Changes at the Pacifica Campaign and talk of "...replacement of those in management who persist in throwing up obstacles to the democratization
of the network." 1-16-02
Jan. 16, 2002
To: Pacifica Campaign supporters
From: Juan Gonzalez
Virtually all of the original hijackers in the network's management and on the old board have already been forced to resign during the past year by the immense pressure of the listener movement and the financial boycott in which so many of you participated.
In an electrifying meeting packed with hundreds of loyal Pacifica listeners, the board decided by more than a 2/3 vote -- as required by the legal settlement reached in December -- to remove Bob Daughtry, the station manager at WBAI in New York, and return all the banned and fired from WBAI to their previous posts. It also voted to reinstate Larry Bensky to the staff of KPFA in Berkeley. In addition, the board named Dan Coughlin, former Pacifica national news director and one of the Pacifica Campaign's lead coordinators, as the new acting national executive director of the network, until a full search is conducted and a permanent director chosen. The board also announced that Garland Ganter, the station manager at Houston's KPFT and a longtime henchman of the undemocratic policies of the old board, resigned last week.
Even before its first face-to-face meeting, the board had already lifted the hated gag rule at all Pacifica stations. In addition, the board heard from all the advisory boards of the various stations and from dozens of individuals who complained about on-going problems at KPFK in Los Angeles under current station manager Mark Schubb and of the the problems at WPFW under current station manager Lou Hankins.
The board also told the Houston Local Advisory Board to merge with the activist-founded Interim Local Advisory Board and get into compliance with Pacifica's bylaws. And it agreed to fire the law firms of Williams and Connolly and Fulbright and Jaworski, which had been hired by the old board to fight the listener, LAB, and intraboard lawsuits.
Never in American mass media history has there been such a struggle as the one we waged here for democratic accountability. And certainly, there has never been such a dramatic turnaround and victory for a media reform movement.
At the same time, the board learned of the enormous financial crisis that the outgoing board and management left behind -- an estimated $3 to $4 million in unpaid bills, much of it in legal bills and the costs of expensive public relations firms.
No one should underestimate the dire situation that Pacifica is now in. Yes, the reform movement has recaptured effective control of the network. But the battle was won at an enormous emotional and financial cost. Several huge challenges remain for both the new management and the reform movement
First, Pacifica must stabilize the network's finances and bring in immediate infusions of cash or the new leadership may be faced with the real possibility of having to lay off staff and sharply reduce even basic expenses.
Second, the process of reforming the network from within must continue. That means both reconciliation between those on either side of this civil war who must now learn to work with each other again, as well as replacement of those in management who persist in throwing up obstacles to the democratization of the network. In either case, we in the Pacifica Campaign believe that due process and fair treatment of all Pacifica employees must be a minimum standard. We oppose any revenge or arbitrary firings of those who actively fought the reform movement.
Third, we must monitor and offer constructive pressure so that the network can move forward on two vital issues of democratization -- rewriting of the Pacifica bylaws and listener elections of Local Advisory Boards within the next year.
All three of these strategic goals must be accomplished if the network is to be saved and if it is to emerge from this crisis in a stronger position than ever.
We at the Pacifica Campaign have heard from hundreds of you with your words of support and concerns. Many of you have urged that we persist as an organization to monitor the implementation of reform at the network. We will meet in the coming week to discuss how best to adhere to these suggestions, and whether to immediately lift the listener boycott. For the record, I strongly believe that we must end the boycott immediately, even though I understand that in places like Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., many listeners are still unhappy with their current local management and may still choose to withhold their funds until they see substantive changes. But as I told the reform movement at WBAI repeatedly during the past few weeks, I believe the current situation and this new Interim Board will make possible the resolution of all problems at the network. Every problem, however, cannot be attacked at once. Some will take a little longer than others -- BUT ALL WILL BE RESOLVED.
As for the Pacifica Campaign's role, the reality is that several of our full-time staffers have taken on direct responsibilities with Pacifica. Dan Coughlin has taken on the vital position of acting Executive Director of the Foundation, Bernard White has returned as host of Wake Up Call on WBAI and as the station Program Director, and Valerie Van Isler has returned to WBAI as station manager.
In addition, I will soon be resigning as chair of the Pacifica Campaign. In part, this is due to my returning as a part-time co-host on Democracy Now! But more importantly, I have already committed myself to some other major projects, one of which involves a pioneering effort to democratize another branch of the mass media, and those projects will require much of my time.
Luckily, however, the Pacifica Campaign managed to pull together an enormously talented collective of committed activists, and several of them, such as Ursula Ruedenberg, Bok-keem Nyere and Denis Moynihan, are prepared to move forward during this next stage of the struggle, and I urge you to give them all the support you can.
When we began the Campaign less than one year ago, many dedicated Pacifica listeners had been battling for years around the country to save the network. But the movement was not organized at a national level, there was much mistrust and division among the different groups, and there was no cohesive strategy to achieve victory. We in the Campaign offered a few critical innovations. First, we insisted on the need for an overall strategy. That strategy involved a national listener boycott of funds and a nonviolent direct action campaign of pressure geared to force a resignation of the board members. We called it "turn up the heat and cut off the water." Second, we said that the street strategy had to be combined with the legal strategy, but that the greatest potential to end the fight the quickest was in the street. Third, we insisted that a campaign of this sort needed a crew of full-time organizers and that it needed to raise a large amount of money rapidly to be able to p! ay those organizers and the expenses of a professional campaign. Since Feb. 1 of last year, we have raised and spent about $400,000 for our campaign. A full financial report will soon be posted on our website.
Even after we began the campaign, many questioned the correctness of a boycott strategy; others opposed our direct action pressure and some of our tactics against the board members; and more than a few doubted openly that the reform movement could succeed. But you, the listeners responded overwhelmingly with your support, and by last summer, as Acosta and Palmer and Van Putten and the other board members began to resign one by one, it became clear that the old Pacifica had lost virtually all support in the progressive movement and that its management was in disarray. At that point, we began to urge negotiations for a settlement. But a few diehards, both on Pacifica's side and on our own side, resisted unconditional negotiations and demanded that the conflict continue. Eventually, with both sides nearly exhausted, a settlement was reached, but one that clearly left our side as the victors.
Now we are in a new stage. As I move on to new organizing efforts, my main hope is that we in the Pacifica reform movement have learned to be less dogmatic, less mistrustful and less combative toward each other. Throughout this long struggle to save the network, our greatest enemies were often ourselves -- our inability to find common ground with those with whom we disagreed; our inability to develop organizational forms where the opinions of the majority rule but where the rights of the minority are always respected; elitist, and sometimes unconsciously racist attitudes toward those who had less experience in left movements or came from less educated or from Third World communities. Not that any of these deficiencies were dominant trends -- but they were always there, lurking in the background, occasionally showing their faces.
Over decades of involvement in popular struggles, I have come to realize that there is good and bad in all mass movements, purity in very few, and that no fraility characterizes human beings more than our propensity to allow our passion to overwhelm our reason. Once we understand that we are all full of frailties, we are more willing to listen to others, even those with whom we vehemently disagree, because even our enemies can often teach us about ourselves.
So in closing, I want to thank Mary Frances Berry, David Acosta, Micheal (sic) Palmer, Karolyn Van Putten, Frank Millspagh, Andrea Cisco, Wendell Johns, Ken Ford, John Murdock, Valrie Chambers, Steven Yasko, Bessie Wash, Utrice Leid, Clayton Riley, Garland Ganter, Bob Daughtry, Greg Craig, and Mark Schubb for teaching us in the reform movement so much about ourselves. I'm sure they learned a few things from us as well.
Hasta La Victoria,
top of page | home