Pacifica’s radio station in Berkeley, KPFA 94.1 fm, has been airing a pitch to listeners which contains the line: “There’s a lot of fake news, propaganda and misinformation emanating from phony media outlets.” The reader of this pitch is the station’s General Manager, Quincy McCoy, who goes on to assure listeners that KPFA is a news source that can be trusted. This pitch is played several times daily as part of a post-fund drive effort to remind listeners to please fulfil their pledges.
That line about “fake news” and “phony media outlets” is truly a strange thing to hear from KPFA. The “fake news” meme comes from the corporate media which has even offered a list of hundreds of offending websites. On Thanksgiving Day the Washington Post came out with a front page article titled: “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say.”
The Post’s “experts” were primarily the “PropOrNot” team, who identified and named two hundred websites that, according to PropOrNot, “reliably echo Russian propaganda.” The targeted sites included not only left-wing, but also right-wing and libertarian websites. Writers and editors of these sites are often guests on the various KPFA shows; many are persons who speak at KPFA sponsored speaking events. These websites are, like KPFA, part of the alternative media which offers information that we don’t get from the corporate media.
So who are the “expert” investigators of the PropOrNot team, and what are their qualifications? Nobody seems to know anything about them, other than that they’re an anonymous group with a name that’s quite a tongue twister and a website that apparently cannot be traced to anybody. In effect, it’s a website that makes unsubstantiated claims.
Nevertheless, for a few days PropOrNot was echoed by the NYT, CNN, NPR and many other mainstream media outlets. Fortunately, it was soon discredited by investigative journalists writing for the websites it attacked. Among the most devastating take-downs of PropOrNot was one by Glenn Greenwald on the Intercept website.
Nor was The New Yorker much impressed with PropOrNot. The magazine dismissed it saying, “its methodology is a mess.”
So PropOrNot was exposed as a hoax, a glaring example of a real fake news website. However, it was a hoax that served the interests of the establishment, and many mainstream news outlets have continued the campaign against alleged “fake news.” Congress has taken up the issue and written a provision into the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, which will create a “Global Engagement Center” to “recognize, understand, expose, and counter … propaganda and disinformation”.
On December 23rd, President Obama signed it into law, a Christmas present for the next president — a MINISTRY OF TRUTH for Donald Trump to play with.
And now, as the New Year approaches, KPFA’s station manager is still making that same pitch to KPFA listeners, echoing the establishment’s campaign. The full recording reads:
“Fear, anxiety, and confusion grips a lot of folks in today’s dark post-election world. There’s a lot of fake news, propaganda and misinformation emanating from phony media outlets. If you’re searching for truth, unfiltered news, in-depth public affairs programming, you can count on one independent radio station to do what it’s been doing for 67 years, staying vigilant as always, 94.1 FM, KPFA”
The manager’s message reflects the panic, the confusion, and the uncritical conformity which is rife among many liberals and progressives today. Such feelings are quite understandable. However, lashing out at alternative media outlets plays into the agenda of the neoliberal establishment and also undermines KPFA’s credibility. Some of the station’s listeners have written to the manager, reminding him that the main source of disinformation is the corporate media, the ones who have promoted that PropOrNot blacklist.
Best to stay off of that bandwagon. KPFA should be defending the First Amendment rights of all alternative media outlets.
Norman Solomon betwixt the political sheets with Robert Kagan? How could that be? Has our political world turned upside down?
Driving south to Mountain View in my new home state of California, I tuned into KPFA, the Pacifica outlet in the Bay Area. Norman Solomon, longtime prominent figure in Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) and co-founder of “Roots Action” was being interviewed on a program called “Talkies.” Just a few hours earlier Bernie Sanders had endorsed Hillary Clinton, betraying the millions who voted for him (and voted against her) and losing the respect of many millions more.
On air Solomon was commenting on the termination of Bernie Sanders’s milquetoast campaign against Hillary Clinton. And he was contrasting Hillary unfavorably with Bernie in a very detailed way with lots of references to Hillary’s policies. No personality analysis, no psychobabble. He mentioned that perhaps the most prominent neocon these days, Robert Kagan, was supporting Hillary Clinton for President. Yes, the same Kagan who calls for ever more US wars in the Middle East and for confrontation with the second mightiest nuclear power, Russia. Solomon pointed out quite correctly that Kagan had even said that Hillary shared his beliefs, but she would call them something other than neoconservatism.”
Then in almost the next breath Solomon called on Bernie’s followers to support Hillary for President. No, not Jill Stein, but Hillary.
No sooner did he say that than a caller to the show got on air and asked a very pointed question. The caller asked Solomon why he was throwing in with Robert Kagan. Solomon seemed mystified. The caller reminded him that, by his own admission minutes before, he and Kagan were now backing the same candidate – Hillary.
Solomon promptly went berserk. He quickly changed the subject to Trump who was not mentioned by the caller. Moreover, Solomon had no substantive comments on Trump, merely responding with psychobabble that Trump is “crazy.” The KPFA host quickly shut the caller off before he could utter any more heresy. (So much for real discussion on what passes for the media of the left these days.)
It may seem harsh on poor Norm to point out the sleazy company he is now keeping. But facts are facts. Both Norm and Robert Kagan will be supporting Hillary. And the main reason for Kagan’s opposition to Trump is quite clear. Trump is not a reliable warmonger. Thus Trump is a threat to the further depredations of the US Empire and the machinations of Israel which Kagan so loves.
It is fully understandable for progressives to back Jill Stein. It is a morally and ethically defensible position for a progressive – as is staying at home and not voting at all. In that regard the Bernie or Bust people have been right on the money. But backing a mass murderer like Hillary, who is intent on doing more of the same and threatens the whole human race with a bellicosity that may lead on to World War, is not morally defensible.
To be fair to Norm, he was not advocating a vote for Hillary in “safe states,” ie., states where she is sure to win, but “only” in states, where she needs every vote she can get. In other words vote for Hillary wherever your vote will count. Mr. Kagan would certainly rub his bloated hands in satisfaction with Solomon’s recommendation.
Some may feel that this is all very unfair to poor Norm and the many fake “progressive” leaders who will soon join him in embracing Kagan’s candidate, Hillary – if they have not already done so. Watch for other “progressive” leaders to jump on board the Hillary bandwagon in the next few days and weeks. Norm is not alone. Progressives who do not like this kind of thing should speak up now and do so forcefully.
What makes such a position not only unethical but downright criminal is that Hillary has labeled Putin as “Hitler.” You only do one thing with a Hitler. You go to war with him. So Hillary puts the entire human race at risk of nuclear conflict. There is no greater evil than that. Many people not just former DoD capo, William Perry, are pointing out that we are now closer to nuclear conflict than we have been since the Cuban Missile Crisis. And Hillary is the most likely to get us into such an Armageddon.
So Norman, as a leader amongst progressives where are you and others like you taking them?
John V. Walsh can be reached at email@example.com.
The New York Times vendetta against Donald Trump continues with its latest theme that The Donald is “vulgar.” This highly newsworthy charge recently made it to the front page with the headline, “With a Slur for Ted Cruz, Donald Trump Further Splits Voters.” The Times tells us that the slur involved a “vulgar word.” How this “splits voters” is not made clear – but never mind.
Not until paragraph ten, after a boring slog through nine paragraphs of gratuitous anti-Trump invective do the two intrepid reporters required to track down this momentous story inform us what the “vulgar word” is, thus: “In New Hampshire on Monday, Mr. Trump shared with an audience a supporter’s comment about Mr. Cruz. “She said, ‘He’s a pussy,’” he told the crowd.
Turning quickly to Wikipedia we find: “Common meanings of the noun include ‘cat,’ ‘coward or weakling’ and ‘the human vulva or vagina.’” Leaving ‘cat’ out of the matter, we can turn to the idea of “weakling” to describe Cruz although that lets him off lightly. This is clearly the idea that Trump’s supporter meant to convey. Not especially vulgar to the mind of this writer.
But let us turn to the third meaning “vagina.” This indeed would be considered a vulgarity in many quarters although that is not what the female Trump supporter meant. Where might we find “pussy” used in that vulgar way? The name of the all female group “Pussy Riot” surely qualifies. And how has the Times treated Pussy Riot? The enthusiasm of the Gray Lady for the “punk” group has bordered on the ecstatic over the years. One small example is this: “… Pussy Riot? You couldn’t ask for more appealing activists.… they were young and attractive and intelligent…”
Pussy Riot claims to be feminist, anarchist, anti-capitalist; and all that may well be true. (Certainly many progressives believe that to be the case, and this writer heard a paean to Pussy just the other day on KPFA.) But what is indisputable is that by the Times professed standards of vulgarity these days, Pussy Riot is right up there — and not only by virtue of its name. This description of their breakthrough performance is but one example, “On January 20, 2012, in what the Associated Press described as their ‘breakthrough performance, eight members of the group performed a song on the Lobnoye Mesto in Red Square, entitled ‘Putin Zassal’. The title has been variously translated by English language media as ‘Putin has Pissed Himself’, ‘Putin Chickened Out’, ‘Putin Got Scared’ or ‘Putin is Wetting Himself’”.
Nothing happened as a result of this crude insult – nor should it have. Speech on the street should be as free as possible. But the next day the group entered an Orthodox Church, doffed their winter clothes and started dancing on the altar and singing. Continuing from the same source, “They used the crude epithet ‘Sran Gospodnya’ which has been used to translate ‘holy shit’ in Hollywood movies, but it is rarely used in idiomatic Russian; it literally translates as ‘shit of the Lord’. … They referred to Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill as a ‘suka’ (bitch) and accused him of believing more in Putin than God.’”
That got them in trouble and some even landed several of their “collective” in jail until Putin issued a pardon releasing them. (Putin and Medvedev had both been on record opposing the jail terms meted out to the two women. Patriarch Krill, the “suka,’ felt otherwise.)
But the NYT has been unable to praise Pussy Riot highly enough and they were in fact the toast of Manhattan on their U.S. tour in 2014. You see, at the Times there is good pussy and bad pussy. And if the “pussy” is anti-Putin it is good. But if it is pro-Trump, it is bad.
John V. Walsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tracy Rosenberg and her allies at the national level continue to do damage to Pacifica’s structure and mission. Earlier this week, Pacifica’s governance committee, which is dominated by Rosenberg and her allies, passed a measure that would, if adopted by the Pacifica National Board, prohibit those who dissent from Rosenberg’s agenda from serving on local or national boards.
“The resolution banning those deemed ‘disloyal’ which was presented to the committee by Tracy is pure McCarthy era,” notes Sasha Futran, KPFA’s Local Station Board vice chair. “The appeal process is a sham, as any appeals would go to the very people who took after them for political reasons in the first place. This is the kind of divisiveness that is tearing Pacifica apart. Tracy has a big hand, perhaps the biggest, in that process,” added Futran, who was a member of Rosenberg’s slate at one time, before leaving it to join SaveKPFA.
The measure is aimed squarely at 4 SaveKPFA members — Margy Wilkinson, Dan Siegel, Mal Burnstein and Conn Hallinan — for their role in collecting over $60,000 in financial pledges to restore the KPFA Morning Show and rehire its laid off co-hosts back in 2010. They raised only pledges of support, not actual money. Nevertheless, the “Morning Show 4” were slapped with a lawsuit by Rosenberg allies Richard Phelps and Daniel Borgstrom, who allege such fundraising activity was “disloyal” to Pacifica. Phelps and Borgstrom are demanding these four listeners pay Pacifica “damages” of $800,000.
The proposal from Pacifica’s governance committee would ban anyone whose actions have been declared by a court of law to be breaches of “loyalty,” “fiduciary duty,” or “duty of care” from holding any office in Pacifica. Rosenberg has been publicly predicting victory in the Morning Show 4 case, and it’s transparent her intent is to get rid of her political opponents.
“Do you have any conscience?” wrote one KFPA listener to Rosenberg recently when the lawsuit came up for public discussion recently. “You’re supporting a horrendous attack on 4 KPFA listeners who were simply trying, like generations before them, to support KPFA in a time of crisis.”
Rosenberg’s allies have been issuing gag rules against KPFA’s unpaid and paid staff; now they are going after listeners too. “Banning people, gag rules, anti-union law firms eating up the station’s cash — where have we heard this before?” asked KPFA listener Alison Davis. “In 1999, the last time the network was taken over.”
Ballots are being mailed for elections to the Local Station Boards at the Pacifica Foundation’s five radio stations across the nation. The result of these elections could determine whether Pacifica survives or continues its slide into bankruptcy.
First a bit of background. Each of Pacifica’s five stations – KPFA in Berkeley, KPFK in Los Angeles, KPFT in Houston, WPFW in Washington, D.C., and WBAI in New York – has a 22 member Local Station Board (LSB). Half of the seats are up for election this year. Each LSB sends four of its members to the Pacifica National Board (PNB), which wields absolute control over the network, including hiring national staff, approving national and local station budgets, and setting programming priorities.
Pacifica has always been fractious, back to when KPFA was founded as its first station in 1946. Its current bylaws were adopted 10 years ago, following a mass uprising and several lawsuits directed at a leadership group that attempted to create a self-perpetuating PNB. The new bylaws have brought democracy to the network, but they need revision to create a more streamlined and efficient structure that absorbs less of the organization’s time and money. But that is a conversation for another day.
The current majority has controlled the PNB since January 2009. When it took control it fired the Foundation’s long-time Chief Financial Officer, Lonnie Hicks, and replaced him with former KPFA LSB member LaVarn Williams. In the absence of an Executive Director, PNB chair Grace Aaron, a Los Angeles peace activist and veteran of Scientology’s internal wars, assumed political and organizational leadership.
Since 2009, the PNB’s inept and politically sectarian leadership has brought the Foundation to its knees. It has spent down all its reserves, incurring cumulative deficits of $5.7 million in the last four fiscal years, according to its 2012 audit report. The National Office, which receives 20 percent of each station’s on-air fundraising, has fallen far behind on its bills, including payments for Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now!, Free Speech Radio News, and legal costs. But for its creditors’ patience, Pacifica would be in bankruptcy already. The audit reports raise doubts about Pacifica’s ability to continue as a “going concern.”
The reasons for Pacifica’s financial decline are complex, including both the world wide financial crisis that has impacted almost all nonprofits and the aging of Pacifica’s core listenership. But rather than responding to these challenges, Pacifica’s leadership has accentuated them. Before his termination, Hicks had for years warned of the financial decline and urged Pacifica to develop new fundraising strategies instead of relying on more and longer on-air fund drives that frustrate and alienate listeners. Almost nothing has been accomplished to improve fundraising at either the local or national level since 2009.
Pacifica’s annual budget is about $14 million. The budgets of the member stations vary widely: In the year ending September 30, 2011, KPFA raised $3.3 million, KPFK $3.7 million, WBAI $3.2 million, WPFW $1.6 million, and KPFT $1.3 million. While the other four stations have been able to meet their expenses and pay their share of the National Office expenses, WBAI has not been able to do so for several years.
The PNB has refused to address WBAI’s financial crisis, which has required an annual subsidy of $500,000 to $1.0 million. Most of WBAI’s shortfall is due to the $720,000 it pays annually for its Wall Street office and Empire State Building broadcast tower. The PNB has failed to insist that WBAI find cheaper facilities, at least in part because its PNB members are a critical part of the current board majority. Instead, WBAI’s financial problems have threatened the stability of the entire network.
For Pacifica to survive, its leadership must address its financial problems, particularly the WBAI situation, diversify its fundraising, and develop a strategy for developing Pacifica’s Internet presence and digital media. Pacifica is far behind most mainstream media outlets and free-standing web sites in presenting its content to the growing part of the population that relies less and less on traditional radio broadcasting. Comparing Pacifica’s web presence with that of Democracy Now! proves this point.
Instead of focusing on the critical big picture issues, the PNB has developed a new strategy of intervening in local station affairs. KPFA has born the brunt of the PNB’s attacks, perhaps because three of its four PNB members, who are members of the Save KPFA caucus, oppose the direction of the Board majority. Last year the PNB rejected the station budget developed by the KPFA staff and LSB, even though it was realistic and balanced, including required payments to the National Office. The PNB also backed now former Executive Director Arlene Engelhardt in her unprecedented rejection of all three candidates proposed by the KPFA LSB to serve as KPFA’s station manager. The PNB recently intervened in the selection process for the selection of KPFK’s program director. A PNB committee has proposed a new “code of conduct” that would allow the expulsion of people from membership in the Foundation for bad mouthing or attempting to undermine the PNB’s decisions. Remember that Pacifica calls itself “Free Speech Radio!”
In the interests of full disclosure, you may conclude that I have an axe or two to grind here. I was the Foundation’s general counsel from April 2006 through January 2009, when I resigned over the Hicks firing. When I took office as an LSB member at the beginning of 2010, I was greeted at my second meeting with a libel lawsuit filed by Grace Aaron, LaVarn Williams, and a few others. We had that case dismissed and recovered $20,000 in sanctions. A few months later, some of our opponents filed a new case against me and three other KPFA LSB members for the offense of raising $68,000 in pledges to keep KPFA’s Morning Show on the air after it was removed due to the machinations of Engelhardt and Tracy Rosenberg, the sole KPFA PNB delegate who is not a member of Save KPFA. (Needless to say, the removal of the Morning Show was a catastrophe for KPFA fundraising, a concern that has yet to be fully remedied two years later.) That case remains pending. The final part of the litigation tri-fecta came about when the PNB voted to expel me because I was a “political appointee” as the volunteer legal advisor to Oakland Mayor Jean Quan. The superior court ordered that I be reinstated, which finally occurred when the judge threatened to hold the PNB chair and secretary in contempt. The PNB voted to appeal the decision, although the term from which I had been expelled ended a year ago, which coincides with my resignation from my post as the mayor’s legal advisor over disputes concerning her handling of Occupy Oakland.
Sorry for the digression. The bottom line here is that we need to create a new PNB majority by winning a minimum of two to three more seats than we now have. Practically, that means keeping the three current KPFA seats and adding a few more reasonable delegates from the other stations, particularly increasing the number from KPFK from one to two or three.
A new PNB majority will take the focus off petty politics and instead address (1) Foundation finances; (2) Digital media and the Internet; and (3) national programming. It will also have the responsibility early next year to hire a new Executive Director and Chief Financial Officer for the Foundation. The new CFO should focus on fundraising rather than bookkeeping. The PNB should limit its activity to setting policy, rejecting the temptation to meddle in staff and local station decisions.
Finally, I want to address what I view as a few of the false issues that have been injected into the campaign for the KPFA LSB. First is the claim that members of Save KPFA are simply stooges for the Democratic Party. In truth, several of my friends in Save KPFA are active in the Wellstone Democratic Club, which probably represents the most progressive wing of that party. Some Save KPFA members, including me, are extremely alienated from the Democratic Party and support the Greens, Peace and Freedom, etc. Period.
A second canard is that we are also stooges for KPFA’s paid staff and want to eliminate volunteers from the airways. That is another canard. What Save KPFA wants is good programming, presented by paid and volunteer staff, that will attract new people to our station. We want Pacifica to grow itself and contribute to the development of a powerful progressive movement in this country. If anyone thinks that is a crime, please do not vote for us.
Dan Siegel is an attorney in Oakland, California.
By Peter Phillips and Mickey Huff | Daily Censored | December 11, 2009
The Flashpoints radio program is being directly threatened with closure by station management. Budget cuts implemented by KPFA management; reduce staff time for Flashpoints by some 75 hours per week. Flashpoints, an award winning national radio program, originates at KPFA in Berkeley, California, and reaches some thirty cities in the US and serves an on-line audience worldwide.
Nora Barrows-Friedman wrote on December 9, “KPFA has effectively destroyed Flashpoints this week, beginning with the layoff of our technical producer position. Just hours ago, they called me into a meeting and casually informed me that my hours will be reduced by 50%. I cannot afford to keep this job if I’m on 20 hours a week.”
Ms. Barrows-Friedman is a long time investigative reporter specializing in Israel-Palestine issues and is one of the few reporters in the country who covers this sensitive issue in a straightforward manner. She taught herself Arabic and often reports from the ground in the Middle East. Along with Flashpoints producers Dennis Bernstein and Miguel Molina, Ms. Barrows-Friedman was the recent recipient of a lifetime achievement Media Freedom Award from Media Freedom Foundation/Project Censored. … Full article