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Re: Carol Spooner and the free Pacifica movement- a little perspective

[ Carol Spooner (of the KPFA area)is currently the secretary of the interim Pacifica national board and chair of the bylaws revision committee. ]


From: Gregory Wonderwheel
Subject: Thank you Carol Spooner and a Question AboutSEXISM

[Not for the faint of eye, this is 2000 words]

As Carol's husband I can say without prejudice that Patty's and Steffie's comments are so true. Its not only heartbreaking that people accuse her of the stupidest things its demoralizing that she is attacked while defending the very things she is accused of being against.

This struggle has been an amazing journey for both Carol and I from the point of view of witnessing human dynamics. At the beginning we were facing the total disbelief from staff that listeners could or should have anything to say about Pacifica except to support staff. Any critical word about how staff treated listeners was seen as divisive. This, while we were arguing that only the listeners could save the staff from the Pacifica management and Board. People don't understand that the staff culture was (is) one in which the most contact they get is from the two extremes of the types of listeners: 1) sycophant fans to whom the staff person can do no wrong, and 2) the "idiot fringe" to whom the broadcaster feels he/she can never please and since they're idiots there is no need to pay attention to them.

When the poop hit the fan in early 1999, Carol and I were discussing how the listeners could get standing to bring a lawsuit. This was necessary because, as important as the Adelson et al. LAB lawsuit was, it did not have a remedy for the listeners. That lawsuit was aimed for the purpose of saving the LAB's role in selecting directors, and the LABs had really been asleep at the wheel in Sept. 1997 when the first bylaws changes were made taking away their rights.

It was clear that the only way to avoid merely returning to the status quo ante, where the LABs could "nominate" directors but the Board would elect them, it was necessary to provide a new direction of force. Certainly the so-called dissident directors were doing nothing and had in fact allowed themselves to be bamboozled at every turn.

While Pacifica had pioneered alternative community radio, it had in fact remained stuck in the elitist mold in which it had been born while virtually every other community radio or "public radio" station that had followed in Pacifica's footsteps had adopted the usual nonprofit corporate structure with memberships. This showed the way: The clear remedy was that the Pacifica corporation must become a membership organization and the listener sponsors the members.

But even more than this, the LAB lawsuit wasn't asking to remove the Board, only to restore the LAB rights. If listeners were to get membership and if the Board was to be held accountable for their bylaws changes and attack on the stations, the remedy must include removing the Board, thus the Committee to Remove the Pacifica Board was born as Carol's brain child.

So the question was who could push this remedy forward? Certainly the directors who were claiming to be sympathetic to the complaints about the bylaws changes weren't going to adopt anything so radical as listener membership, and they weren't taking responsibility and asking to remove the other board members because after all they had voted for the same amendments. It would still be many months before they got it together even to initiate their own lawsuit. The LAB lawsuit was already in place and it wasn't going to be amended on the basis of a handful of unknown listeners asking for this remedy.

Carol dug into the question and reviewed the Corporation Code with a fine tooth comb. She found that even though the LABs had a very clear argument to be considered members on the basis of having at one time voted for directors, the mere donation of funds didn't provide listeners with membership or even standing to sue. But the Attorney General had statutory standing and could in appropriate cases appoint an interested person to be the "relator" to carry the lawsuit forward. So how could we convince the AG to initiate a lawsuit and appoint listeners to carry it forward? Carol sought out listeners from all the station areas to be the representative plaintiffs and then designed the plan to gather declarations of support for the lawsuit from listener sponsors that we could present to the AG to convince him that the issues had broad support and the lawsuit was politically viable.

This is a significant point in the light of the arguments made by some people today that the voting rights of membership should be given out to anyone without having to donate time or money. A nonprofit corporation is a charitable trust, and it is on this basis of holding charitably given money in trust that the AG has statutory standing to police charitable trusts in court actions. If we could get declarations from people who stated that they had actually donated to the stations as listener sponsors and that those donors felt the then current board was abusing their duty and should be removed, then the AG would be protecting the donors who gave to the charitable trust. I hope this point isn't lost in the discussion.

We didn't know if the plan would work or not. That is, whether the AG would buy it or even if we could get listeners to sign the declarations. After all, many people are put off by signing something "under penalty of perjury." I remember going to the first save KPFA event in the park in Oakland in 1999 with my clipboard and getting the first declarations signed. I'm not shy, but I didn't know what to expect. After all I wasn't a "known" personality, I wasn't up on the stage with official staff recognition. I was this bearded guy with a clipboard asking people to sign a declaration. But the listeners responded fantastically. Nearly every one understood the concept that a listener sponsor should be listened to when he or she declared that the board needed to be removed, because after all money had been donated and the board wasn't honoring the trust that was given with the donation. And everyone easily understood that creating listener membership was the logical remedy. I just had to be clear with people that they couldn't sign the declarations unless they were actually donors.

When I got home and reported to Carol how easy it was to get signatures we knew that we had a winner. We also were just becoming internet savvy and I created a very simple web site without any bells or whistles to be able to put up the declarations so that people could down load them. From that point the snow ball began building. At no time did Carol waver or take her eyes off the prize of removing the board and getting listener membership. Eventually, we got over 3,000 declarations that filled six three-inch binders and were presented to the AG along with the petition to be appointed relator status.

While the application for relator status was sitting at the AG's office, the legislative report came out at a crucial time. This was a perfect example of how the struggle was carried forward without a central command but with many different important factors coming together. While we had presented a viable legal vehicle for the AG to approve for taking action, and while we had presented thousands of declarations showing significant public support, the legislative hearings provided an invaluable factual report that confirmed that what we were alleging was not just hyperbole.

Once the AG approved relator status for the listener lawsuit a new dimension to the struggle was possible. Not only were there a different set of teeth brought into play, there two new goals put on the table: remove the board and establish listener membership. The character of these goals was such that they were inexorable.

When the settlement talks finally began in earnest after a false start, Carol had not only to deal with the other side, she had to deal with "our side" which was definitely not uniformly committed to listener membership. She prevailed with help and succeeded in getting listener membership put into the settlement agreement. All the while and outside the negotiations, there were detractors claiming she had sold out listener democracy because she was participating in "secret" settlement negotiations. This is the "lunatic fringe" that programmers and producers are so familiar with. But Carol never gave up on the listener cause or never took these people to be truly representative of the listeners.

Now, these same type of detractors again attack Carol with their lame and false criticisms. It is very emotionally burdensome. While Carol is having to organize, cajole, beg, persuade, and fight with the directors who are supposedly on "our side" for every scrap of listener democracy, the critics accuse her of being anti-democratic. Isn't it interesting that the one person who is and has been steadfast in supporting listener membership and democracy is the one who is criticized by these detractors as being anti-democratic? That alone should be enough to inform people what kind of character these detractors have.

Anyone who has followed the iPNB meetings knows how strangely dysfunctional the iPNB is. Can you imagine what it is like trying to get a board to consider bylaws when many of them won't do their homework and even read the darn proposals? Listening to the iPNB bylaws meetings has been painful enough for me; they are doubly and triply painful and frustrating for Carol to participate in. (I'm not speaking for her, I'm speaking what I have observed.)

The various LABs had a full year to get it together and talk to each other about their part of the bylaws process and could not put to gether a common proposal. At every turn Carol has advocated for as much local control and autonomy as possible and even the LABs have not gotten themselves organized to back her up in any coherent fashion.

Carol has watched while some listeners, who think of themselves as advocates for democracy, became their own cause's worst enemies by their virulent personal attacks on iPNB members and others. These attacks have only caused those board members sitting on the fence to retreat into the vision of listeners as the "idiot fringe" and be very afraid of listener membership. With friends like these who needs anti-democratic opponents? This has been one of the most intensely painful parts of this struggle.

Carol will be the first to admit that to the extent that the struggle has been so far successful it is because of the many people engaging in the fight from many different angles. Whether it was the additional lawsuits by the minority dissident directors, the Pacifica Campaign, the massive street demonstrations, the people who were able to get California legislative hearings held in Berkeley [oh those Berkeley-ites who just want to move the office for their own nefarious purposes], Amy Goodman's surreptitious national lecture appearances at community radio stations, etc. etc. (with many people left out of mention), each and all were vital, if not individually essential, to the struggle. However, not only has Carol has been the "lead relator" in the listener's lawsuit, she has been the leader in advocating for listener empowerment.

I don't think the attacks on Carol are due to her being a "white" woman. While she is definitely made a more easy target by being a woman and doesn't have the guilt-laden protection from attack that she might otherwise have if she were a person of non European ancestry, I'm more inclined to think the nature of the attacks on her are due to her being the channel for so many aspirations. When people project their hopes onto someone and then the person doesn't carry out the projection in the expected fashion, there is often a reaction that is stronger against the bearer of the projection than against the common opponent. This is a variant of the group dynamic pattern that is commonly known at the left eating itself. The "right" is much more pragmatic and willing to forgo certain differences when it comes to common cause than the idealistic left is able to be.

It is an interesting phenomenon that the vocal detractors aiming at Carol who dare to call her anti-democratic are amazingly silent about the iPNB directors who are actively fighting against local autonomy and other democratic issues.

The other important factor is that she is putting herself out there for everyone to contact and respond to, and this makes her a lightening rod of sorts. Isn't it interesting that the directors who have not participated in the internet discussions have not been criticized much at all in the internet discussions? Sort of makes you think that there is some protection in being silent and aloof from these lists.

If (you've read to the bottom of this and) you don't usually contribute to these lists, I'd like to invite you to send Carol your thoughts of support. Even considering their sources, the attacks on her alleging that she is anti-democratic and racist have been painful. Any kind words to her would be helpful and healing.

Gregory Wonderwheel


In PacificaNationalBylaws@yahoogroups.com, Patty wrote:

Let us not forgetthat without the Listeners' lawsuit and Carol Spooner's insight and determination we more than likely would not have a pacifica network. that is a probable assumption. Sure the rest of the stuff helped push it along, but where's the tofu? in the atty general's pocket.

the fact that the lawsuit called for elections and membership has put a wrench in the machinery of those that would like to control it from the inside, and we have seen plenty of that. i think this is a major element in the attacks on carol. in nyc they refused to fundraise for the lawsuits, instead raising money for the pockets of the fired and banned. Follow the money.......

Carol Spooner nearly singlehandedly gave participation and protection of the network to the listeners and that is something that many do not like. it means that slowly it will shift and they will not be able to manipulate so easily. This is the culture change that must happen so things will open up and the network can heal. Whose station?

those that are losing power recognized this right away and then a campaign of sexism, anti-berkeley and plain lying has become the order of the day.

Carol has been accessible, responsive, right, wrong and admitted it, vulnerable, smart, dedicated and right on.

sothanks Carol.

we have your back.




Heidi wrote:

Steffie -

Bless you for stating what should be obvious to everyone involved Pacifica's affairs from 1999 to the present day. It's insane to me, that it has to be stated at all - her record speaks for itself as do her actions.

Yet it is these very things that have been so twisted and distorted in deliberate attempts to misrepresent and mischaracterize actions, stated intentions, vision and goals in the rebuilding of Pacifica.

Though, I'm not certain what the pathology is about in this case, (I'm not yet convinced that it's simply about sexism) it is none the less alarming that this community has allowed the continued promulgation of these unwarranted and baseless attacks to continue by a few of this community's "leadership".

I listened to most of yesterday's meeting - and consistent with her record - Carol fought harder than anyone else in keeping with democratic principles for Pacifica's bylaws. (listened on a dial up connection which was interrupted a number of times and I apparently missed some discussions)

Why it must be stated is beyond comprehension, but again thank you Steffie...



At 01:06 PM 2/19/2003 +0000, Steffie Brooks wrote:

I have just listened to the first two hours of the 2/18 iPNB telephone meeting (available at kpftx.org thanks to Houston) and what is clear to me is that Carol has sheparded this nasty, fractious, disorganized bylaws process to a coherent draft that the iPNB and the LABs will be able to vote on at the upcoming iPNB meeting in L.A. Carol pushed harder than anyone else to ensure that the maximum legally defensible language was included to ensure diversity in Pacifica's functioning.

It is heartbreaking to me that Carol has been accused of opposing diversity requirements and of attempting to erode listener control of the Pacifica Foundation when EVERYTHING she has done, from beginning to end, has been in support both of maximum democracy and of maximum involvement of oppressed groups in Pacifica's democracy. It was CAROL who proposed a devolution of the PNB's powers to a 90-member committee of local directors: that was REJECTED. In other words, Carol is an ultimate democrat -- not just for whites, or women, or any stratum of American society, but a radical democrat for everyone.

I want to raise a critical question here. I have observed that white women, like Carol, are often the scapegoats around Pacifica. It is as if (within Pacifica's weird insular culture) it is not permissible to attack women of color or men of color, and white men are oddly invulnerable, so it becomes the WHITE WOMEN who become the scapegoats for all the resentments about racism. White men are rhetorically the enemy but it is white women who take the punishment. Any comments on that?

I think Carol has been dissed much worse than any white man in the Pacifica Foundation I can think of. Partly, it may be because she has graciously and heroically made herself accessible throughout all the listservs, thus playing an incomparable LEADERSHIP role. But she has taken more shit than Dan Coughlin or any other man I can think of.

Is this SEXISM? I think so!!!

Steffie Brooks
WBAI listening area

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