The state of WBAI (dire)

Doug Henwood hosts Behind the News, a left economics show on Pacificia affiliate WBAI in New York. He just sent an open letter to the chair of the WBAI board about the station’s disintegrating situation. He’s been there over 20 years.

Whatever you’ve heard about the decline of Pacifica lately, well, it’s getting much worse. The financial situation at WBAI is dire indeed. Yet the board and many others continue to fight insane battles against each other rather than actually do anything to fix their multiple problems.

Then there’s the premiums they offer to subscribers.

A few words about those premiums. During the last few drives, WBAI has offered a variety of rather embarrassing videos and publications. We’ve now moved well beyond the familiar 9/11 conspiracies. Now we also have miracle cures (which, it wouldn’t surprise me, could put us at legal risk for offering, since they make claims about curing disease that, to put it gently, would be very difficult to prove), stories about chemtrails (the theory that the government, for some mysterious reason, is poisoning us by spraying chemicals from the sky), and most recently, a series of videos explaining how the Illuminati are about 90% of the way to taking everything over (it’s only a matter of time until they plant microchips in our heads and solidify a regime of total control). (Tastes of that stuff here and here.) I’m told, though I haven’t heard this stuff myself, that we’re also hawking the work of Kevin Trudeau, who’s been convicted of credit card fraud and has been fined for making false and misleading claims – and who’s been frequently sued by disgruntled customers. Of professional interest to me are stories about financiers and the Federal Reserve which have no basis in historical fact – and I say this as someone who knows more about Wall Street and central banks than anyone involved with Pacifica. Many of these narratives have deep roots in far-right politics – the Wall Street/Federal Reserve stuff has long been associated with crypto-fascist organizations like Willis Carto’s Liberty Lobby (e.g. the works of Eustace Mullins). Trudeau is a big fan of Matt Drudge and the odious Michael Savage.

None of this stuff can be taken seriously by anyone with an ongoing relationship with Planet Earth. For that reason alone, it’s a disgrace that we give it such prominence. The health claims expose us to prosecution and litigation – a legal risk we can’t possibly afford. But, that aside, airing this sort of stuff drives away sane and solvent listeners. Given the recent drop in our fulfillment rate, it seems reasonable to surmise that people who pledge on this stuff are more likely than most not to come through. So this strategy fails even on purely monetary grounds. But by driving away the audience, we’re undermining the station’s future. Do we really want to be known as the nonprofit telemarketing arm for lunatics and convicted criminals?

The fulfillment rate is the percentage of pledgers who actually send in money. The WBAI fullfillment rate is dropping like a rock. This should come as no surprise considering much of the audience is now arguably detached from reality.

So, if Pacifica goes down and the stations have to be sold, that would be several hundred million dollars.

Who would get that money and who would control it?

Just wondering”¦

I volunteered with Los Angeles Pacifica affiliate KPFK some years back. Their internal politics were gibbering lunacy then, and it’s clearly gotten much worse.

Pacifica may launch Inquisition against Truther non-believers

Doug Henwood (who has an excellent radio show about economics from a left perspective on Pacifica affliates WBAI and KPFA) reports that Pacifica may seriously go off the deep end. A witch hunt proposal against Pacifica programmers who don’t believe the extremist 9/11 truther saga of epic conspiracy passed at KPFK in 2008 and may become national Pacifica policy. The rot and derangement now threatens the entire institution.

(Let me be clear. Some 9/11 stuff, like the Pentagon crash site story, doesn’t make sense. But hardcore Truthers then make a giant leap from that to George Bush and Shadowy Others were responsible. With what proof, please? KPKF has already been poisoned by vendettas by extremist Truthers against anyone who doesn’t believe as they do. This at a radio network founded on principles of free speech and open debate.)

This piece of idiocy is about to be voted on by the Pacifica National Board. It’s only going to make me intensify my on-air criticisms of 9/11 nuttery and conspiracism in general.

“No one expects the Pacifica Inquisition”

Pacifica National Board Motion on 911 Programming and Mission Compliance

Proposed 4-25-10 by Pacifica Foundation member Christopher Condon

Except during fund drives, key public affairs programming throughout the Pacifica Network has appeared to overwhelmingly accept the Official Story of 911, arguing from its assumptions, asserting the theory assigning culpability for these tragic attacks to Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaida without question.

The Official Story of 911 is found by many Pacifica Foundation members to be a propaganda fabrication designed to provide a pretext for the unleashing of aggressive war in Afghanistan and Iraq, while hiding the activity of a private, extra-legal, and anti-constitutional network of officials in the United States government, high ranking military officers, and individuals within private corporations and political institutions, who actively prepared, promoted, organized, assisted, fomented, and/or passively enabled the September 11 attacks and the cover-up that followed.

Pacifica Foundation members have made repeated and long standing accusations of censorship of 911 Truth issues by programmers who have advanced the official propaganda fabrication, and against staff, management, and governance who support them. This has created an atmosphere of corrosive distrust, profoundly harmful to working together in a democratic and collaborative environment. Thousands of former Pacifica Foundation members have left over this issue.

An identical motion was passed by the KPFK LSB on February 9, 2008. No action by management has been taken to implement this motion, and most public affairs programmers are in ongoing defiance of its provisions. The Pacifica National Board is requested to intervene in this impasse and establish policy in this critical area.

Cast out the infidels! Is burning at the stake optional?

1. This conflict is not in the interest of the Pacifica Foundation, programmers, staff, or governance. Management, staff, and programmers throughout the Pacifica network must explore ways of providing redress for these grievances of 911 Truth and allegations of censorship, and to initiate outreach strategies to reach those former listener/sponsors whom this conflict has alienated. This should include increasing support and air time for those programs which deal with this issue, and developing new programming for the specific purpose.

2. Programming which consistently and unquestioningly advances the “official story” of 911, by commission or omission, is not consistent with the Pacifica Mission and may be a breach of both the letter and spirit of the Mission.

3. The radio network of the Pacifica Foundation is an appropriate and important media for thorough examination of the 911 controversy. We must encourage good radio coverage by exploring comprehensively the many aspects of 911 with on-air voices expressing all sides (amendment by the late Don White).

Which is precisely what the Truthers don’t want, expressing all sides of the argument. They only want their view to be heard.

Respectfully Submitted,

Christopher Bayard Condon

The increasing derangement at Pacifica combined with the astounding inability of the left to organize on the current crisis of capitalism they say they’ve waited decades for, makes me wonder if many such groups haven’t been infiltrated and compromised. Like FBI did with CP-US in 50s. Rendered harmless / lunatic. Not that Pacifica needs much help being lunatic. Just a gentle nudge or two.

That such a piece of repressive nonsense is even being considered by national Pacifica and already passed at KPFK shows just how far a once-vital network has degenerated. Pacifica owns five radio stations in major markets. They could be a major voice for the left. But instead, they are collapsing into incoherence and purges.

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.

Pacifica jumps the shark

The precise moment when something iconic is headed to go downhill is called “jumping the shark,” from the Happy Days episode where Fonzie jumped over a shark on water skis.

Pacifica, who owns presumably left-wing and independent radio stations WBAI, KPFK, and KPFA, has gone screaming off the edge. Again. But one wonders if they can make it back this time.

From Iain Boal’s Counterpunch article

On September 17 the Governance Committee of the Pacifica National Board passed a resolution expressly designed to find out whether Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now! program is getting CIA funding through covert channels like the Ford Foundation for suppressing the “truth” about the 9/11 “over-up.”

Who knew Amy Goodman was in cahoots with the CIA (and no doubt Lemurians and Illuminati too) to prevent the truth – the truth I tell you, that these bastards are suppressing – about 9/11 from emerging. (Look, you may have doubts about 9/11. But I’m quite sure Amy Goodman isn’t plotting with the CIA…)

It gets worse.

Pacifica station WBAI in New York made tens of thousands of dollars on gifts promising protection from fungus-causing aerosols that the government is supposedly spraying on its population.

Did I mention the current chair of the Pacifica National Board was thrown out of the Church of Scientology but still claims to follow their teachings?

All of which might be ok, if Pacifica was being competently run. But it’s not. Instead, it’s losing money and listeners at an alarming rate, spiraling downwards into conspiracy theories and junk medicine, while holding near-constant pledge drives. This at a time when it could be providing genuinely important news and coverage of the financial crisis from a left-wing perspective.

It’s like all those itty-bitty Marxist parties that yowl about when the capitalist crisis comes, and surely it must, then they will catapult into prominence and lead the people to a socialist new world. Well, we have a capitalist crisis now and it’s a doozy. So naturally, the response of those Marxist parties has been to do as little as possible and pretend to be asleep. A devious strategy like that is sure to confuse the capitalists, isn’t it?

So, were they all just play-acting? Talking tough, but when the moment of truth arises, folding up? Back in the 50’s, as it turned out, most meetings of the Communist Party of the US had more FBI informants present than actual members. Maybe parts of the far left have all been riddled with informants. Or maybe they flat just don’t understand what’s going on any more, their theories have gone stale and they’re too stunned or wed to their dogmas to look for new explanations.

The right has lots of news sources, they do a good job of getting their views out. The left can and must do the same. But it first needs to stop shooting itself in the foot.

Marc Cooper on the ongoing disintegration of KPFK and Pacifica


First off, Cooper details (Pt. 1, Pt. 2) how listenership for KPFK has dropped off a cliff. It has the strongest signal in the western US and a potential reach of 20 million people yet its average listenership in any given quarter hour now has plunged to a pathetic 1,800, down from 7,000 in 2001.

So, what happened? Cooper says a misguided ‘Save Pacifica’ movement spearheaded by Saint Amy and others forced out the supposed corporate management and brought in their own. But it backfired. Badly.

[They] bought into the myth that they had to “save” Pacifica. They did so by hounding out of power an incompetent management and replacing it with a vastly more incompetent and ideologically strident and narrow management. Nice going.

Air-time was parted out to a potpourri of lefty screamers, screechers and ultra-loonies — just at a time when more than ever there was the need for an effective counter-media. The result has been catastrophic.

KPFK now has near-constant pledge drives and the programming too often is indeed unlistenable. Quack medicine. Conspiracy theories. Lefter-than-thou. And sometimes just boring.

Some history. Cooper had a show on KPFK and was fired in a very public purge there in 2002. I was on the other side of that fight then but based on my own experience with KPFK and what others have told me, he was and is quite accurate about why Pacifica is collapsing. The leftie loonies have taken over the asylum.

The [current] reform movement [at KPFK] is prisoner of that deadly disease known as “no enemies to the left.”

The levels of vitriol and viciousness that permeate Pacifica’s inner workings are immeasurable. And the political zealots and loonies in its orbit are willing to do anything, say anything and destroy anybody in order to get either a slice of air time, or a meaningless title on a meaningless governance board.

This isn’t sour grapes, what he says has been confirmed to me by others.

I am ABSOLUTELY convinced that Pacifica’s internal culture is little different, if it all, from the inner workings of say, the “birther” fringe. Different ideology. Same mierda.

Pacifica has had crises before. But never this bad. The real loss is that just as George Bush took power, Pacifica could have made a difference, getting genuinely progressive news and views out to the public at large. They could, and should have, grown mightily during that era. But instead they imploded, primarily due to lefter-than-thou factionalism and deranged infighting. What a lost opportunity.