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Editorial: The Western Is Over At KPFK

by Radio Free Willy Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2002 at 6:51 AM

It's time to stop the dramaturgy at KPFK, and work together to save this incredible community resource.

KPFK, as of late, starts to remind me of a bad old movie.

The fired General Manager of this station, a man named Mark Schubb, formerly of the Screen Actors Guild, refuses to walk off into the sunset. This is despite his gun being empty, and his horse being shot out from under him by his new bosses. While he is by all accounts a perfectly decent human being, if on occasion lacking a few people skills, it is regrettable that he continues to cause grief for himself and everyone concerned in what should be a healing time for KPFK and its parent Pacifica Foundation.

This show-biz scorched-earth tradition has caused a lot of history in Los Angeles. Many, perhaps too many, vast empires have come and gone in this manner, leaving only dusty pictures in celebrity-dish books, and a few oversize pink palaces in the hills, as reminders of the horrendous consequences of personal ego hubris and/or cynical capitulations to existential chaos.

How else can any thinking KPFK listener explain the awesomely paranoid waves of sheer spew emanating from the staff of this radio station, in a quantity vastly exceeding even the electrical pulsations of its broken transmitter? In a belated, and actually rather pathetic, attempt at siezing the moral high ground, the KPFK ruling circle has apparently chosen to set itself up as a "third faction," blaming all its problems on the fact that everyone else in the world sucks.

Grit and Determination?

To continue the bad-movie analogy, they have circled the wagons. Very little comes out of KPFK except sporadic rifle fire. "Trolls" post disruptive half-truths to a local Internet forum. On-air voices of doom intone grim condemnations of everyone else who ever worked for Pacifica, warning of the death of a great radio station and the waste of its listener-sponsors' money.

Within this little circle, the fiercely loyal, or at least fiercely scared, group of survivors of KPFK's five-year programming bloodbath keep the campfire burning. One can at least admire their true grit. They act as if they are rationing their food and ammo, and waiting for dawn to bring Act III and the final shootout with the enemy.

There's only one problem here. If you widen out the lens a bit, you will see that there is no enemy. KPFK's brave little circle is sitting, all alone, on an empty plain. The fight is all make believe. It's a fantasy. There's no there, there. The other actors and the crew wrapped and went back to the hotel hours ago. They're asleep. The shoot is over. It's off the clock. No golden time for you. They gave a war and nobody came.

Who's Running the Camp?

It's starting to look like Schubb's Last Stand may, in fact, have much to do with the continuous dramaturgy spun by Marc Cooper. He's a perfectly good journalist, evidently bearing some scars from his former experiences with Pacifica's awesomely self-destructive news department and its toxic politics. He appears to have attached himself to the right guy (Schubb) and wound up more or less running the show at KPFK. He's a very good writer, when he goes for it, and most of the on-air and Internet spew from KPFK is very well written, if a bit overwrought. It all drips, tellingly, with classic Cooperisms.

Now, I've made no secret that I like Marc Cooper. This makes it just the more disappointing that he won't do the right thing, and uncircle the wagons, and send the extras home with tomorrow's call sheets. Someone needs to straighten things out at KPFK. Cooper's the best candidate, but he has apparently chosen to go down fighting with Schubb, martyr to a dead elitist paradigm of listener-sponsored radio that nobody else left in the Pacifica organization wants.

Absent anyone who can wind down this phony war, things at KPFK could get pretty ugly. Cooper charges that a purge is in progress. If so, this is a self-fulfilling prophecy. There is no purge, unless people go over the edge, WBAI-style, and set themselves up for one. There is no war, unless people start one. There's nobody out there. We have met the enemy and he doesn't exist.

I get a certain cognitive dissonance reading the venom being directed at Pacifica's new bosses. I have talked (via e-mail) with many of them. I have no doubt that they are bright, honorable, committed, and dedicated to the idea of somehow straightening out the financial mess and starting a healing process, at least as well as anything ever heals in this wretchedly contentious organization.

While KPFK's dissidents have done a few things I'd have preferred they hadn't, and pushed personal agendas at times, they have never, never, EVER, abused the awesome privilege and responsibility that is an FM license in the United States of America. They have never run voice-of-doom carts every half hour. They have never sent out ominous e-mail describing Visigoths at the gate. That's more than I can say for Schubb, Cooper, and the mysterious "Friends of KPFK."

It's time for everyone to give it up and heal the station. The war is over. I respectfully request that Cooper, Schubb, or whoever is responsible for this ongoing dramaturgy at KPFK stop it, before there is no radio station. The western's over. The projectionist has long since shut down and locked up. It's time to stop the movie and start the hard work.

Let's shake hands and get started.


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Listed below are the 10 latest comments of 6 posted about this article.
These comments are anonymously submitted by the website visitors.
Shoot a horse? Leone Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2002 at 4:12 PM
Fuck Cooper Not-in-your-loop Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2002 at 5:05 PM
I like your ideas. Radio Free Willy Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2002 at 6:45 PM
Fuck Shubb in the face!!! Shubbfreekpfk Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2002 at 7:44 PM
KPFK Changes nick Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2002 at 10:44 PM
Nick, Free Willy Not-in-your-loop Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2002 at 7:17 PM

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