Point and Counter-Point on Pacifica

  • Point and Counter-Point on Pacifica
    In the newest edition of the Nation magazine Susan J. Douglas, a well-known communications scholar, asks, “Is There a Future for Pacifica?” In it she tries to take a middle-of-the-road approach apparently to objectively survey the prospects of the network as it tries to heal from its years-long conflict. That’s a problematic task from the outset, given the enormous and venomous animosities that exist, and not necessarily one I’d recommend to anyone. I, myself, have been critical of the former Pacifica regime and also not always been happy with the rhetoric and tactics used by both sides, but I don’t think I can accurately balance them against each other and have it come out even. Reflecting empathetically, if our board of directors even hazarded considering selling my beloved WEFT, I don’t think there’s any way I could give them much benefit of the doubt.

    I do think I agree with Douglas’ overall objective, which is to encourage resolving conflicts and to get Pacifica back on track as a leading voice of progressive radio and, especially, progressive journalism. But I’m not so sure I agree with many of her assumptions. It seems, for example, that she doubts the new Pacifica management’s commitment to progressive journalism based upon the example of one program at KPFK (“a show called Visionary Activist hosted by an astrologist whose guests include ‘planets, gods and, on occasion, dead people’? “), which it seems she hasn’t even heard, because by her own admission she’s in Michigan, “stuck with Britney Spears and “Satellite Sisters” and no Pacifica station or affiliate.” Strangely, she makes no mention of Democracy Now, which is Pacifica’s popular and consistently challenging, if somewhat humorless, daily progressive news hour.

    In a response being circulated, Edward Herman, progressive economist and co-author of Manufacturing Consent, takes her to task for this and countless other errors in fact and interpretation that he finds in her article. I agree most strongly with Herman’s criticism of Douglas’ omission of Democracy Now and the fact that the excellent Free Speech Radio News is being carried by Pacifica stations and affiliates in place of the cancelled Pacifica Network News. Journalism is much more alive and well at Pacifica and its stations now than it was eight months ago.

    However, Herman’s take-no-prisoners approach in responding does clearly exemplify the tense battle that Douglas finds counterproductive. I find it hard to disagree that there needs to be resolution and some degree of compromise for the network to move forward, regain some of its former strength, and grow in new directions. I’m not criticizing Herman and others in the former dissident camp — they have very good reasons for feeling and reacting the way they do — and since the Nation does reach so many progressives I understand the importance of needing to correct as many perceived errors as possible. Still, writers and readers of the Nation will make far better allies than enemies. It seems like Pacifica might be in need of something like a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to try and pick up the pieces that still lie on the floor.

    Recently in mediageek:

  • LA Weekly Socks It to KPFK and Pacifica; I’m Left Wincing 3/27/02

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