An analysis of Pacifica official propaganda

A series of exchanges in the pages of the Nation Magazine reflect the propaganda strategy directed at "the Left" by Pacifica officials. Nation contributor and RadioNation host Marc Cooper, also a paid programmer on KPFK, has taken a position actively supporting the regime at Pacifica. The Nation's role in the takeover of Pacifica has not been fully explored, but it has been a beneficiary through the increased exposure garnered by the RadioNation program. RadioNation debuted in 1995 after the initial purges of programming by Pacifica CEO Pat Scott, Lynn Chadwick's predecessor, and was originally described as a co-production of the Nation and Pacifica.  A financial backer of The Nation, Alan Sagner, served as chair of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting Board of directors, and played an active role in whitewashing negative findings of a CPB audit into the Pacifica Board of Directors' failure to hold open meetings in 1995-1997. Sagner was also a fundraiser for Clinton/Gore. - ed


from Z Magazine


Edward S. Herman

The Nation has not distinguished itself in its coverage of the Pacifica struggle, where, in the face of a clearly evident Pacifica management campaign to mainstream, and even possibly sell off, its left- and community-oriented stations, the magazine has even - handedly castigated the extremists on both sides. Alexander Cockburn has been solid on the issues involved, but Marc Cooper has offered a balance tilted toward management, and the unsigned editorial on the case was somewhere between the two (reminding me of Jules Pfeiffer's cartoon in which Eisenhower evenhandedly condemns the extremists on both sides--those who would burn down the schools and those who would keep them open).

The debate reached another level, and Marc Cooper hit a self-destructing low, in letters in the Nation of September 6/13. Letters from fired programmer Dennis Bernstein and former programmer William Mandel were offset by a letter from listener Nate Peters and a reply by Marc Cooper. Bernstein denied Cooper's earlier claim that his obstreperousness in defying Pacifica's "banning any more on-air dirty laundry" and desire "to extend the conflict" had "triggered" the management takeover of KPFA and lockout. Bernstein contended that he had followed the new rules allowing coverage of mainstream news on Pacifica issues, but was still yanked, put on administrative leave and arrested for "trespassing" following his presentation of such news. He argued that the shutdown was already in the works, that the "dirty laundry" involved information important to KPFA listeners, including material on a secret agenda for possibly selling the station, and that what Cooper defended as plans for need! ed "change and growth" was in fact a managerial decision to put market share first and transform the stations into NPR-like mainstream institutions. William Mandel's letter stressed that KPFA was never intended to reach large audiences, any more than the Nation, and that the transformation being imposed from above was being treated critically even in the mainstream press. Both Bernstein and Mandel argued that the gag rules were in conflict with everything KPFA has stood for.

Marc Cooper's reply evaded all the issues and was strong on rhetoric and name-calling. First, he contested Bernstein's claims of a "secret agenda" and Pacifica plans to make the stations into "NPR clones." He did this by simple name-calling--"conspiracy mongering...noisome fare"-- without discussing the Palmer letter's evidence that the board was considering the sale of KPFA or Bernstein's other evidence that the closedown was planned. Cooper suggests that the idea of "NPR-ization" is "ironic" because the dismissed KPFA manager Sawaya had earlier been a network field representative of NPR. That somebody who had worked for NPR might oppose its dominant thrust, and that the issue is one of institutional orientation, not personalities, escaped Cooper. He didn't discuss what has happened to the increasingly NPR-ized Pacifica station in Houston, or the regime of self-censorship that has taken hold in the Houston, Los Angeles, and D.C. stations, and he failed to address the basic issue of what the board's drive toward "change and growth" implies in programming.

Cooper devoted most of his letter to contesting Bernstein's account of his removal and arrest. He argues that after being accused of violating the "dirty laundry rules" Bernstein refused to meet with the imported Pacifica manager-enforcer, "ignored the contractual grievance procedure," and began to shout and claim danger from armed guards, and after much unreasonable behavior and refusal to leave the building was arrested. Bernstein's "grandstanding and alarmist shrieks supplanting the evening news is a 'violation of everything KPFA stands for'" (satirically quoting Bernstein). But with respect to the management's performance, Cooper referred to the eventual pulling of the station plug as what "any responsible manager" would have done, and he takes the overall undemocratic Pacifica process, its policy drift, and the "dirty laundry" rules and firings of Bensky, Sawaya, and Bernstein as givens not subjected to a single word of criticism.

Cooper dismissed Mandel as "an undisputed master of speaking into closed-echo chambers," which explains his support for "a small and limited audience." In other words, the smear is used to evade the crucial issue of market size versus mission orientation. Cooper then closed his letter with congratulations to listener Nate Peters for his "insights" and "thinking" and call for reeling in the rhetoric and ending name-calling. In fact,
Peters' letter is a completely vacuous recital of the rhetoric Cooper favors (and relies on in his own letter), with enumerations of charges against the KPFA staff and deep questions like: "Regarding criticisms about democracy within the Pacifica Foundation, are they valid?" One would have thought there was enough information available for Peters to be able to answer that question, but he leaves it open. And this is an issue that Cooper himself doesn't want to discuss.

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