Cloak and Dagger! Out the Mouth of Marc Cooper
by Ed Pearl  2/19/2000
Los Angeles Free Press

Marcos Frommer, long time KPFK insider and host of "Up For Air," the morning news/chat program, described Marc Cooper's role in Pacifica in an email response to many questioners about his resignation:  "Most important among (General Mgr. Mark) Schubb's supporters - and really the only one that matters - is Marc Cooper, who has offered Schubb complete loyalty in the battle against those who would oppose him."  This includes "frequent retaliation and campaigns of intimidation, dividing the staff and causing the departure of some of the best staff members and volunteers."

Cooper's activities stretch far beyond being consigliore to capo Schubb and the local administration.  He hosts "Radio Nation" and is also paid to produce a daily public affairs program on the station.  He's become not only a public apologist for, but also an active collaborator with national management, regularly trivializing the "opposition", misrepresenting the facts and obfuscating the issues.  Beyond writing editorials in the Nation, the LA Weekly and elsewhere, signed and unsigned, he was likely influential in the recent firing of Pacifica News Director, Dan Coughlin; was principal author and organizer of a petition to the National Board to remove several members of the Local Advisory Board; intimidated staffers into signing that petition; and has written defamatory, almost vulgar letters to those opposed to current Pacifica practices.  Perhaps most importantly, he began shifting his macro politics a while back in his interviews with Pat Buchanan, Robert MacNamera, and others.  Most recently, he's ridiculed Mumia Abu Jamal's "naïve" supporters in a flip column for New York's neo-conservative weekly, New York Press, asking to be "free of Mumia."  "I've had it.  If I go to one more lefty event and see one more Free Mumia poster, I might just have to switch sides on this one," he writes.  More details on Cooper's measured slide from left to right follow.

According to Frommer, here are some of Schubb's management decisions to which Cooper has been completely loyal:  Bringing in the notorious union-busting American Consulting Group to negotiate a union contract; denying knowledge of it's history when criticism pours in; a resulting three year impasse and near strike by the union; getting rid of a union staffer, telling Frommer in a confidential meeting "it doesn't matter how she performs.  I'm going to fire her anyway." "Schubb has also attempted to weaken the union by placing non-union workers in union positions, a move he justifies by claiming they are 'confidential' employees."  "He is openly scornful of listeners who complain about any aspect of the station, especially those who voice concern about (political) direction."

Last summer, management at KPFA, the founding station of Pacifica had several people arrested, all staffers thrown out by hired armed guards and then closed down the station.  Within days, up to 15,000 listeners marched in protest, luminaries including Alice Walker, Pete Seeger and Noam Chomsky signed full-page ads in the NY Times and LA Weekly.  It was obviously a national news story, but at sister station KPFK, mum was the word.  Cooper & Schubb clamped down on both airwaves and staff, firing anybody who mentioned the crisis (breaking the "gag" rule) and pulling the plug on programs that dealt with it.  These included such network shows as Amy Goodman's Democracy Now! and  Counterspin.  Instead, the dynamic duo interviewed each other on air, fully supporting the National Board's crushing of resistance to Pacifica's becoming like NPR, then insulting and hanging up on the few dissident callers who managed to negotiate the station censors.

In February 1999, the National Board profoundly changed Pacifica's  Bylaws, making the board a totally self-selecting, unaccountable body.  Local Board members of KPFA, KPFK and WBAI filed suit in July alleging violations of law and the original Pacifica Charter.Cooper's response was to author a petition demanding the National Board immediately remove the litigants from the local Board.  It was then placed in staff boxes. Staff was then intimidated by Cooper's producer stating unless one signed a specific disagreement, they would be considered "in compliance."  He also wrote to local Board Chair and litigant David Adelson a vituperous letter, including the following:  "You are looked on by those of us who do the real work as an obstructionist parasite." ".reveals you as the enemy you are."  "It says volumes about what must be the gaping holes in your life that you derive recognition and satisfaction from chairing such a despicable, laughable crew of clowns."  "I find contact with you repulsive.  MARC COOPER"

Cooper's letters and articles regularly evade all the issues and are strong on rhetoric and name-calling.  "Secret agenda" "conspiracy mongering" "noisome fare" are among his least offensive substitutes for genuine debate. Last fall, 16 stations which regularly air Pacifica programs boycotted for a day in protest of the gagging, firings, fear, suppression of news and all the other recent violations of Pacifica's spirit and history.  It made the national media.  Dan Coughlin, News Director of Pacifica Network News ran a 30 second report on it. He immediately received a threatening Cooper screed. Here are excerpts: "What the hell was it doing in a Pacifica newscast?" "How did this meaningless protest by some rather ill-informed up even a few moments of valuable PNN time?" He expands, but avoids discussion of why there was a boycott: "It's ball busting work to raise 5-10K/hour as I do.  But what's the point in having that thwarted by questionable news stories?" "I have (also) felt quite uncomfortable with some of our premier global conflict reporting by Jeremy Scahill." "Maybe we need more effective management oversight.  The current system isn't working.  Not when..we get the rug pulled out from under us by our own national news." Marc's reference to Scahill was scurrilous.   He was referring to the Overseas Press Club awards banquet where Amy Goodman, revered host of Pacifica's "Democracy Now!" as well as Scahill, refused to honor the Press Club's own gag rule by forcefully asking questions of guest of honor, then Balkans Envoy Richard Holbrooke.  Rather than taking on Amy, Cooper attacks the younger, junior and far more vulnerable Jeremy Scahill. Marc then forwarded that letter to members of the National Board and administration.  Dan Coughlin was fired from his job three days later. This attack not only announces to the Press Club establishment that he, Marc Cooper, is one "leftie" who can be trusted, but shows a cowardice rampant throughout this sorry period.

I've known Marc Cooper since the late 1960s when my club, the Ash Grove, was R&R as well as support Central for high school and college activists throughout the LA area.  I've also been an affectionate, not very close friend, but firm supporter throughout these years, enjoying his abilities, independent politics and guts as we survive and take on this rotten, inhuman system. This past year has thoroughly shaken those bonds and perceptions.  I now believe that Marc decided some time ago to join that system, on his own terms, he thinks.

Many of us have long recognized the vast problems around the station, from management to listener base, from programming to style and beyond.  Major reforms were desperately needed for a couple of decades. The sloth and craziness were making it easy pickings for the establishment to eliminate a potentially important adversary by taking it over.  What we didn't expect is that Marc would enthusiastically join that cabal as a major player.

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