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Nation magazine isn't what it used to be

From: Carol Spooner
Date: Wed Feb 20, 2002 2:26 pm
Subject: Fw: The Nation's disastrous complicity

----- Original Message -----
From: Gray Brechin Sent: Wednesday, February 20, 2002 11:11 AM
Subject: Re: The Nation's disastrous complicity

An Open Letter to Ms. van den Heuvel:

As the author of the introduction to a recently-published collection of writings by the former editor of "The Nation" entitled "Fool's Paradise: A Carey McWilliams Reader" and as a long-time subscriber to your magazine, I have been deeply disturbed by the magazine's equivocal (to put the best light on it) editorial position regarding the Pacifica crisis which has so deeply split what's left of the left over the past three years. That policy was, I believe, largely set by Marc Cooper who has, I hear, just been suspended from his position at KPFK and now seems determined to use every means at his disposal to further cripple or destroy the network. I want to explain to you why I believe that McWilliams -- not to mention founders F.L. Olmsted and Edwin Godkin -- would have been ashamed by the role which their magazine played in allowing the crisis to develop to the point that it did, now revealed by the criminal looting of Pacifica's assets as soon as the previous board understood that it was losing its grip on the network.

A year ago, I had the misfortune to have an email exchange with Marc Cooper after reading the kind of toxic bilge that he had sent to others. I felt splattered with the same myself, and was glad to call the correspondence quits. I felt an immense disconnect between Cooper's pious public and venomous private personnas.

My problem with Cooper goes back to the initial article that he wrote for "The Nation" in which he took his soon-familiar stance of "a pox on both their houses, but a lot more pox on the dissidents' house." In that article, he gave what appeared to be an eye-witness account of the lockout here at KPFA. Cooper, however, was not here. I was...I got inside the station after hearing Dennis Bernstein's on-air scuffle with security guards and was nearly arrested myself when Garland Ganter ordered the reluctant Berkeley police to start hauling "trespassers" (i.e., listeners) off to jail. When I confronted Cooper with his absence from the scene of the crime, he responded that he had gotten his account from "several credible eyewitnesses" whose names he would not reveal. Those sources could only have been the representatives whom Mary Frances Berry and Lynn Chadwick had installed inside the station and who were then in the process of locking it down: Ganter, Chadwick, Elan Fabbri, and the armed security guards strategically brought in weeks before (some of whom had worked for the FBI and CIA). What Cooper will not reveal is why he flakked for the Berry faction whose clear intent, as revealed in the Micheal Palmer memo aired that day by Bernstein, was to shut down the station, reprogram it, and sell either or both KPFA and WBAI for a very handsome profit.

Cooper also revealed to me in those emails his withering contempt for Dennis Bernstein, whose "daily 'journalistic' on air exercises," he wrote, "are the laughing stock of every real reporter in the Bay Area." How odd, I thought, that no reporters I know hold that opinion. Could it be that Bernstein is virtually the only on-air reporter in the Bay Area who gives the Palestinian point of view about what is happening in the occupied lands, and that he carries live reports from the war zone, for which he has received death threats and been called a self-hating Jew? Whether Cooper's motives were political or financial, they certainly included an element of personal vendetta which seems to constitute a generous component of his Iago-like makeup.

Cooper's account was like the music critic who reviews an opera that he has not attended and is caught when the diva suddenly cancels her appearance. I am convinced that McWilliams would not have tolerated such journalistic duplicity. I joined many others at that time in canceling my long-time subscription; I am grateful that I did so, for it enabled me to discover Lewis Lapham's "Harper's" which maintains the kind of journalistic integrity that "The Nation" appears to have lost.

Gray Brechin, Ph.D.
U.C. Berkeley Department of Geography

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