The Pacifica Follies continue. Board debates seating jailed elected member, and more

WBAI, the NYC station of Pacifica is profiled mockingly in the NY Times. Their board just had a contentious meeting debating whether to seat newly elected member Lynne Stewart. She’s currently in prison. Some said the board should seat her, then relay info about meetings to her and wait months for the reply. Actually, I doubt that could make them any more dysfunctional.

Those opposing such a dimbulb move were branded as fascists. (Of course.) But wait, it gets even more ludicrous.

[Board chair Mitchel] Cohen also embraces 9/11 conspiracy theory, or the moderate wing of that movement, anyway. He draws a line at those who believe that the planes that hit the World Trade Center towers were holograms. “The 9/11 stuff was our fastest seller during the pledge drives,” he noted.

This while WBAI and Pacifica are deeply in debt and losing listeners at a startling and escalating rate.

Really folks, what is it with the far left now? Howling at the moon over lunacies during a worldwide financial crisis, it seems resolutely determined to be irrelevant.


  • Mitchel Cohen


    Just for the record, the 9/11 link came up obliquely. I mentioned that the 120 Wall St. location is owned by Silverstein, the same landlord who owned the World Trade Center lease. I found it strangely amusing that WBAI made tons of money from the Conspiracy DVDs, but that if they took seriously what they themselves were playing on the air they might ask the same questions about 120 Wall Street that they promote concerning WTC #7. [That is, where are the explosive devices planted. I’m not saying that they ARE. I’m saying that WBAI producers don’t take seriously the very arguments they’re making on the air, or they’d be acting differently.]

    I think, however, that the reporter didn’t quite grasp my point.

    Still, I read the Times article this morning in a coffeeshop in Brooklyn with a group of activist friends and we couldn’t stop laughing hysterically.

    I think the reporter accurately portrayed the WBAI Local Board meetings, and there were also a lot of good paragraphs about what radio COULD BE (George Carlin, Allen Ginsberg, Abbie Hoffman reference, Margo Adler, Seymour Hersh, Amy Goodman, Robert Knight) that in my opinion really drove home the absurdity of some of these battles. Sadly, Lynne Stewart is ruining her own case by playing the factional game at WBAI. Mimi Rosenberg stands exposed as the fool that she is and I think that the reporter had Mimi Rosenberg pegged accurately.

    Please note that the reason the Local Station Board meetings are so filled with vitriol is because the new management the Independent members of the Board support managed to push all that rancor off the air; people at the station seem to be much more congenial lately and, well, happier now than they were a year ago, before we changed the management and set different standards. As a result, those folks can no longer vent on the air and use the LSB meetings to do so.

    We’ve also managed to salvage the station, pay off its back rent to the landlord as well as on the antenna, and are trying to expand and deepen programming.

    If anyone would like to get in touch with me directly, I’m at mitchelcohen(at)


    Mitchel Cohen
    Chair, WBAI Local Station Board

    • Thanks for the reply. You sound remarkably sane in spite of it all. Good luck. Sounds like things might be turning around. I sure hope so. (I’m a veteran of Green Party County Council meetings in LA, and some KPFK stuff as well, both of which were immensely dysfunctional.)

  • Robert Goldberg

    The situation at WBAI and its Local Station Board (LSB) are a reflection of the many unresolved problems of class and identity in US society. The politics at the FM station have congealed into two factions, with different aims, vying for control by different methods and means: Justice & Unity (JUC) and the Independents.

    JUC had control of the station’s Management, cash resources, and LSB for a number of years. It left the station, from when they started: with a third fewer paid up members, over a million dollars of debt and a staff reduced by half. JUC members’ methods include intimidation, disruption and violence. Their handling of station resources was for other purposes than the noble Pacifica Mission of peace and justice. Their reality does not correspond with their rhetoric. Their role when they were the majority on the LSB was to pass annual deficit budgets (to give their friends more to spend) to provide no oversight of the station and to prevent others on the Board from raising any issues. The station’s programming reached out to a narrow segment in the NYC Metro Area and producers who were independent of the JUC agenda were removed.

    The Independents are truly independent, long-time progressive activists and ideologues, who rarely agree with each other and constantly debate among themselves. (This brings guffaws from JUC members, who have ALWAYS acted in concert.) The Independents want to see a progressive WBAI, inclusive of all individuals and groups, that works for peace and justice. I number most of themamong the most fair and intelligent progressive I have known.

    The situation is, of course, more complex, but space does not allow for a more complete picture. The situation is tragic for its fracturing of the Left and squandering of the precious few resources it controls.

  • Ken Laufer

    The NY Times article and the first comment above both refer to Mr. Cohen as embracing 9-11 conspiracy theory. But, as opposed to …what? It is important to point out, that the official view of what happened on that day is ALSO a conspiracy theory!

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