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the_atlantic_magazine_coverLUMPENPROLETARIAT—If we consider the press critically, of course, we find for-profit broadcast media to be compromised in its journalistic integrity and riddled with censorship and/or underreporting and obfuscation of important news stories. [1]  But, even non-profit, audience-sponsored, broadcast media often suffers from self-censorship of varying degrees. [2]

Similarly, as free speech radio is, first and foremost, an educational institution, our public school classrooms suffer from censorship and self-censorship, which stifles critical thinking.  School textbooks may discuss Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement or the Vietnam War (known in Vietnam as the American War), as issues of the past, as if the same struggles for civil and human rights and opposition to wars of capitalist imperialism are no longer happening.  Dr. James Loewen, as well as Dr. bell hooks and others engaged with critical pedagogy, have also drawn attention to the distortions and misrepresentations of history, and even outright lies found in most American history textbooks.  This uncritical acceptance of substandard textbooks and uncritical pedagogy, of course, does not only affect history and social studies, which usually glosses over the American government’s repression, enslavement, and genocide of ethnic minorities and also fails to address current events of great import and historical significance, such as Black Lives Matter and extrajudicial or illegal killings of unarmed children and adults by police, death in custody cases, police brutality, and disparities in the criminal justice system.

Similar problems are found in the discipline of economics, which is divided between a heterodox approach and a neoclassical approach to economics.  A neoclassical approach is predicated upon unrealistic assumptions about human nature and society, assumptions which are overly mathematised and completely delinked from any meaningful historical context.  Heterodox economics offers more pluralistic and, thus, more coherent analyses.  But this approach is confined to only a minority of heterodox economics departments, such as that of the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the New School for Social Research in New York City. [3]

Our education system continues to be adversely impacted by the historical legacies of American racism, white supremacy, nationalism, and anti-communist, anti-socialist, pro-capitalist ideologies, which stifle truly critical analyses in American schools.

As educator Dr. Henry Giroux argues, we are rendering our students diminished in their capacities for critical thinking because we restrict the critical thinking, which we allow our students to engage in, to only involve prescribed content from textbooks, which usually avoid controversy, contemporary issues, and subtly stay within a particular establishment ideology of uncritical acceptance of capitalist modes of production, free market fundamentalism, American exceptionalism, and suppression of the American government’s enslavement, oppression, genocide, and dispossession of ethnic minorities.

Students, and educators, are not fully liberated to explore and critically engage with the world around them.  Consequently, most educators and the teaching programmes from which they hail, are largely uncritical conveyor belts of the status quo, enabling the persistence of historical social ills and pathologies.  But, some courageous educators are challenging pedagogies of repression and engaging in critical pedagogy.  And, in so doing, they are resisting the deprofessionalisation of educators.

A recent article in the The Atlantic asked the question:  Should students learn about Black Lives Matter in school?

It’s a good question.  The answer should be obvious.  But for some, probably, Orwellian reason, it is not.  And that should give us great concern for its implications for a democratic society, when successive generations of students are kept in the dark about the problems of society and effectively inoculated against any concept of civic engagement.



THE ATLANTIC—[21 JUL 2016]  Should Students Learn About Black Lives Matter In School?  The lengthy timelines of publishing new history textbooks—and the problematic narratives those books often present—push primary resources to the forefront of current-events education.

Hayley Glatter

If the Chicago social-studies teacher Gregory Michie waits for a textbook to teach his students about the Black Lives Matter movement, the first seventh-graders to hear the lesson won’t be born for another seven years.

Despite the historical implications of that movement, bureaucratic timelines all but quash any possibility that students might learn about today’s events from an actual history textbook in the near future.  According to Anthony Pellegrino, an assistant professor of education at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, many school districts receive new books on a seven-year cycle. However, in some states, schools don’t receive new books for 10 to 12 years, and the most current material in those books could be a few years old.  Certainly digital textbooks shorten this timeframe, but physical copies lag far behind: In some districts like Michie’s, students are reading textbooks that don’t even contain the name Barack Obama.

On top of that, the chapters on America’s most recent history often fall short.  Because content on, say, the American Revolution, has been read and edited over the course of multiple book editions, more recent chapters often “feel like just add-ons.” Pellegrino said.  “They’re so afraid to tackle anything current because we don’t have the perspective of history to be able to inform us more.  As such, the sentences, the words, the paragraphs, are just really vapid.”

But Michie, who teaches seventh- and eighth-graders at The Windy City’s William H. Seward Communication Arts Academy, doesn’t let outdated textbooks deter him from addressing timely, sensitive topics in the classroom.  Michie said the social-studies textbooks at Seward are around 20 years old, but even if they were contemporary, he wouldn’t rely on them. The history books “are just horrible,” he said.  “They dodge controversy.  Textbooks are commercials for the countries they’re made in.”  Instead, Michie’s conversations with students are rooted in sources ranging from images to political cartoons as he moves social-justice issues to the forefront with lessons that draw on modern cases like those of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and Michael Brown.

The use of primary-source documents has become a popular tool for teachers seeking to bring current events into the classroom, particularly as schools have adopted the Common Core standards, which encourage students to engage with such resources.  But the immediacy and timeliness of police brutality, activism, and institutionalized racism have led educators to consider the ramifications of sharing these issues with students.  Michie said talking about newsworthy events is critical, but his teaching of sensitive contemporary issues has drawn criticism—someone on Twitter called the lessons indoctrination.  However, he thinks the world outside the classroom is too relevant to ignore inside school walls.  Not discussing current events and issues of race, Michie said, sends a stark message to kids because “our silence as teachers speaks very loudly to our students.”

Public-school teachers should stand up against racism, should stand up against homophobia, should stand up against religious intolerance.

In addition to the relevance of topics like Black Lives Matter, Daisy Martin, a senior research associate in the Graduate School of Education at Stanford University, said weaving current events into lesson plans provides an opportunity for history teachers to re-engage their students.  “One of the most common words that’s used to describe history in K-12 is ‘boring,’ and kids think of it as, ‘It’s all done, and it’s sort of determined,’” Martin said.  By talking about what is going on now and explaining the connections between past and present, teachers can work to remove that stigma.

However, as Michie demonstrated, teachers who choose to bring current events into the classroom face numerous challenges.  And it’s not just claims of imprinting a teacher’s opinions on the class—Martin said some history teachers struggle to discuss sensitive topics because they may feel like they don’t know enough about the topic, have too much to cover already, or lack the school-wide support needed for such conversations.  Michie, though, is adamant about not shying away from sensitive topics: “Public-school teachers should stand up against racism, should stand up against homophobia, should stand up against religious intolerance.  To me, that’s not [taking] a side.  We have to advocate for, and believe in, and have high hopes for all of our students.”

Not everyone agrees with Michie, and textbook publishers are saddled with the task of appealing to a wide audience around the country.  And yet, certainly today’s political, social, and economic climates will be written about in history books. The events of today have been compared to the tumult of 1968, a year frequently cited as one of the most dynamic in American history—that year, both Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy were assassinated, riots burst out during the Chicago-hosted Democratic National Convention, and the Tet Offensive was launched in Vietnam.

Learn more at THE ATLANTIC.


THE ATLANTIC—[21 OCT 2015]  History Class and the Fictions About Race In America  High-school textbooks too often gloss over the American government’s oppression of racial minorities.

Alia Wong

Earlier this month, McGraw Hill found itself at the center of some rather embarrassing press after a photo showing a page from one of its high-school world-geography textbooks was disseminated on social media. The page features a seemingly innocuous polychromatic map of the United States, broken up into thousands of counties, as part of a lesson on the country’s immigration patterns: Different colors correspond with various ancestral groups, and the color assigned to each county indicates its largest ethnic representation. The page is scarce on words aside from an introductory summary and three text bubbles explaining specific trends—for example, that Mexico accounts for the largest share of U.S. immigrants today.

The recent blunder has to do with one bubble in particular. Pointing to a patch of purple grids extending throughout the country’s Southeast corridor, the one-sentence caption reads:

The Atlantic Slave Trade between the 1500s and 1800s brought millions of workers from Africa to the southern United States to work on agricultural plantations.

The photo that spread through social media was taken by a black Texas student named Coby Burren, who subsequently texted it to his mom, Roni-Dean Burren. “Was real hard workers, wasn’t we,” he wrote. Roni-Dean quickly took to Facebook, lambasting the blunder: the reference to the Africans as workers rather than slaves. A video she later posted has been viewed nearly 2 million times, and her indignation has renewed conversations around the Black Lives Matter movement while attracting coverage by almost every major news outlet. “It talked about the U.S.A. being a country of immigration, but mentioning the slave trade in terms of immigration was just off,” she told The New York Times. “It’s that nuance of language. This is what erasure looks like.”

McGraw Hill swiftly did its damage control. It announced that it was changing the caption in both the digital and print versions to characterize the migration accurately as a “forced” diaspora of slaves: “We conducted a close review of the content and agree that our language in that caption did not adequately convey that Africans were both forced into migration and to labor against their will as slaves,” the company said in a statement. “We believe we can do better.” Catherine Mathis, the company’s spokeswoman, also emphasized that the textbook accurately referred to the slave trade and its brutality in more than a dozen other instances. And McGraw Hill has offered to provide various additional resources to any school that requests them, including supplemental materials on cultural competency, replacement textbooks, or stickers with a corrected caption to place over the erroneous one. But Texas school districts were already in possession of more than 100,000 copies of the book, while another 40,000, according to Mathis, are in schools in other states across the country.

If nothing else, the incident may serve as yet another example of why social studies—and history in particular—is such a tricky subject to teach, at least via textbooks and multiple-choice tests. Its topics are inherently subjective, impossible to distill into paragraphs jammed with facts and figures alone. As the historian and sociologist Jim Loewen recently told me, in history class students typically “have to memorize what we might call ‘twigs.’ We’re not teaching the forest—we’re not even teaching the trees,” said Loewen, best known for his 1995 book Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong. “We are teaching twig history.”

Learn more at THE ATLANTIC.


[1]  For example, see Project Censored, which publishes an annual book of the most censored news stories, as peer-reviewed evidence of persistent media censorship.  Project Censored also broadcasts a weekly radio show out of free speech radio KPFA and across its national Pacifica Radio Network.  And, in 2013, Doug Hecker and Christopher Oscar directed Project Censored: The Movie, Ending the Reign of Junk Food News.

Also see articles featuring Project Censored at Lumpenproletariat.

CounterSpin is another good media analysis production by the media watchdog group FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting), which airs on free speech radio stations throughout the nation.

[2]  One valid complaint, which could often be levelled against, for example, free speech radio KPFA is its tendency to shy away from the more controversial topics and issues.  For example, KPFA has been willing to air documentaries about the Black Panther Party history from the 1960s and ’70s, but has deemed it necessary to censor its descendants, which are currently civically engaged, such as J.R. Valrey and his Block Report Radio broadcasts, which used to air during The Morning Mix morning show.  Many people are okay discussing issues of racism, class struggle, and capitalist imperialism, but only if the issues are safely removed decades in the past.  The same goes for the 9/11 Truth Movement, which is not fully supported by all at free speech radio KPFA.  This editorial bifurcation reflects the historic internal struggle of free speech radio KPFA’s competing faction’s ideologies.

The radio programming produced by the less progressive faction at KPFA, which shamelessly calls itself SaveKPFA (appropriating the slogan from 1999 when KPFA listeners and staff successfully resisted attempts to hijack the station), has improved in terms of its willingness to confront police state terrorism, extrajudicial killings by police, death in custody cases, and police brutality and corruption scandals.  But it was not always like this. [2]  The more progressive, or revolutionary, broadcasters, such as JR Valrey with Block Report Radio and Dennis Bernstein‘s Flashpoints, and Davey D‘s Hard Knock Radio, which first featured Block Report Radio, paved the way for radical social justice campaigns, such as Black Lives Matter.

[3]  The history of free speech radio is obscure, but it’s out there.  As a truly concerned listener, among many scores, your author has had many memorable (and insightful) experiences in, and around, KPFA and the Pacifica Radio Network.  Your author’s experience with the behind-the-scenes KPFA dirt began before, and extended after, running for the KPFA Local Station Board (LSB) in 2010, as part of the Voices for Justice LSB slate, including SF Bay Area labour journalist Steve Zeltzer and Kurdish-American Dr. Sureya Sayadi.

One fine afternoon, back when my family and I lived on Liselle Lane in Modesto, California, circa 2012, I had the good fortune of chatting on the phone with Curt Gray, of the original Save KPFA.  He was a kind soul, who empathised with my being mistreated, like others, at KPFA by the elite clique, which had appropriated the Save KPFA name.  (Even SaveKPFA poster-boy Brian Edwards-Tiekert was surprised when I asked him for us to take a picture together during a ballot-count in Berkeley during a 2010 ballot count.  I wanted to believe we were misunderstanding Brian, so I also maintained polite interpersonal relations, although I disagreed with him publicly whilst campaigning for the LSB.)  Curt Gray confirmed my observations, which corroborated his narratives of KPFA/Pacifica history and perceptions about the SaveKPFA faction (formerly known as Concerned Listeners).  Gray described how this faction at KPFA used a system of patronage to bring in lackeys to do their dirty work.

Read Curt Gray’s article, “Stealing Save KPFA“, from 2010:

Stealing Save KPFA, 20 SEP 2010

by Curt Gray in concurrence with Jeffrey Blankfort, Maria Gilardin, Marianne Torres and Sasha Futran

I have learned that a group that had formerly called itself the Concerned Listeners, a faction in the community who are partisan supporters of the status quo controlling clique that runs KPFA and opposes accountability and participation by “outsiders” in the station, is now calling itself Save KPFA. The choice of this name is an ahistoric action that speaks of an arrogant sense of entitlement and a lack of knowledge or interest in how KPFA has developed and changed throughout its history as a ground-breaking community radio station.

The sad irony is that the original Save KPFA advanced ideals and goals that were and are in moral opposition to what this current group seems to be supporting. The original Save KPFA championed democracy, transparency, community participation and accountability for KPFA as a vital and irreplaceable resource of the Northern California progressive community.

The real, original Save KPFA came out of large public meetings held at the Ashkenaz Folk Dance and Music Hall on Berkeley’s San Pablo Avenue. The meetings were called by a group of listeners and unpaid KPFA programmers in response to station management’s unilateral actions to cancel a swath of community volunteer produced programming without notice or discussion. In the winter of early 1993 there were meetings attended by more than 200 people, both listeners and programmers, and all expressed growing concerns about the direction that KPFA was headed and a fear that the community that both supported and depended on KPFA was being pushed aside.

Those early meetings of hundreds of listeners and activists and a scattering of staff led to more than a year of intense organizing and a harsh education on the widening distance between what supporters of KPFA believed Pacifica was and the reality behind the image. It was the first time that many had a chance to tell and share with the larger community their knowledge of what was happening behind the scenes, information that was kept off the air and out of the printed program guide, the Folio. Coming together in these early meetings, gaining knowledge by sharing information, developing a more sophisticated understanding of who and what was shaping changes in the radio station that they had supported and relied on for so long, this was one of the beginnings of a nationwide Free Pacifica movement.

At these town hall style meetings on those rainy winter nights in the darkened nightclub we learned for the first time about Pacifica’s Strategy for National Programming document that over time called for more and more local volunteer produced programming to be replaced by national programming produced by radio professionals. It also called for Pacifica to go after big money grants to fund all this programming, with a stated aim to become “partners and players” with the largest corporate foundations such as the Pew, Ford, Carnegie and Readers Digest Foundations.

There were plans for national morning shows and national overnight call-in talk shows with big name celebrity hosts. We recognized this abandonment of local and volunteer produced programming as a fundamental turning away from what makes community radio what it is supposed to be. We called it what it was, NPR-ization of community radio. These plans were moving forward with little or no knowledge or input from listeners or the average programmer.

For the first time in a long time, a group of listeners were learning how KPFA really worked. We learned that there was a Program Council that consisted of programming department heads that met every week at the station. We learned that there was a local station advisory board that met quietly at the station every month, which should have been a venue for community input, if listeners had been encouraged to attend or even knew it existed.

The local board was self-selected and had the power to seat their members on the Pacifica National Board, the real holder of KPFA’s license, that met only three or four times a year in different parts of the country. Pacifica was and is a network with four other stations that also shares programming with many other affiliate community stations. A lot of the real power to decide the direction of the network seemed to be in the hands of the Pacifica Foundation’s Executive Committee and smaller power cliques within each station. There was no mechanism for any accountability to the people at the grassroots, the volunteer programmers and the subscribers and listeners.

At the core the station supporters in the public meetings at Ashkenaz loved KPFA and were fighting to defend it, especially its most progressive programming. But they started to realize that their interest and concerns were viewed somehow as a threat by an insular insider culture within the station’s management, staff, and local and national boards.

Out of the larger town hall style meetings KPFA’s new listener activists started to coalesce into the form of the organization named Save KPFA with a smaller, dedicated steering committee. Attempts were made to communicate, to share concerns, to work together with the other stakeholder groups – management, paid and unpaid staff, the station and foundation boards – to both protect and improve KPFA.

These attempts were met with a disturbing mix of fear, suspicion, contempt and disdain so frequently that the impression was communicated very clearly that only compliments were allowed and that any mere listener with a critical opinion was viewed as an enemy of the station as a whole. Not for the last time the listener activists had come together to defend programmers’ rights, but programmers did not return that solidarity by supporting the concerns of listeners.

A listener who politely tried to attend a Program Council meeting to suggest ways to use the station’s airwaves to educate listeners about internal station issues, as well as about larger media issues involving the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) and the CPB (Corporation for Public Broadcasting), and was suggesting that perhaps the Program Council might benefit from having listener representatives attend, observe and contribute to station programming decisions was angrily shouted out of the meeting, because “listeners do not belong at Program Council meetings.”

When members of the new listener group Save KPFA started attending local and national board meetings, the members of these boards seemed disturbed to have actual listeners in the audience at their meetings. Any discussion of the issues raised at the listener meetings was mostly suppressed on station call-in shows and the letter section of the printed program guide, the Folio, making it difficult to include the larger listener community in the discussion.

A listener who politely tried to attend a Program Council meeting was angrily shouted out of the meeting, because “listeners do not belong at Program Council meetings.”

Through 1993 KPFA’s new listener activist movement moved from town hall meetings to taking action. The show of listener concerns at the first noisy public meetings at the Ashkenaz dance club resulted in the threatened programming changes being temporarily withdrawn, and KPFA’s verbally abusive and divisive station manager, Pat Scott, was kicked upstairs within Pacifica. She was replaced by her assistant, and within months the iron-fisted Scott would become Pacifica’s next executive director.

As the group recognized that the powers-that-be within Pacifica were not interested in allowing open discussion or debate of the listening community activists’ issues to reach the larger KPFA audience via any free exchange of views on the air or in the program guide, other ideas for getting the word out were tried.

Some Save KPFA activists tabled at progressive events, creating surveys to try to get feedback from KPFA listeners. Some started to set up pirate stations to create an alternative way to get information out. Listener activists tried to call in on KPFA shows and wrote letters to the local press about the issues within the station. And we started a mailing list to disseminate hidden information to interested listeners through newsletters. We invited representatives of KPFA management and the station board to attend and address our meetings.

There was little interest in the station to acknowledged Save KPFA or the community concerns it represented. In fact, a narrative quickly took hold that alternately trivialized the station’s critics as out of touch ’60s leftovers or demonized them as violent and out of control.

Save KPFA decided that if KPFA would not allow dialog on the air or in the pages of the Folio that the listener activists would buy an ad in the program guide to address the whole KPFA community, inside and outside the station. One of the activists was moved enough to donate the cost of the advertisement from his inheritance from his recently deceased mother. We filed a fictitious name application, opened a bank account and got a P.O. box. The Folio editor assured us that our ad would be accepted.

So Save KPFA met and worked on statements to outline our group’s concerns, positions, proposals. The group collaborated on statements that called for elected station boards and on-air discussion of internal station issues and for the station to depend on its listeners for its funding, not foundations. They were determined to keep KPFA a voice for dissent that was not afraid to be critical of the powerful and to keep the station close to the grassroots community of programmers and listeners who had supported it for decades.

Yet, when we submitted the advertisement and the money, suddenly the station refused the ad without explanation. Immediately Save KPFA created a flier featuring the text of our ad and asking why the station was censoring our Free Speech and distributed it that night at a large public event sponsored by the station. Station management then reversed themselves again, saying that they would not allow us to run the advert as we had designed it, but we could publish it as an “Open Letter” if we modified and edited it to fit into the space they allowed us in the Folio.

In our “Open Letter,” Save KPFA called for local station boards to be elected by subscribers and staff and for a regular, listener-run call-in show dedicated to discussing internal KPFA and Pacifica matters. This pressure from Save KPFA caused station management and the local advisory board to very tentatively allow an election among subscribers for a small minority of seats on the advisory board.

Save KPFA called for local station boards to be elected by subscribers and staff and for a regular, listener-run call-in show dedicated to discussing internal KPFA and Pacifica matters.

Even so, the people controlling KPFA and Pacifica acted out their internalized conflict between the hollow on-air rhetoric promoting democratic empowerment for everyone else in the world and the need to protect their effective total internal dominance of the station. First management announces the election in the program guide but no discussion or candidate forums on the air. Then they announce that the election is canceled for lack of candidates, even after a handful of listeners submit candidate statements.

Then they change their minds, but now the voting period was during the on-air fundraiser, and their policy was to not mention the election while pitching for donations on the air. In the last week to send in the ballots, an unenthusiastic recorded message is aired reminding listeners of the advisory board vote.

On one morning a paid staff member is reported to shout at a volunteer programmer in the control room, “Don’t play that when my audience can hear it. We don’t want any of those idiots elected to the board.”

The seeming attempt to stifle the election goes from bad to worse. The actual ballot is the thin newsprint of the back page of the program guide, which the listeners must cut out with scissors. Then they mark their votes, fold and tape the ballot together and send it through the mail. Many of the returned ballots were destroyed, torn to tatters by the post office sorting machinery, arriving in the station mailbox in little plastic body bags supplied by the Postal Service.

KPFA has so little respect for the election that ballots are collected in an open unsealed mail cubby where they spill out onto the floor like so much trash near the front door. When the time comes to count the votes, ballots are found scattered underfoot down the hall, blown by a draft from the street. None of the candidates or any representatives are allowed to watch the count.

It is announced that not enough votes were cast for the election to be valid. The votes are not counted, and where the ballots wind up is a mystery. Mention is made that some voters had written comments on their ballots, but the ballots disappear without being further examined.

In an announcement in the next Folio, the listeners are told that there were not enough votes but that the advisory board might seat some of the candidates on the board anyway. But that was not a true intention and none of the election candidates were every spoken to about sitting on the advisory board, even though they continued to attend the monthly meetings as members of the audience.

In the same period, the station staff had been demanding elections for the staff’s own representatives to have a couple of seats on the station advisory board. The station staff voted and elected Maria Gilardin, an unpaid staff member who was a leader of Save KPFA and one of the few staff critics of Pacifica’s leadership and policies, to be one of the first station staff representatives on the board. But before Maria could take the seat she had been elected to fill, she was banned from all Pacifica properties without any appeal on trumped up charges of inciting violence at a Pacifica National Board meeting in Los Angeles. The KPFA station staff seemed to meekly accept the effective gutting of their vote by the Pacifica board without protest.

These and other events are the legacy of Save KPFA in the year of 1993 at the beginning of the long struggle to democratically reform Pacifica and try to bring some accountability to KPFA and the network. It is the foundation of what became a movement and where many hard facts about the reality of Pacifica were learned.

SAVE KPFA IS PART OF PACIFICA’S HISTORY, AND THAT HISTORY STILL MATTERS NOW. It is a history that is preserved in Mathew Lasar’s book about the Pacifica struggle, “Uneasy Listening,” and on websites and email lists.

In 1995 Pacifica moved ahead with its plans to transform itself into a professional media organization by purging hundreds of volunteer programmers from the Pacifica stations, some of whom had donated their time and work to build the network for decades before being tossed aside as Pacifica tried to become more respectable. In response to the mass purge of programmers, the leadership of Save KPFA started a new organization, Take Back KPFA! TBK! carried on the struggle to reform Pacifica and KPFA for the next few years as similar organizations sprang into being at the other Pacifica stations and a truly national movement evolved.

Take Back KPFA! has its own history and accomplishments, and the struggle to reform KPFA and Pacifica continued to be difficult. Just as Save KPFA from 1993 led to Take Back KPFA! in 1995, when events started to build in 1999 towards Pacifica’s corporate takeover and the KPFA lock-out, members of Take Back KPFA! helped form a new organization with its goal right in its name, the Coalition for a democratic Pacifica. The CdP was and has been a front line organization in bringing about the elections for the KPFA Local Advisory Board and pushing through the new reform bylaws for Pacifica that gave subscribers and staff members of the Pacifica Foundation the power to elect station boards with oversight powers.

This history is too important to be allowed to be forgotten or erased. It is a story of a long exhausting struggle for needed progressive reform in the face of every kind of underhandedness, mean spiritedness, hypocrisy and deceit. The long fight for elections within Pacifica was finally won, but the same internal struggle for control of the stations and what sort of stations they will be continues.

The difference is that now those conflicts are out in the open light of day, because elections necessarily lead to more openness.

And most unfortunately, there are still those in and around KPFA who hate that openness and want to keep the audience at arm’s length.

Clearly, not only is this history at risk of being erased, but the democratic reforms themselves are under attack. The same culture within the station that feared listener activism and opposed any accountability or oversight has continued to try to undermine the new democratic structures. The status quo faction works to protect the station’s patronage culture by using their power within the station to recruit and elect slates of candidates who work to keep the democratic structures from functioning as they were meant to.

For the last few years, the anti-reform slate has called itself the KPFA Concerned Listeners. Now, in order to confuse and to hide from its own record of voting to block accountability, it has taken the name Save KPFA.

We, members of the original Save KPFA’s steering committee, strongly object to the use of our name. We have not endorsed this election slate, nor were we asked. We believe that the use of our name dilutes its historic meaning and is likely to confuse some voters, who may believe this slate stands for the same things we did.

We, members of the original Save KPFA’s steering committee, strongly object to the use of our name by the anti-reform slate that had previously called itself the KPFA Concerned Listeners.

We demand that this election slate stop using our name, or at least take steps to let any voters they have contacted know that it is separate group and not endorsed by us. We ask Pacifica also to take reasonable steps to make clear to subscribers that this election slate is a separate entity and not related to us or our positions and certainly not endorsed by us.

Author and journalist Jeffrey Blankfort – jblankfort@earthlink.net – distributed this story with the following note: “For those of you who have a deep and abiding interest in community, listener-sponsored radio and its inherent problems, I strongly recommend this article/letter, ‘Stealing Save KPFA,’ written by Curt Gray, one of the original members of Save KPFA, who has put together a remarkable history of the struggle that began 17 years ago to preserve the country’s first-listener sponsored station, a struggle that is still ongoing.”

BeyondChron misrepresents ‘Save KPFA’ slate on 2010 ballot with 1999 Save KPFA photo

Letter to the Editor by Sasha Futran

Dear BeyondChron Editors Randy Shaw and Paul Hogarth,

This is the photo initially used by BeyondChron to illustrate their story. It has since been replaced by a photo of the KPFA building entrance.

I’m truly disgusted with both of you, almost beyond words. The visual you chose for your article, “KPFA Election Will Decide Progressive Network’s Future,” published Sept. 13, has no connection to the slate you are endorsing and which is now confusing voters by running under another group’s name. Your use of a 1999 photo of that different group is beyond disingenuous.

Not only was the slate you continue to promote not members of Save KPFA in 1999, they stand for the exact opposite of what we wanted for the station. (I was a member of the steering committee of the original Save KPFA.) A slate’s sudden change to use of another group’s name in the current KPFA board election is misleading to voters. You and they aren’t stupid so I would guess you all know that.

Not only was the photo you chose a misrepresentation, your article was also filled with misinformation.

Several of us currently on the board and still involved with KPFA were organizing activists in 1999 as well and a part of the original group. That includes one of candidates running with the Independents for Community Radio, another slate and one with which I am affiliated.

Tracy Rosenberg kept the tent city that slept outside the station organized in the 1999 era of demonstrations. Those demonstrations led to a democratic change at the station and ended management’s lockout of KPFA’s staff.

Do not state or insinuate that either Ms. Rosenberg or the rest of us are against the paid staff. Do not malign us with your misrepresentations that are beyond all but right-wing media tactics. Do not attempt to further baffle voters.

Let’s look at your first paragraph and description of your favorite slate: “On one side is the Save KPFA slate of candidates, who believe the station should be the voice of the entire progressive community, and must expand listenership to help broaden the progressive base.”

Are you sure they can do that with a slate of primarily white males over the age of 60 on a slate put together by a group of Democratic Party activists? Many of their group – both presently on the board and currently running for the board – are also related or work together. I’d be interested in hearing how you think they are representative of the diverse Bay Area and can speak for people not only of their generation, ethnicity or political affinity, but also not members of their family and office staff as well.

Let’s move on to what you insinuate we, Independents for Community Radio, want to do – without checking with us; another mistake that an honest journalist wouldn’t make – “A victory by the Independents will likely usher in massive downsizing at KPFA, eliminating popular programming and replacing the current paid, unionized on-air staff with all volunteers.”

First, let’s remember that I already pointed out that we were the ones involved with ending the lockout of paid staff in 1999. Now on to the present. The group you are so fond of held the board majority for three of the not quite four years I have been on the board. As such, they passed station budgets that had known spending deficits each year in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

They ran through KPFA’s entire cash reserve of a million dollars as a result. They were told by Pacifica to cut spending and instead added paid positions and moved staff around in a way that benefitted people on our board and members of their group or supported them within the station. They ended up with new or better jobs at KPFA. KPFA ended up with more, not fewer, expenditures.

When they were the majority on the board, Concerned Listeners – now calling themselves Save KPFA – ran through KPFA’s entire cash reserve of a million dollars.

Today we are dealing with that legacy. This week the station borrowed money from another Pacifica station to meet the payroll. Will there need to be a different budget or can we continue spending at the same rate? The answer should not be beyond your comprehension. Before I forget, I guess that little detail about borrowing money also does away with your favorite slate’s claim that KPFA is supporting other Pacifica stations.

Will the now unavoidable budget cuts have an effect on paid staff? Of course, since salaries and benefits are the single largest budget item by far. Will that happen if your favorite slate is in the majority? Of course, since salaries and benefits are the single largest budget item by far. Who brought us to this point? Of course, your favorite slate.

We can’t afford this public political board election bickering. Think fox and hen house. We need to move beyond thinking those who have almost killed the station will keep it alive in the future. Every effort will be made to keep as much paid staff as possible by Independents for Community Radio and to remove the foxes.

Your willful disregard for how KPFA got to its present precarious state does not belong in journalism even if it is only on a blog site and pseudo-journalism. It is beyond the pale.

Sasha Futran is a member of the KPFA Local Station Board and Independents for Community Radio. She can be reached at kpfasasha@yahoo.com.


[3]  If memory serves your author, Dr. Frederic S. Lee, a former professor at your author’s alma mater, the University of Missouri-Kansas City, actually coined the term heterodox economics to emphasise the heretical nature of challenging the underlying assumptions of neoclassical economics.

My colleague and personal friend wrote a memorial for our beloved Dr. Fred Lee, In memoriam: Frederic S. Lee (1949-2014), el adiós a un “economista blasfemo”[*].  The title translates from the Spanish to In memoriam: Frederic S. Lee (1949-2014), farewell to a blasphemous economist.  (I’ll have to translate my friend’s poignant and informative memorial for Dr. Lee from the Spanish into the English, for our Spanish language learners.)


[Image of The Atlantic magazine cover by Source used via Fair use.]

[12 SEP 2016]

[Last modified  23:18 PDT  14 SEP 2016]