Pacifica: Back to 1996
By xxx zzzzzz at Apr 03, 2009
Around 1996 or so, Lynn Chadwick had kicked off the idea of making Pacifica more NPR like. The path was to nationalize programming, cut local costs and remove volunteers (among other goals). The path she chose, and the Board chose, was to use executive power shielded by a governing board immune from public inspection.
Today, after 7 years of fighting against the activist listener core, Pacifica is using the ongoing fiscal crisis to institute the Lynn Chadwick program. How did we get here?
The main problem, as I see it, was a belief that we, the Acitivist Core (AC) , could achieve a democratic Pacifica under popular control. The idea that electing representatives would oversee the operations and directions of Pacifica. In early 2002 the inside players were already making their moves, while the AC debated for months over the by-laws. What I didn't understand at that time were the motives driving non-managerial employees and those with air-time. Now it's obvious, but at the time they were involved in the struggle against the Board and were tightly linked with the AC. But, as the turning point came the last thing they wanted was to have the listeners governing.
Dan Coughlin, the iED elect in 2002, had one goal: Keep the money coming in to reduce the debt generated by the previous Board. In my personal conversations with Coughlin I argued the way forward was complete popularization of the stations, run by volunteers with minimal staff. In fact this was how KPFT was being run for the first 4 months of 2002. In a crooked election Duane Bradley was selected manager, but his inexperience and incompetence left him literally in a state of tears. The AC rallied and operated the station with help of Otis MacClay and Jim Brightwell the engineer. It was a model that worked on one employee and all volunteer assistance. But Coughlin wouldn't take the risk as he told me at the Aug '02 Grassroots Radio conference in Upstate NewYork, "Gotta reduce the debt, gotta reduce the debt.." Operationaly this meant no major changes in programming and the reactionary forces that supported the Chadwick Board, would remain if they produced fund drive money.
This policy had several effects. The worst was that it ensured the executive branch would not react to attacks by disruptors. The most celebrated case was that of Bob Buzzanco in April of 2002, falsely accused of uttering an antisemitic smear. By this time the new National Board was populated with a smattering of the old guard and the majority was with new faces from the AC. But the disruptors, guided by ideology or job/airtime opportunism, had preyed upon the weak members, notably Teresa Allen and George Barnstone, consuming the National Board with private turf battles rather than the issue of expanding the listenership to those who needed the radio.
In the Buzzanco case Greg Gieselman stated that Buzzanco said to a member of a show organized by Stan Merriman to defend Israel "...you jews..." as they left the studio. Merriman along with Deb Shafto, Dan Jones, George Reiter and others either spread the lie or apologized for those who did the spreading. Even after the fact when Janice Blue and Jacque Batistte independently came forward to challenge Gieselman's lie, Reiter et al persisted in propagating the lie by stating "Well he might have said it." At one point I asked Reiter, who is a physics professor, given the fact that Blue and Batistte were on either side of Gieselman, looking at Buzzanco's face, both stating he did not utter a word, if it were still probable that Buzzanco "might have said it." In the single most repulsive act in modern Pacifica history Reiter maintained his stance that "he might of said it."
The Buzzanco incident typified Pacifica in 2002. Manipulation of the AC by internal disruptors without an executive willing to do anything regarding justice, in order to save the cash flow to get rid of the debt.
Next installment: Race Baiting and Baiters