In June, Pacifica Radio's Los Angeles station, KPFK-FM, hosted a thirty-hour marathon of Dr. Kwaku Person-Lynn's anti-Semitic "Afrikan Mental Liberation Weekend." It was the first time this once-annual program appeared for almost a decade. It had been banned by station management in 1993, after a long, hard-fought pressure campaign to remove it. Afrikan Mental Liberation Weekend typically includes claims that the Jews disproportionately participated in the slave trade and persecuted blacks; in the past, he responded to criticism by calling the regional director of the Anti-Defamation League a "psychotic, idiotic, European Jew." He has regularly played tapes by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who told KPFK's audience that whites and Jews "were the pale horse (from the Book of Revelation - eds.) with Death as its rider and Hell close behind." Person-Lynn also has stated that Jews who were white weren't really Jews - they'd stolen their Jewish identity from black men. He's even allowed open calls for genocide on the air: When one caller suggested that "what's going to happen to them [the Jews] is going to make what Hitler did to them seem like a party," the California State University instructor let that slide by unchallenged, thanking the caller for his insights. Person-Lynn also has a violent history. According to former radio host Ian Masters, he threatened a staffer with a shotgun; according to former program director Clare Spark, he threw another staffer into a wall. Even without the anti-Semitism, he's not the type of employee you'd want. But thanks to recent changes at KPFK-FM, his yearly special's been fully reinstated.
It'd be bad enough if only one bigot was returning to Pacifica, but Person-Lynn's not the only one fighting to come back. Former programmer Ron Wilkins was fired from his show "Continent to Continent" in 1995, for admitting three previously dismissed programmers to the studio and allowing them to rant about the evils of "white Left." One of these speakers, discussing relations between blacks and whites, said, "I am a firm believer that we are at war." Now Wilkins, a fervent African nationalist, is campaigning hard for a return to prime time. Wilkins was always slightly more subtle than Person-Lynn - instead of referring directly to Jews, he talked incessantly about the "Westside." Wilkins dismissed any opposition to him as catering to the "affluent, Westside listener." But Wilkins isn't just talking about the wealthy. What group has been especially concentrated on the "Westside" in Los Angeles? Jews. What group are black racists referring to when they refer to the "Westside"? Jews. The only other group Wilkins dislikes more is the "paint-jobs," the blacks or Hispanics at KPFK-FM less prejudiced than himself.
These Jew-bashers already have plenty of company at Pacifica, disguising themselves as impartial, cutting-edge public affairs broadcasters. Don Bustany's been running an anti-Israeli show, "Middle East in Focus," since 1996, during which time he has turned"Focus" into an exquisite outlet for Palestinian propaganda. To his credit, Bustany occasionally - very occasionally - has a supporter of Israel on to present a pro-Israel viewpoint. Not so at another KPFK-FM radio show, Radio Intifada, named after the Palestinian terrorist campaign against the existence of the State of Israel, a campaign that has claimed countless lives. "Intifada" literally means "shaking off," and that's exactly what the hosts did with any pretence to objectivity. The host, Michael Shehadeh, is a long-time Palestinian activist; the United States government has been fighting in the courts to deport from these shores. The government claims Shehadeh has a history of raising funds for the terrorist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, leaders of the intifada. More recently, Shehadeh's been cooperating with the communist Workers World Party in their latest front group, International A.N.S.W.E.R.
Although these leftists claim they are simply "anti-Zionist," who have nothing against Jews or Judaism, even their fellow far-left broadcasters disbelieve them. In January 2002, the host of KPFK-FM's "Feminist Magazine," Tricia Roth, was so disgusted by the imbalance she resigned from her show. As she put it, "[e]very time Israel so much as burps, Pacifica covers it extensively. Yet, when information exists that may give context to Israel's actions, or could reflect negatively on the Palestinians, it's normally absent from Pacifica's airwaves." She described how listeners who complained were seen as unsophisticated rubes and their complaints ignored, even as outright instances of anti-Semitism at the station went unchallenged.
KPFK-FM supplements its bigotry against Jews with the presence of out-and-out cranks - for instance, Mike Ruppert, a former LAPD officer and now runs a small publishing company called "From the Wilderness Publications." His company specializes in publicizing unfounded conspiracy theories, e.g., claiming the CIA is secretly running a drug cartel; that Senator Paul Wellstone's plane crash was a government-sponsored murder; that the President of the United States had advance knowledge of 9/11 and simply allowed it to happen, etc. These theories are snapped up eagerly by the less rational of the President's detractors, despite a rather embarrassing lack of evidence. For instance, according to Ruppert, Wellstone's death was likely a murder because eight Democratic congressmen have died in plane crashes, versus only four Republicans. Once KPFK, which aspires to be a news organization, would have treated Ruppert's claims with the skepticism they deserved - and as recently as 2002, its programmers did just that, humiliating Ruppert with a grilling on their public affairs program, "The Morning Show." But ever since then, Ruppert's been given red carpet treatment, beginning with an appearance on radio host Michael Slate's Tuesday drive-home public affairs show and culminating with appearances on KPFK's news programs and fundraising drives. Of course, Slate is likely a more extreme radical than Rupert. Slate is a prominent member of C. Clark Kissinger's Revolutionary Community Party, a pack of Maoists with a long history of petty lawbreaking in America and support for mass murder abroad. Slate's regular columns can be found in the party press, the Revolutionary Worker. At KPFK-FM, this type of lunacy is rewarded with a prominent, afternoon drive-time program.
The new hosts took old places. Many volunteer programmers were yanked from KPFK-FM just this month - hosts with over thirty years of experience and some of the station's largest audiences were given less than two days notice that their shows were cancelled. Several popular, long-running music shows were removed, as was "The Car Show," one of the station's biggest fundraisers. Some of the hosts seem to have been purged for political reasons. During the war on Iraq, John and Deanne Davis, hosts of a folk music show called Heartfelt Music, asked their listeners to "pray for our troops and the innocent people of Iraq." Within hours, Pacifica's message boards were clogged with angry messages - not from Heartfelt Music's listeners, but the radicals that clogged KPFK's local advisory board. A Christian couple who supported America's troops was anathema to Pacifica's management, so the Station Manager, the Program Director and the Music Director made a conference call to the couple, telling them they were off the air. After 32 years of volunteering, the Davises were dismissed without a single note of appreciation; while the Program Director said it was for "diversity" and the need for more public affairs programming, only their on-air request for prayer distinguished them from the station's other, uncancelled folk music show, "Folkscene," which was cynically moved to the Davises' former time slot in an attempt to keep their listeners.
The Davises were not the only hosts to be harried off KPFK's airwaves. Marc Cooper, a writer for the Nation - arguably the furthest-left mass circulation magazine in America - was already well-despised for supporting a fired station manager and a previous board of directors. His weekly public affairs show, "RadioNation," was chopped, ostensibly for being "too conservative." Cooper's conservative crimes? He wrote in a column that activists against the death penalty could do wiser things than focus exclusively on convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal. He also criticized those protesting the war on Iraq for allying with known Communists, and even had the nerve to debate conservative political figures on his show. Apparently even allowing the other side a moment's airtime is a cardinal sin, even if you denounce the opposition's views. KPFK claims it's run democratically, but this looks more like Stalinism. It's no wonder the existing programs are falling over each other to make themselves seem more radical. On July 20th, the long-running and plainly-named "Morning Show" changed its title to "Uprising."
KPFK's problems stem in part from its management. According to former station insiders, substantial loans to the interim board were made without any provisions for paying them back; in July 2002, when one young leftist responsible for co-signing Pacifica's checks called the action financially irresponsible, she was fired. The former webmaster of KPFK's internet site reported that even though funds for her salary were budgeted for and available, she was forced to participate in a job search and was eventually dismissed - and not only was no one was hired to replace her, the newly unemployed webmaster was asked to train unpaid volunteers to do her former job. Staff critical of management at staff meetings saw their hours chopped in half, forcing them to quit. All of these actions were overseen by Eva Georgia, the General Manager eventually hired by the new interim board to permanently replace Marc Shubb.
Georgia got her start in community radio in South Africa. In a complaint to a formal Commission of Inquiry there, an employee at her former station described her as verbally and physically abusive. Her radio station almost closed for financial mismanagement - according to Omar Dollie, who led the reconstruction effort at the radio station after Georgia left, "[t]here was never books kept in proper order. (sic.) There were never audited statements. It was a total disaster." Georgia emigrated to the United States, where she was fired from her next job, at the Gay & Lesbian Community Center in Long Beach. According to Georgia's own wrongful dismissal suit, her supervisor said she was a "liar," "cannot be trusted," "does not do her work," "physically attacks" and is "physically abusive." While Georgia said these claims were defamatory and untrue, a judge ended up throwing her case out of court. In spite of Georgia's prior employment record, Pacifica's interim board hired her on; since then, KPFK's own staff reported that "the state of staff / management relations at KPFK deteriorated significantly ... there is no workplace democracy...morale is very low." According to one rumor, Georgia was to be fired at the end of her probationary period - the interim national board only backed off when Georgia threatened to accuse them of racism and launch yet another wrongful dismissal lawsuit. It just so happens the majority of those fired by Georgia from KPFK have been visible minorities.
Georgia is aided at KPFK-FM by the new Program Director, Armando Gudino, described as a young man with limited experience. He had earlier been hired as a senior producer and was Georgia's and the local advisory board's preferred candidate for Program Director; the staff, however, felt otherwise. Georgia hired Gudino despite the fact that two P.D. search committees failed to nominate him for the job, inspiring staff members to resign from the committees in disgust. Gudino was likely pushed into the Program Director's seat because he's the obedient client of the chair of the local advisory board, Lydia Brazon. As the hard-left head of the Humanitarian Law Project, Brazon is favorably disposed to Central American extremist movements. According to one source, the only truly professional experience Gudino had before arriving at the station was a stint as Brazon's personal assistant when she was making a documentary on the Zapatistas. By getting Gudino installed in the lucrative position of Program Director, and protecting Georgia from her own staff, Brazon and the unelected local advisory board she chairs effectively control KPFK.
While no other station in the Pacifica network has management as cringe-worthy as KPFK, all five of Pacifica's stations have had similar problems with black anti-Semitism and political purges. Pacifica's New York City station, WBAI, has aired comments as bigoted as any coming out of KPFK. On December 26, 2002, one of their hosts, a union organizer for the SEIU named Kamau Khalfani, falsely claimed, "the Jewish community is the spoiled brat of America - they have been allowed for whatever reason to walk with free reign." (He also delightfully proffered that "the term Jewry came out of jewelry.") No action was taken. During a June 25th fundraiser at Houston's KPFT, "Minister" Robert Muhammad of the "Connect the Dots" program claimed he had lost the top spot on the Anti-Defamation League's "list" but vowed to get back on top.
On the political purges front, at least forty staff and volunteers have been thrown out for supporting former directors over the past 18 months. At four of Pacifica's five stations (all but KPFA in Berkeley) the Station Managers were dismissed in the first few months of 2002. In New York, Pacifica has begun union busting. Employees at WBAI decided that AFTRA, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, offered better benefits than their current union, the United Electrical Workers, and therefore voted to switch unions in 2001. They didn't realize that the United Electrical Workers were the darlings of the radical Left and that the new interim board, after taking control of Pacifica, would refuse to recognize their employees' vote. In January 2002, the interim board unilaterally decided that the United Electrical Workers still represented employees at WBAI; on February 20, 2002, three of AFTRA's most militant supporters at WBAI were fired - they claim for their union activism. A complaint is currently before the National Labor Relations Board.
The Pacifica network has been leftist since the Pacifica Foundation was founded in 1946 by WWII conscientious objector Lew Hill. Their first radio station, KPFA in Berkeley, was founded in 1949 - the first in the country to be financially supported by listener-subscribers. A section station, Los Angeles' KPFK, was founded in 1959; a third, New York's WBAI, was given to Pacifica in 1960. Houston's KPFT and Washington's WPFW were founded in the 1970s. For all of its existence, Pacifica followed anti-American trends - it was opposed to the Cold War and intervention in Korea during the 1950s, opposed to American intervention in Vietnam from as early as 1963, and had its Communist affilitations investigated by the House Un-American Activities Committee. Their programmers and staff backed the 1960s New Left of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and defended the terrorist activities of the hard-left Weatherman and Symbionese Liberation Army; in the 1980s it supported brutal Marxist regimes in Latin America. But only rarely in its history has Pacifica been this consistently and completely a tool of anti-American class-warfare specialists. What's gone wrong at KPFK, and what's gone wrong at Pacifica?
Many of the radio network's current troubles can be traced back to a December 12, 2001, court decision, when Pacifica's national board, faced with four different lawsuits, agreed to resign. The 1990s were a difficult time for the network. The national board, all liberal-to-leftist individuals, were concerned about Pacifica's limited growth. The fifth station had been added back in the 1970s, and audience size remained small. They wanted their message to reach more people, and therefore decided to introduce national programming, to be carried by all five stations, in an effort to build a nation-wide identity. They also wanted to get the anti-Semites who were giving Pacifica a bad name off the air. Both of these moves annoyed the local station hosts, who preferred the status quo. When the national board began implementing their changes, these local radicals launched a smear campaign. When the board replaced old management who wouldn't implement their decisions, it was described as a "political purge." When the new management removed some of the worst bigots from the airwaves, it was "censorship," and, since many of the anti-Semites were black, it was also "racism."
In 1999, when the board adjusted its bylaws to make itself self-perpetuating, correcting a tax law violation and bringing it into line with the vast majority of non-profits, the radicals screamed "dictatorship" and launched a series of lawsuits. They also began an often vicious, occasionally criminal campaign against national board members. Attorneys for one threatened WBAI radio host have documented a campaign of harassment and intimidation against the national board's majority, details corroborated by a former national board member. Much of the harassment seems to have directed by the radical-Left 'Pacifica Campaign' organizer Denis Moynihan. The national board's chair, an accountant, was falsely accused of fraud before his profession's licensing organization. The Pacifica Campaign openly distributed his Social Security Number and credit information; later, they called and harassed his children at home. The clients of a New York-based member who worked as a consultant were called and told they had to stop giving her business or face boycotts and protests. An earlier executive director of Pacifica received anonymous death threats, and her car was tailed on the freeway. Another director received a series of threatening calls in the early hours of the morning. When that didn't budge him, the callers began harassing his employer. One director's workplace had its website hacked and its contact list spammed with calls for his resignation. Many directors had their houses picketed and their neighbors told the directors were criminals. Their employers' meetings and conferences were also disrupted. Thanks to this thuggery, several members of the old board resigned. While Moynihan has relocated to Kansas to better fulfill his role as a co-ordinator for the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee, his allies remain Pacifica activists.
Although no lawsuit was ever won, the intimidated liberals on the old board majority gave in and agreed to negotiate. A much-celebrated settlement saw the old board resign in favor of an interim board - five members of the old board, five "dissidents," and five directors chosen by the chairs of the stations' local advisory boards. This appointed interim board took power at the start of 2002, with a limited mandate: they were given the authority only to set new bylaws and hold elections as soon as possible. At this date, they have yet to make a bit of progress towards either goal. Instead, they violated the settlement that placed them in power by going after their political enemies at the stations and canceling the network-wide programs that angered them so much - in particular, the ninety-minute Pacifica News Network, which was completely shut down in February 2002. The interim board claimed the cancellation was for budgetary reasons, which may be partially true, since the lawsuits launched against Pacifica cost it over a million and a half dollars in legal fees. But few on the new board were sad to see Pacifica News Network go. Only on the far Left could a national leftist news program become a symbol of oppression.
As for their judge-mandated mission, the selection of new bylaws, the interim board needed a year and a half of bitter arguing to decide on a draft they could take to the local advisory boards for ratification, and that only after an incredibly petty dispute over Roget's Rules of Order. The local advisory boards promptly voted to reject the new bylaws, placing the interim board right back where it started in January 2002. The conflict was over whether the stations should institute racial quotas. (The national board's proposal created "Committees of Inclusion," which had the power to delay elections to the local boards in order to racially gerrymander the candidate pool, but that wasn't good enough for the local advisory boards.)
When one looks at the membership of the new board, their failure shouldn't come as a surprise. People who organize against management for a living don 't usually excel at management. Take Leslie Cagan, the chair of Pacifica's national board, who has a history of Communist Party membership dating back to the 1960s. In the early 1970s she was a member of the Venceremos Brigades, a group of American youth sent to Cuba for special political education and training. She remained a member of the CPUSA until at least the late 1980s; currently, she's a co-chair of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, a spin-off of the Communist Party created after the Soviet Union imploded. She also heads up one of the main coalitions opposed to national security, United for Peace and Justice, a re-hash of the People's Coalition for Peace and Justice, the Communist Party's anti-Vietnam front. Like all Communists, Cagan never met a manager she didn't hate as a lackey for the ruling class, yet now she's supposed to manage a network of radio stations herself. The board's main representative for Los Angeles, David Fertig, has a similar background. A radical labor law attorney who refuses to represent management, Fertig is also a member of the neo-Communist National Lawyers Guild. The treasurer of Pacifica's national board, Jabari Zakiya, also has a radical pedigree, having served hard prison time in the mid-1990s for refusing to pay taxes or file returns. Despite their failure to get things done, Pacifica's fundraising drives have been raking in the contributions. They've got President Bush to thank for that - leftist groups always receive more contributions during conservative administrations. Now donors are realizing that many of the shows they supported were cancelled right after the latest fund drive.
While more and more of Pacifica's listeners are growing dissatisfied with "their" stations, there's not much they can do to reclaim them. Since Pacifica's sacking of black anti-Semites in the mid 1990s was mistakenly seen as a racist act against blacks, rather than an anti-racist act against bigots, the radicals who fought so hard to remove Pacifica's old board came primarily from the race-obsessed section of Left. This sector of the Left gains control of organizations by threatening to call their opponents racist. In left-wing groups like Pacifica, he who attends the most meetings wins, and no one is willing to attend meetings like a fanatic for the cause. When the race-obsessed leftists are lengthening already long meetings with discussions on how to achieve gender equity and adequate representation of historically oppressed minorities on the speakers list, you can be sure no one who disagrees with them will make the mistake of attending an organizational meeting twice.
Pacifica's internal problems will almost surely destroy it over the long run, but that's no reason for conservatives to cheer - not when tax-funded FM stations in major metropolitan areas are hijacked by bigots. Anti-Semitism has been the Left's secret vice since the late 1960s. The Freedom Riders of the civil rights movement hated discrimination against Jews as much as discrimination against blacks; in fact, the white civil rights activists were disproportionately Jews. Knowing what it was like to suffer from discrimination, they were all the more eager to stop it. Unfortunately, after the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act of the mid-1960s, many black radicals began to reject equality and integration in favor of separatism and "black power." All whites became hated, those who had allied with blacks most of all.
White leftists condescendingly coddled the black militants of the 1960s, tolerating opinions they would have abhorred in a white person, all because they felt these new black organizations were "progressive." Sooner or later, they reasoned, their black comrades would see the error behind their hate. But with their beliefs unchallenged, black anti-Semites became the Left's crazy aunt. In recent years, that crazy aunt seems to have driven a few others on the Left mad themselves, as more and more white activists have joined with their bigoted black brethren to espouse precisely the kind of racism that was unthinkable a generation ago. The opposition to the liberation of Iraq was liberally scattered with attacks on Israel and Jews within the Bush administration. Emboldened by the mainstreaming of hatred, traditional neo-Nazis began to use anti-war protests as recruiting grounds.
If there's one small blessing in the whole Pacifica crisis, it's that things haven't yet degenerated to the Pacifica of the early 1990s, when Nation of Islam lieutenant Steve Cokely claimed Jewish doctors were inoculating babies with the AIDS virus. There's still time to nip the new wave of bigotry in the bud; listeners appalled by the new Pacifica do have options. Pacifica's five stations receive more than $1,200,000 of taxpayers' money every year from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the same group that funds NPR and PBS. In 1992, Congress required the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to report on the quality, objectivity, and balance of the public broadcasting programs it funds, and take this into account when making grants. Yet KPFK slants so far Left, it considers The Nation conservative and Jewish hosts are leaving rather than hear anti-Semitic slander on the air. When the head "Feminist Magazine" claims Pacifica's news coverage is "one-sided to the point of actually distorting the facts," it's clear there's a serious problem. Fortunately, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting has established an e-mail address - firstname.lastname@example.org - and a toll-free phone number - 1-800-272-2190 - to take comments on taxpayer-funded public broadcasting. When large numbers of complaints are received on the balance and objectivity of a program, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is compelled to investigate.
Pacifica's staff and supporters can hear the anti-Semitism on their stations for themselves. They know that people at their stations have been fired or removed from the airwaves for political reasons, and not just by previous boards. They know their stations aren't being run democratically, and they know they serve the programmer more than the listening audience. They are repeating every misstep allegedly made by the board they ousted. They've become what they hate, or rather, what they pretended to hate, because their long struggle to take control of the board wasn't really about democracy, or censorship, or "serving the community." We see from their actions now the term "democracy" merely shielded the ugly politics their fight was really about, a crude racial identity politics based on hatred of whites, Jews and America itself. Their is a politics based on raw anger. Now that they're in power, the radicals at Pacifica will maintain the façade of democracy just enough to attract donations, as their newly-established committees of "inclusion" ensure everyone attached to the station thinks in lock-step with their leaders - or suffers the consequences.
From all accounts, KPFK-FM is no longer a very pleasant place to work, and less appealing to listen to. John Davis, host of the cancelled Heartfelt Music, said the new management was "strident, with no sense of humor." Although he had worked with leftists so extreme they went to jail rather than turn over communications from the Symbionese Liberation Army to the police, John could still get along with them, still work with them - but not these leftists. Last year was the first time in 32 years that John felt he was sacrificing his principles by working with extremists. John thinks the programming changes are a mistake; his own listeners, many of whom share the station's left-wing slant, told him they didn't want political rhetoric seven days a week. In a long departing missive, Tom Nixon seemed to concur. The day his show of 29 years, "The Nixon Tapes," was cancelled, he was given a business card at an art show. On it was written this: "As soon as an imperative is placed on art (it should be political, it should be beautiful, it should be subversive), one has already robbed it of its freedom." It appears Pacifica, through its insistence on hard-edged radicalism and tolerance for anti-Semitic extremism, is draining art of its freedom before attempting the same things on the United States.