New Storm Over Pacifica

a call for peace between warring sides at the progressive radio network may only make matters worse.

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Following is the text of a letter signed by 42 prominent progressives regarding the KPFA/Pacifica flap, as provided to MoJo Wire:

An Appeal to All Progressives: Stop The Pacifica Bashing!

Over the last year, an enormous amount of progressive energy has been spent organizing around issues of Pacifica Radio’s policies and governance. As a result, the sort of pickets, protests and pressure that we might expect to see progressives mount against the corporate media have instead been directed against America’s only authentically listener-sponsored and politically progressive network.

Pacifica is far from a perfect institution. Many of the issues raised by critics in the past months have some grounding. But in our opinion, the honest debate over Pacifica has degenerated into an ugly spectacle of Pacifica bashing and defamation. Much of the sober and well-intentioned criticism has ceded to a destructive and alarmist exaggeration.

The continuation of what has become a veritable war against Pacifica could lead to the death of the only alternative radio network progressives possess. This would be tragic. It would hurt all sides in the Pacifica dispute and benefit only those who would love to see all alternative voices vanish from the airwaves.

This war suffered its most recent escalation when a group of part-time and free-lance correspondents to Pacifica’s National News’ news program called for a three-month “strike” and boycott against the Pacifica National News. Others have joined in this movement by calling for the withholding of some or all financial support for Pacifica and its five stations.

We call for an immediate end to such tactics. There is, indeed, no sanctioned strike or authorized labor dispute underway at Pacifica National News. Some of those urging the boycott have differences with Pacifica news management. That is their right. But they do not have the right to cloak their grievances in the language of a bona fide labor dispute.

Boycotts, defunding campaigns and negative public relations strategies are powerful tools that can be used against recalcitrant and abusive corporate employers. To turn them against Pacifica is unconscionable. The only victims of such actions are the listeners, many of whom are activists who need information, analysis and debate from radio to help nourish their world views. While the inner workings and conflicts of Pacifica might be of some interest to some of these listeners, the chief mission of Pacifica is to bring much bigger and universal issues to its audience.

Sadly, the amount of time spent this past year bashing Pacifica, we calculate, was subtracted from the time available to fight against racism, sexism, exploitation, injustice, inequality, environmental contamination, corporate capitalism, and imperialism.

It’s time to stop the Pacifica fighting, catch our breath, tone down the rhetoric, stop the name-calling and the exaggerated accusations of looming corporate and commercial takeover of the network. Pacifica has pledged that no such moves are underway and there is no evidence to suggest otherwise.

We recognize that there are legitimate debates to be had around Pacifica’s structure, its governance, its management of the news, and its vision of the future. There always have been and there always will be. But we need debate and cooperation — not polarization, vilification and destructive campaigns of defamation where listeners are misled into believing that somehow this worthy but troubled 50-year-old progressive radio network is now “the enemy.”

Whatever grievances exist against Pacifica, they should be judged in the broader context of the corporate-dominated society we live in. Surely, Pacifica’s shortcomings should be seen as such: shortcomings and mistakes, not betrayals and conspiracies.

It’s time now for the National Board, the local station boards, the individual station management and their staff employees and volunteers to reunite as a Pacifica family and seek greater cooperation. This can only occur if all sides pledge to engage in honest, open, and civilized discussion and refrain from any further public defamation and political mischaracterization.

Pacifica’s Board and its national leadership, we believe, has not shown great wisdom in confronting these crises. But crises often force mistakes. Similar lapses in judgement and resulting mistakes have also been made by some of Pacifica’s critics who have tended to paint this progressive radio network as some sort of runaway, right-wing juggernaut in the grips of a dark conspiracy.

Any more such mistakes from either side at this point and the whole debate could become moot as Pacifica collapses.

We hope that in a less tense atmosphere, some of the festering issues can be resolved so that progressives can again focus on their political and social interests and use their one radio link as the source of information, analysis and connection that Pacifica was intended to be and still is for hundreds of thousands of listeners.

We, the undersigned members of this ad hoc group, pledge to help facilitate the needed rapprochement. We ask you to join us now. Please contact us at:

Organizations listed for I.D. purposes only:

Saul Landau, Fellow IPS
Ed Asner
Barbara Ehrenreich, writer
Mike Farrell, Death Penalty Focus
Jerry Brown, Mayor of Oakland
Prof. Susan Weissman, St. Mary’s College
Frances Fox Piven, CUNY Grad Center
Mike Davis, author/SUNY, Stonybrook (Mike Davis has since withdrawn his signature)
Lila Garett, President, So. Cal. ADA
Jim B. Clarke, Exec. Dir., So. Cal. ADA
Peter Kornbluh, commentator/journalist
Professor Lawrence Soley, Marquette University
Earl Ofari Hutchison, commentator/author
Ronnie Dugger, Alliance for Democracy
David Corn, Washington Editor, The Nation
Harvey Wasserman, environmentalist
Robert L. Borosage, Campaign for America’s Future
Bruce Shapiro, journalist
Jon Wiener, historian/author
Prof. Susan Weissman, St. Mary’s College
Stanley Sheinbaum
Hillel Ticktin, editor, Critique
Doug Ireland, journalist
Haskell Wexler, cinematographer/director
Micah Sifry, journalist
Dorothy Healey, commentator
Bill Gallagher, Exec. Dir., The Oaks Project
Bobbi Murray, journalist
Michael Hudson, ISLET
Roy Ulrich, public interest lawyer
John Cavanagh, Director IPS
Marcus Raskin, Distinguished Fellow and co-founder IPS
Scott Armstrong, journalist
Harold Meyerson, Exec Editor, L.A. Weekly
Peter Weiss, attorney
Martha Honey, Fellow IPS
Tony Avirgan, journalist
Jack Willis, TV producer
James Abourezk, former US Senator (D-SD)
Peter Dreier, Clapp professor Occidental College
Barbara Osborn, journalist
Richard Healey, Exec. Dir., Preamble Center
Brian Bahouth, News Dir., KRZA radio


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