with political connections she is not shy about using.  Even in the most benign circumstances, the inherent conflicts of interest in this state of affairs
are obvious.   How it came to be that such a person now runs "the only politically progressive network" in America raises legitimate questions that deserve answers.  The fourth estate in this country was not intended by the constitutional framers to be an ex-officio adjunct of any branch of government.

 The freelance reporters' strike at Pacifica Network News (PNN) is an essential principled action against ersatz Pacifica.  As longtime Savepacifica activist Les Radke says:  "The folks who are striking are taking a stand ... We need to organize to remove that news from the airways, as news that is not legitimate PNN.  If we simply sit in the water as it heats up we will all be frog soup."

Carol Spooner, Organizer
Committee to Remove the Pacifica Board

* A frog placed in a pot of warm water that is slowly heated to boiling will remain in the pot and boil to death.  A frog thrown in a pot of boiling water will immediately leap out and survive.

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