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Take Marc Cooper off the air

by Diana Barahona (repost) Monday, Feb. 18, 2002 at 7:52 PM

An open letter to Steven Starr

errorDiana Barahona (repost)
Take Marc Cooper off the air
Sun Feb 17 11:40:25 2002

February 17, 2002
Dear Mr. Starr,

Marc Cooper has a long history of support for Pacifica's Five Year Plan which was based on the model devised and promoted by David Giovanonni, who did consulting for Pacifica in the early nineties. Former general manager Mark Schubb was hired precisely because he promised to implement this plan at KPFK, which he did very effectively over the years. The scores of programs and individuals who were purged from the air bear witness to the method by which this plan was carried out. Cooper played a central role in justifying the purges with the argument that programs that were canceled were bad programs, and that the individuals purged for breaking the gag rule-which extended to activities unrelated to KPFK, such as Robin Urevich being fired for writing a newspaper article-had abused their air time by "airing dirty laundry."

Cooper's definition of dirty laundry extended even to the attempted sale of Pacifica stations WBAI and KPFA. Here is what he said in The Nation Magazine (Sept. 10, 2001) about the attempt by Dennis Bernstein and other staff members to alert the KPFA audience to the proposed sale of their station, as outlined in the Michael Palmer memo:

"More than two years ago, when trouble was first brewing at KPFA, I wrote in The Nation magazine that the entirety of the Pacifica network was at risk. I stated at the time that the crisis had been precipitated by Pacifica management's clumsy and unexplained dismissal of KPFA's manager, Nicole Sawaya. I also called for the resignation of the Executive Director and the reinstatement of Sawaya and accused the National Board and then Chairwoman Mary Francis Berry of gross negligence.

But I also strongly criticized the KPFA staff for abusing their on-air privileges. I wrote that it was a mistake to take to the air to agitate and air internal grievances. One hundred days later, I was proven correct when the station descended into chaos."

There is a difference between holding a valid opinion on an issue and being wrong. The July 12 Michael Palmer memo is an admitted, true document. It reveals the fact that the executive committee of the PNB was holding secret discussions in which there was "support in the proper quarters, and a definite majority" for selling one or two of the most valuable stations. If the listeners of KPFA had not learned about this plan in time, the executive committee might have succeeded, which would have dealt a mortal blow to Pacifica.

In addition, Cooper deliberately kept listeners in Los Angeles ignorant of this struggle to save KPFA. Dan Coughlin recently stated that he suspects that part KPFK's missing transmitter money went to the $500,000 that Pacifica spent to shut KPFA down. If this is true, then KPFK suffered direct financial harm from the shutdown. At the same time, because of Shubb's and Cooper's characterization of this struggle as "dirty laundry" and therefore subject to censorship, listeners were deprived of the opportunity to join the nascent struggle to rescue the network from directors who were bent on privatizing it for their personal profit.

Two and a half years later, this struggle has cost the network millions of dollars squandered by the directors in their quest to cling to power.

What did Cooper do to aid in the fight to save Pacifica? According to the same piece in The Nation, he wrote a private e-mail to former Program Director, Steve Yasko on August 31 "demanding that he resign" and repeated his "long-standing position that his boss, Bessie Wash, has no business running a radio network." Aside from regularly attacking individuals and groups who were working very hard to unseat the national board, this "private e-mail" policy of constructive engagement was Coopers only contribution.

Cooper's decision to keep silent during his many hours of prime air time reflects his contempt for the KPFK audience, and audience he has lately tried to manipulate through on-air diatribes and his anonymous web site, Friends of KPFK, into opposing the reforms of the interim PNB which met formally for the first time on December 29, 2001.

During the Fall fund drive which began on Oct. 31, 2001, Cooper failed to alert the KPFK audience to the fact that all subscriptions were being sent directly to Washington D.C., and that the executive director was not paying operating costs at either KPFK or KPFA and in fact had failed to provide any accounting whatsoever of how funds were spent-either to the KPFK station manager or to the members of the national board.

Cooper himself had written a letter to Washington before the fund drive demanding an accounting for KPFK's money. This accounting never materialized until after the board was unseated and a review was performed which is just now being posted on the Pacifica web site. In spite of the fact that he knew that listeners' money was going into the black hole of the D.C. offices, Cooper had no compunctions about pitching enthusiastically and bragged that the station had set a new record for the fund drive.

Cooper went on record in the Los Angeles Business Journal in January, 2002, with a threat to refuse to do fundraising, saying: "If anybody thinks we're going on the air three weeks from now...to ask this audience to give more money...then they are living in a different world than I am." He should be taken off the air just for making this public threat.

After the interim Pacifica National Board ordered the gag rule lifted, Marc Cooper took advantage of this to criticize the interim Pacifica National Board and the KPFK LAB on the air, as well as making personal attacks against Juan Gonzalez, Noam Chomsky, Leslie Cagan, David Fertig, and Ron Wilkins, among others.

When the gag rule that he so zealously defended was in place, he only broke it to attack Los Angeles Free Pacifica activists. Cooper never once used his air time to criticize the former national directors who were destroying the network.

To continue to allow Cooper to air his personal grievances against the iPNB, the KPFK LAB, the producers of Democracy Now!, and KPFK programmers on air will not only hamper the station's fundraising efforts but will cause KPFK to lose audience and prolong the existing divisiveness within the station. This is not a political purge or political censorship. He is not being taken off the air for his support for the U.S. war against Afghanistan or for ridiculing the peace movement. That would be political censorship.

Putting the financial survival of KPFK in jeopardy, which is in fact what he is doing, is a misuse of the airwaves which is in no way protected by the Pacifica Statement of Purpose. The fact that Cooper has all of the best time slots makes management's continued tolerance of his abuse of the airwaves all the more irresponsible.

I therefore urge you to immediately take Marc Cooper off the air and conduct an evaluation of his performance.


Diana Barahona
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Will Marc Beat You to the Punch? carolina Monday, Feb. 18, 2002 at 9:42 PM
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