Gloves Off
By Michael Albert
Z Net Commentary

February 2, in “Resolving the Pacifica Crisis Revisted,” I argued that progressive organizations should employ participatory and self-managing rather than corporate structures. I urged that advocating self-managing structures has not only long-run but also short-run relevance to Pacifica, because Pacifica activism will grow quicker and be stronger and wiser if it pursues positive aims. Nonetheless, removing the current Pacifica board is the immediate priority, and in this second Pacifica commentary I focus on that task.

After years of travail, everyone progressive should recognize the Pacifica board’s opposition to positive outcomes. If knowing who these people are--representatives from Real Estate Firms, strike-breaking law firms, and other agencies that Pacifica is supposed to critique but who instead now rule over Pacifica—is not enough to make the point, then surely the board’s proclivity for authoritarianpolicy-making, repression of disagreement, disdain for listeners, worship of commercial tactics, and shameless lying, ought to reveal their true intentions. So I assume that after perusing the facts progressives will all agree the board has got to go.

For those new to the conflict, however, who have not yet heard enough facts to take such a stand, please consult ZNet’s Pacifica coverage at There you will find plenty of articles on Pacifica and especially links to the even more comprehensive “Save Pacifica,” “Free Pacifica,” and most recently “Pacifica Campaign” sites. In sum, you will learn about the board’s agenda to subjugate all employees to their directives, to commercialize and de-radicalize content, to mainstream and corporatize Pacifica’s station, and to enlarge audience by emphasizing politically irrelevant content rather than providing a progressive, critical, and honest voice about society’s problems. You will find that the board is an obstacle to progressive change at Pacifica, whether to transcend corporate themes with participatory arrangements, or even to just return to a remotely sane work environment.

But how can workers, listeners, anyone else dismiss the Pacifica board? They appoint and regulate themselves. They administer their bylaws to benefit themselves. They meet in secret, well beyond scrutiny. When progressives oppose them, they see it as a positive sign that they must be doing something right. And there isn’t even a pretense regarding recall. One option, as with any conflict in our society, is legal challenges, now well underway. But what can non-lawyers do to help remove the Pacifica board?

Whenever progressive activists seek some outcome against recalcitrant opponents who share none of our values and care not a whit for our logic, one instruction becomes paramount. We must raise social costs that our opponents find sufficient to cause them to change their ways.

If we want to win a stoplight from a small town bureaucracy, to win higher wages or better conditions from General Motors, to win a new affirmative action or labor law from Congress, or to curtail or stop a war waged by the White House, the basic logic is always the same. We must raise social costs to the decision-makers that coerce them to jettison the option they prefer and enact the option we demand. The task in trying to get Pacifica board members to quit their official positions is to understand what constitutes social costs that they won’t want to endure.

Some people feel Pacifica’s board is engaged in an ideological crusade to destroy Pacifica as a vehicle of dissent. It is possible this is an element of their motivation, yes, but when you get down to the individuals involved, I think they remain in the game mostly for their own personal gain. On the one hand, they want the status of being big players at a big commercial or non-profit but mainstream institution. On the other hand, want anticipate remunerating themselves handsomely once they get the rabble out of the way. Indeed, supposing that they sell a station and have tens or even a hundred million dollars to disperse, self-remuneration becomes serious business.

My point is that the board’s authoritarian members are not just loose cannons or ideological zealots lacking reason. Beyond making a potentially more radical station less so for their elite brethren, their behavior also has a potentially large personal payback that beckons them to carry through their dastardly deeds. So how do we get them to resign?

Using the logic of raising social costs to force elites to acquiesce to our demands, we have to act in such ways that the costs to the board members, in their own eyes, of continuing on their chosen path, is simply too high to endure, even in pursuit of the grand goodies they are seeking.
So what costs can we raise that high?

Well, these folks work for companies and agencies larger than themselves. They don’t want to lose those positions, even in pursuit of lucre gained from hijacking Pacifica. So acts that raise costs to those firms, who in turn put pressure on the board members to resign from Pacifica, are very much to the point. Likewise, even while gaining goodies from commercializing Pacifica is the carrot that drives the board’s members, being embarrassed and isolated as immoral hypocrites at every turn in their lives, from their front yards, to their social clubs, to even their leisure time dining out, would be a big minus. These people are not fighting to preserve their daily bread, but for bonus income and for added status on top of already being very well off. They enjoy being respected but don’t like travail. They love accolades and spoils of war, but despise constant criticism or bringing embarrassment and loss to their main employers. The debits can be made to outweigh the greed.

Second, however, while activists are making life miserable for Pacfiica’s board members, listeners may be donating their hard-earned monies to Pacifica in hopes of supporting its true mission. However, despite their good intentions, listener’s donations will actually fuel management’s assaults against the station’s progressive mission. Listeners will donate out of respect for Democracy Now, and to provide funds to finance not only that show’s continuation but other radical shows as good or even better in the future. However, these donations will actually finance the board’s efforts to hound and harass and curtail Democracy Now, already leading to the protest resignation of Juan Gonzales and the unstinting battering that Amy Goodman has been receiving. A second component of the effort to force the Pacifica board to resign must be, therefore, to withhold the funds that give them breathing room. To rejuvenate Pacifica, its listeners must ironically withhold support from it until the board is back in the hands of people who care about Pacifica’s mission. For Pacifica’s listeners to finance campaigns waged against people like Juan Gonzales and Amy Goodman and shows like Democracy Now is not a winning posture. Instead, why not donate directly to saving, restoring, and improving Pacifica?

So let’s cut to the chase. I think the positive goal for Pacifica should be:

(1) A workplace that embodies remuneration for effort expended,  equitable work apportionment, and people having a say in their  workplace circumstances in proportion to how much they are  impacted by them.

(2) An overarching policy-making board that represents more or less equally the station’s workers, its listeners, and the progressive movements of society at large.

(3) A reiteration of the values guiding Pacifica’s programming,  hopefully to educate and empower the public for dealing with racial, gender, sexual, authority, disability, ecological, geo-political, class-based and other violations of justice, reason, and human integrity in our society and internationally.

At the same time the short-run aim to save and reinvigorate Pacifica has to be removing the emissaries of corporate values who corrupt its current board. We must now focus the most massive criticism and militant disruption of business as usual that we can possibly muster on the reactionary board members themselves, throughout their daily lives, and even more relevantly, on the institutions that employ them. These people fight dirty. They harass, they fire, and they lie. In reply, we should not become thugs, but we should certainly take the gloves off and go bare knuckled.