Is Marc Cooper a Very Nasty Man with Lots of Hats?
by Dennis Bernstein
An Open Letter To KPFK Staff And Listeners
I say Marc Cooper puts on three hats every time
he opens his mouth
about the "KPFA" problem. As host of Radio/Nation
Pacifica Radio, and of a daily talk show on KPFK,
he is unabashedly
protecting his chunk of the Pacifica/Nation pie.
Cooper has spent weeks
trying to vilify me and others for raising key
Pacifica's troubling actions. His self-serving
analysis first appeared
in The Nation and L. A. Times, and now he's back
at it in the L. A.
Weekly. In between the big hits, Cooper's been
busy on the internet,
bubbling up variations on the facts and shooting
poison e-mails to
strangers, informing them that Dennis Bernstein
is at the core of the
Pacifica problem, stirring it all up for his own
Cooper's most recent article in the L. A. Weekly,
as with his less
polished private attacks, is a fantasy based
largely on here-say from
interested parties. Cooper never attempted to
interview me about the
incident. The one eyewitness he did interview,
KPFA News man, Marc
Mericle, said "Cooper either got it totally
wrong, or he made it up all
together. It was a total distortion of what I
told him," said Mericle,
"and I went over it meticulously with him. "
Apparently, Cooper made it up long before he
jammed it into his L. A.
Weekly piece. Here's an example of what Cooper
wrote to one KPFA
listener who engaged him on the subject of
"Back on July 13 after Dennis Bernstein played a
tape full of lies
about Pacifica's intention to sell KPFA, he came
off the air and was
told he would be put on administrative leave. If
he felt aggrieved, all
he had to do was use the ample union machinery
available to him as a
KPFA staffer and lodge a grievance that would
have gone if necessary to
independent arbitration. But it was Bernstein who
ignored and broke the
union contract by instead literally running
through the bldg. claiming
he was going to be hurt. That was a lie.. , an
outrageous lie. He ran
into the newsroom, hid under a tape machine and
refused to come out.
After a few minutes his buddy the news anchor
took the evening news off
the air, gave Benrstein a mic and then Bernstein
began yelling over the
air that he was going to be hurt (!). Alarmed
listeners came to the
station, someone let them in and 50 people
thinking Bernstein was being
beaten occupied the bldg., It was after they
refused to leave that the
police were very properly called in (Pacifica has
an obligation under
its Federal license to maintain physical control
over its facility). As
the police took hours to arrest everyone,
Bernstein was on the second
floor and free to go. Instead he waited four
hours to be arrested after
he again refused to leave. So you tell me..
well.. actually don't tell
me because I have filtered you out of my email.
But think about it at
least and ask yourself if this whole thing might
not have gotten onto a
more productive track if Bernstein had used the
proper union channels
available instead of deciding that he owned the
air to screech out his
personal and alarmist view of things. Or do you
believe that the next
time an editor or type setter at the Nation feels
wronged b mgmt they
should break into the shop at night and scratch
their call for a demo
against the Nation into the white space around
Cooper launched a similar personal attack on
David Adelson, a local
board member in Los Angeles. Cooper is now
actively trying to discredit
Adelson with a petition to run him off the local
board in LA. Adelson
has played a key role in pushing the lawsuit
against Pacifica. Cooper
wrote to Adelson:
"David: Hearing what happened at today's LAB
[meeting], I want to
express the following to you: You have ZERO
credibility within the
walls of KPFK. The staff -- and I assure you it
was the entire staff,
not just management-- was APPALLED to learn of
your lawsuit. You are
looked on by those of us who do the real work in
the station as an
obstructionist parasite. No one can think of one
that either you or the LAB has made to the
station: no real
fundraising, no promotion, no nothing. Instead
you are an active
conspirator with the likes of the Pacifica
whose leading lights are such mislead people as
Vince Ivory. I find it
astounding that you should accept political
leadership and be led
around by the nose by someone as confused and
ill-motivated as Ivory.
Your actions cannot be interpreted by us as
anything but subversive to
the growth and flourishing of KPFK. The fact that
today you argued that
the "concerns" of Ivory and Company should not be
you and your handful of UNELECTED AND COMPLETLY
board members at the same time discount the
sentiment of the entire
KPFK staff reveals you as the enemy that you are.
The only redeeming
aspect of this affair is the comfort of knowing
that you and the LAB
are totally irrelevant to the station and the
people who work there.
It says volumes about what must be the gaping
holes in your life that
you derive some sort of recognition and/or
satisfaction from chairing
such a despicable, but ultimately laughable crew
of clowns. With this
note I sever all communications with you. If you
answer, your message
will be filtered out. I find contact with you
repulsive. MARC COOPER"
I am informed that Cooper and Manager KPFK Mark
Schubb make a
formidable pair when it comes to crushing staff
static. On Friday April
16 , Schubb pulled CounterSpin, the radio show of
Fairness and Accuracy
in Reporting. The show featured an interview with
the fired host of
Pacifica's Sunday Salon, Larry Bensky. On July
16, KPFK again pulled a
CounterSpin broadcast featuring interviews with
KPFA local board
member, J. Imani, and syndicated media critic,
Norman Solomon. Schubb
came on air on the 16th and spent the duration of
slot defending Pacifica. Schubb, a former member
of FAIR, has been such
an obedient censor of "All Things Pacifica," he
damn near landed the
job of daily censor over Amy Goodman and
Democracy Now. More on this
The following open letter was written before
reading the above
diatribes. I mean to share it with you for
clarification and to expand
the dialogue on the future of free speech radio.
This is not in the end
about Marc Cooper or Dennis Bernstein, but rather
about saving the only
remaining non-commercial free speech network in
the country. /DB
FROM: DENNIS BERNSTEIN, Producer/Host Flashpoints, KPFA'S Daily Investigative News Magazine
I'm writing this open letter because I believe that the future of Pacifica as an independent, listener-sponsored, non-commercial network is at stake. I'm also very concerned that KPFK's staff and listeners have not had the opportunity to hear the full story of what's happened at KPFA, but are instead being presented with falsehoods, distortions, and personal attacks -- not facts and truth -- concerning Pacifica's actions and the KPFA staff's response. So this is the first of a series of memos I'll be writing in an attempt to explain what is driving us in the bay-area to oppose current Pacifica leadership and to expand the current dialogue regarding Pacifica's future as a viable alternative radio network.
Some of you may be familiar with my work at
Pacifica, including many appearances around the network on Democracy Now, Counterspin, Making Contact, Marc Cooper's Pacifica/Nation show. You may have read my syndicated articles for Pacific News Service where I am an associate editor. Or you may have read one of my many features/investigative reports and political essays written over the years. They've appeared widely in the Nation Magazine, Boston Globe, Baltimore Sun, Newsday, Village Voice, The Progressive, Southern Exposure, VIBE, San Francisco Examiner, The New York Times, Dallas Morning Herald, Texas Observer, International Herald Tribune, and many others. At Pacifica I have produced a daily investigative newsmagazine for the last twelve years, first on WBAI and later on KPFA. I have risked my life on occasion to report for the network and have personally raised millions of dollars to keep it running. I have trained many young people, from the South Bronx to Berkeley, and brought them to Pacifica microphones to do their thing. In short, I have a deep abiding belief in concepts of non-commercial listener sponsorship of the airwaves, as well as using the airwaves to speak truth to power.
For the first twelve years I produced a daily
program on WBAI and KPFA,
I never once mentioned internal Pacifica matters
on the air, though I knew there were serious questions being raised about the motives and direction of national leadership, its handling of our very valuable archives, and other key issues of concern to the future of non-commercial network. Until March 31, I bought into the idea that public silence was best and that working within channels was the way to resolve problems. But when our highly effective and very popularstation manager, Nicole Sawaya, was fired on that day, without so much as a word of explanation, I realized that my silence had been a huge mistake.
The realization that change and progress could
only come through openly and publicly discussing the situation at Pacifica was deepened by the events of this spring, and was again confirmed on the night of Tuesday, July 13th. That night Pacifica set a new standard for censorship when they pulled me off the air for playing a 15 minute clip of a public press conference and two related commentaries.
This press conference, attended by many mainstream journalists, was called by Media Alliance. The media group had obtained a copy of a highly damaging e-mail from Houston-based Pacifica board member Michael Palmer to Board chair Mary Frances Berry, discussing the possibility of selling KPFA and WBAI, its sister station in New York City.
The Palmer e-mail was revelatory and relevant to KPFA listeners -- indeed all Pacifica staff and supporters -- because it discussed the shutting down and reprogramming of KPFA, an action that was completed by Pacifica's hostile take-over team on July 14th. "I was under the impression," Palmer wrote in his authenticated e-mail, "that there was support in the proper quarters, and a definite majority, for shutting down that unit and re-programming immediately. Has that changed? Is there consensus among the national staff that anything other than that is acceptable/bearable?"
What does "shutting down and . . . reprogramming"
sound like to you, the staff of KPFK? (Please read the entire e-mail from Palmer to determine whether Palmer's just a loose cannon that Dr. Berry likes to have around to keep things lively, or whether he appears to be engaged in an ongoing dialogue about KPFA's future behind closed doors. ) What would you as a news and public affairs producer have done with this material, while the rest of the mainstream press was putting it on their covers and news leads? (For further documentation, I've enclosed a copy of the public statement by National Board member, Pete Bramson,regarding ongoing discussion of selling KPFA, even as Pacifica was claiming to be engaged in good faith negotiations with the KPFA community.)
I am troubled to learn that instead of a serious
and truthful discussion of these very disturbing facts, some have launched a personal attack on me for speaking out. Some Members of KPFK's staff have characterized me as a "drama queen" and an "obstreperous" troublemaker.
I understand that the staff is being "informed"
about events at KPFA by Mr. Mark Cooper, whose ideas Mary Frances Berry likes these days, and Mark Torres, a Pacifica archive employee set up to scab and intimidate KPFA staff into silence (along with Houston Manager Garland Ganter).
But Mark Torres was not an eyewitness to the events that took place on July 13th and was not near the newsroom where the confrontation took place. Is it true that Torres is a source for staff information on this? If so, is his source Garland Ganter, the man who arrested and locked out KPFA's staff and saw to it that programming was streamed in from Houston?
THE SET UP
To be clear, Torres was present at a 2:00 pm meeting that day attended by KPFA staff, Lynn Chadwick and Pacifica's new hire and fire man and asset appraiser, Gene Edwards. There, Torres and Ganter were presented as the ones who would take control of the station and reprogram it if there were any gag rule violations. For weeks the archives had been sending up tapes to fill our airwaves in preparation for the station takeover and on the 13th Torres arrived in person to jam them onto our airwaves until such times as the transmitter equipment, which had already been purchased by Pacifica, could be installed and programs could be streamed in from another location.
Torres witnessed a key interchange between Mr.
Ganter and I at that heavily attended staff meeting. During the meeting, I asked Mr. Ganter, as Mark Torres should recall, if I'd "be allowed to report on that which was widely covered in the mainstream press regarding Pacifica. "
Ganter answered with an unequivocal "yes," and everyone in that meeting heard it loud and clear. (You might recall that the day before, Dr. Berry was in the Bay Area talking to selected press about the issues the staff had been gagged on. ) In light of subsequent events, it is now clear that Garland Ganter had set me and the rest of the staff up -- right before Mark Torres' eyes!
As for what happened after that 2:00 meeting on
the 13th, we have the video tape of the two guards and Ganter in the news studio and eyewitnesses of Ganter himself shoving me and pursuing me into the news studio. As for turning up the mike and putting myself on the air, I was, in fact, four feet from the controls at all times. (And even if I'd been close enough, it would not have changed anything: I don't know how to use the mixing board. ) It's also a matter of record that the news engineer put up the mic at the request of news director Marc Mericle, and it was Mericle who was last heard narrating what is going on in the news studio.
But what's crucial is what happened before that
encounter. I was shown the door by Ganter for playing a fifteen minute clip of a public press conference that made headlines in all the mainstream media. Seven staff members -- including the two co-news directors with a combined 30 years of experience -- were also arrested on the 13th for trespassing in their own news room. Are they also "drama queens"? I urge staff at KPFK to join the call to throw open the books at Pacifica and let us once and for all get a look at how and where they have been spending listener money. As of the writing of this letter, the board has denied two of its own members -- L. A. -based Rabbi Kriegal and S. F. based Pete Bramson -- access to the books. If Pacifica is telling the truth and doing the right thing, what do they have to hide?
I would like to invite any representative of KPFK
staff, management or Pacifica to meet for an open discussion of the merits of Pacifica's actions over the last several years. This invitation includes any Pacifica rep now part of its expanding national bureaucracy. Or why not convene a teach-in or panel discussion with both sides equally represented, in all Pacifica cities?
Let's put an end to censorship at Pacifica and
start an open dialogue before we lose our precious network in the rush to the corporate bottom line.