YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

October 21, 2010

Links to Pacifica memoirs

https://clarespark.com/2009/08/13/my-life-at-pacifica-radio-a-memoir-part-one/. (For an enlarged index see https://clarespark.com/2010/07/04/pacifica-radio-and-the-progressive-movement/.)

Lewis K. Hill



https://clarespark.com/2010/07/04/pacifica-radio-and-the-progressive-movement/. (Has material on liberals and psychological warfare and mental health “testing.”)

Matthew Lasar, quoted in my memoir


August 18, 2009

Storming Pacifica: revising my view of Pacifica history, July 22, 1999

His Master’s Voice

[August 18, 2009. The response to my memoir, My Life at Pacifica, has been so strong that I am posting an essay I wrote while an internal civil war was taking place between factions in the Pacifica “community.” Some of my points are reiterated in the memoir, but the material uncovered by Matthew Lasar is so important, that I am posting my thoughts from 1999 here while the storm was raging, though Storming Pacifica is also available on the internet. For a more personal memoir plus links to postwar anti-democratic sociology see https://clarespark.com/2010/07/04/pacifica-radio-and-the-progressive-movement/. There are surprises here.]

As I write this, hundreds of Berkeley radicals are in their element: many believing that the Corporate State acting through Dr. Mary Frances Berry, Chief Officer of the Pacifica Foundation National Governing Board, is determined to destroy KPFA and the entire Pacifica Foundation (founded in their community fifty years ago this year), aggrieved Bay Area listeners and their allies throughout our country have mounted demo after demo since Berry shut “their” station down Tuesday, July 13. Among other actions they have picketed the KPFA transmitter lest it carry “scab” programming from KPFK (the Los Angeles Pacifica Station), formed a tent city to maintain an around-the-clock presence outside the radio station, kept the internet buzzing with accounts of the latest management outrages, demanded the immediate reinstatement of fired KPFA manager Nicole Sawaya, demanded repeal of the gag rule that forbids any discussion of the dispute over Pacifica air, demanded the resignation of top management (Berry and Executive Director Lynn Chadwick), demanded to see the financial records of what may be a failing organization secretly planning to sell off at least one of its valuable broadcast licenses (WBAI), and lobbied other media to cover this, the worst crisis in the long, contentious history of Pacifica radio. (Reports are coming in indicating that several protesters have been brutally treated by the police.) Meanwhile local board members from three Pacifica stations have sued the Foundation, complaining it illegally transferred all governance to the National Board, hence removing any input whatsoever from Local Advisory Boards, and, by the complainants’ inference, silencing the voices of the subscribers who pay everyone’s salaries, and who are free (solely) to withdraw their financial support. Most importantly, the protesters want all this activity to culminate in a massive transformation of governance, to grass-roots control of the Pacifica Foundation, and a return to the original Pacifica Mission as formulated by its founder, Lewis K. Hill.

Pacifica Foundation management depicts the opposition as paranoid and opposed to “growth,” “professionalism,” and “cultural diversity.” (Management, no less than the opposition, legitimates its rule by appealing to the original Mission Statement. For instance, in his Report to the Listener, July 20, 1999, the KPFK manager not only mentioned the Mission as [the Bible] of the current regime, but played a multicultural reading of that part of the Articles of Incorporation that mandates the study of the causes of conflict. The current conflict, he constantly emphasized, was the result of “over-the-top” uninformed violent activity by a tiny minority from “Berzerkely”.)

This is all very riveting, and I would be jubilant if I thought that “community control,” institutional transparency, and accountability would strengthen the Foundation, restore its financial viability, and help it to realize the liberal implications of its mission as formulated in the Articles of Incorporation. I am not jubilant; I am rather apprehensive. What the current battle does, however, is give us pause to consider the subtly quietist implication, or perhaps, more accurately, the implementation, of the original Pacifica vision that has, over the long haul, led to the current bizarre polarization–a polarization of people who share many core beliefs about radical politics.

Reading the rhetoric dispensed by the tireless and dedicated protesters, one would think that we are witnessing a revitalized democratic social movement. No one, to my knowledge, has pointed out that the intellectual assumptions that have governed public broadcasting, the counter-culture, much of the New Left, and Left-wing academia alike, especially since the late 1960s, are part of the legacy of the European Far Right. Sadly, the Pacifica dissidents share the same discourse as the managers they deplore. I refer to multiculturalism, a.k.a. cultural relativism as promulgated by the Populist-Progressive movement of conservative reform that reacted to the liberal, proto-socialist nineteenth century. “Cultural diversity” as promulgated by today’s “progressive” Left signifies the völkisch or “communitarian” or primitivist inheritance of J.G. Von Herder and German Romanticism generally, the blood-and-soil ideology that attempted to roll back the Scientific Revolution and its offspring: the Enlightenment, the rise of the secular state, individual civil rights (equality before the law), “careers open to the talents,” and popular sovereignty, creations of radical liberals. These rejected libertarian ideals were associated with “rootless cosmopolitans” as their rooted enemies called them. The rooted cosmopolitans, like fascist ideologues of the 1930s, wrote “history” as the struggle between Good and Evil. Their obsessive interest was in “social cohesion” and “equilibrium.” Money/”bourgeois society”/(later, the Bomb) was the root of all social and environmental disintegration or “disruption”; by contrast, the good King of the High Middle Ages held “the (local) community” and Nature together in the Great Chain of Being. As multiculturalists, the rooted cosmopolitans emphasize “inclusion” and “identity” conceived in the same static terms as medievalists and Renaissance humanists defending hierarchy and order against the incursions of science and other democratizing forces such as mass literacy. Rootless cosmopolitans, it was argued, not only had no identities themselves, they were the creators of mob society as their insidious materialist doctrines separated ordinary people from their families of origin, breaking what Edmund Burke would call narrative continuity with the (idealized, orderly) past.

It was the progressives who established public broadcasting, always understood as “expert”-controlled and top-down in decision-making, but adorned with “community discussion groups” as one political scientist associated with the Committee For Economic Development and the upper-class peace movement, Harold Lasswell, described this innovation in the late 1940s. (See especially his Power and Personality, 1948, and National Security and Individual Freedom, 1950). Indeed, Lew Hill, the revered, even deified, Founder of Pacifica Radio in Berkeley wrote the liberal-sounding Mission Statement to pacify the Ford Foundation (an early underwriter), other (conservative) liberals, and the FCC, according to Matthew Lasar’s recently published Pacifica Radio: The Rise of an Alternative Network (Temple University Press).

In his prospectus of 1947, Hill reassured the FCC that “The whole object of the Foundation’s educational program in the field of public affairs and social problems is to study these matters, and to help the public study them with exactly that freedom from excusiveness and partisanship which the FCC lays down as a condition for the use of radio channels.” According to Lasar, Hill didn’t mean it; indeed he even covered up his radical past when he thought it would help his credibility with liberals (49).

Lew Hill, who came from big nouveau riche oil and insurance money in Tulsa Oklahoma, was a C.O. in World War II. Disturbingly, as Lasar tells us, around 1939-1940, Hill and his close friend Roy Finch (the source of this story) joined A.J. Muste in the belief that “stories about Nazi atrocities [were] anti-German propaganda, similar to false stories circulated during the First World War.” (14). After the war, along with Quaker allies and other C.O.s, Hill envisioned a radio station that would persuade working-class cannon fodder to resist the U.S. military, and most urgently, he intended to inject the principle of non-violence into the multi-ethnic militant Bay Area labor movement (44-45). Lasar complained that Hill “knew that on paper he would have to create a pacifist and a liberal radio station at the same time; he would have to emphasize pacifist ideas and dialogue as the path to peace, but also fairness and individual rights.” (43). Hill was dissatisfied with the tiny numbers of pacifists, as his first prospectus (1946) made clear: Quoting Hill, Lasar writes that war resisters, “especially since 1939–have been made to feel their severe impotence in the surge of public affairs outside their subscription and mailing lists.” Pacifists need to move beyond intellectual appeals or “ivory towerism,” as the prospectus put it, which had done little to alter public opinion. “Average beliefs have their form and interpretation in matters close to home, in the events of the neighborhood and city,” he wrote. “In the average man, on whom war prevention depends, the sense of right action is not a sense of large philosophical orientation, but one of a familiar and satisfying adjustment to the people and institutions in his immediate environment.” The task for pacifists, therefore, was to speak of peace not only through lofty principles but also through constant reference to “familiar things,” indeed to become familiar to the community by serving it as a radio station. “Pacifica Foundation,” Hill wrote in a single-sentence paragraph, “has been organized to begin this job.” (43)

Pacifica’s founders turned out to be postmodernists avant la lettre. As Lasar goes on to explain, materialist and historicist methods of analysis were rejected as deterministic (i.e., opposed to the concept of free will), hence were rejected by the “skeptical” Lew Hill, an admirer of Christian Existentialists such as Kierkegaard and Niebuhr. Lasar’s discussion of the original Pacifica Charter says it all. “The most important of the five purposes committed Pacifica to…the principle of pacifist dialogue: the idea that peace emerged not out of polemics but out of the process of diverse groups of people communicating with each other…To Pacifica’s founders, a lasting “understanding” between nations, races, or individuals did not mean that the parties involved had arrived at an objective truth but simply that through the exchange of language they had come to know each other better–as “humans,” rather than through some other ideological category, such as race, nationality, or class. “We really believed in the power of the word as the source of identity in human beings,” Richard Moore later explained. This knowledge, the first Pacificans hoped, would lead to the peaceful resolution of conflict…Richard Moore remembered a skeptic asking Hill what he would do if a Nazi broke into this house and pointed a gun at him. “I’d try and talk,” Hill replied. (44) [end Lasar quote]

They were all Heart. So much for the anti-intellectual foundations of Pacifica: “race, nationality, or class” were not facts in the real world (or factoids as in the case of race, though race and ethnicity are taken to be biological facts, with dire social consequences), but “ideological” constructions. Here is radical subjectivism at its most blatant. At its very inception, then, rigorous institutional analysis and the accurate (objective) description of institutional structures, discourses and practices were implicitly rejected as the devil’s work. The core values of liberalism: fairness and individual rights, values that had often led to reform and structural transformation where indicated, must be the cause of the wars and social violence (especially labor militancy?) that these particular pacifists deplored. Pacifica would talk to simple people about simple homely things. Moral reformer William Wordsworth, reacting to the tumultuous response to the French Revolution and the social movements it energized, couldn’t have said it better (see The Excursion as a guide to the etiquette of victimization, urging English intellectuals to instill the virtues and consolations of Faith, Hope, and Charity as the centerpiece of a popular education aimed at the rural peasantry and the uprooted industrial class alike). For the new Pacificans, music, poetry, and drama, Lasar notes, would serve pacifist ends, appealing to the diverse folk cultures of local labor (46).

Fast forward to the late 1990s, as other localists (“cultural nationalists” or as I would prefer to call them, organic conservatives) battle each other for control of the Foundation, asserting group facts, group rights, racial quotas, programming that must reflect changing demographics. The nationalists are deeply conservative in their (selective) ancestor-worship, while some of the anarchist, “anti-imperialist” protesters seem content with such backwardness and fragmentation as identity politics inevitably produce. Not surprisingly, “the peasant problem” (as some Marxists call it) is everywhere as individual programmers continue to fight over turf, claiming to represent “the community” that “looks like them.” And “the community” has no truck with dissenting individuals, freethinking artists experimenting with new forms, or empirical analysis of social problems; rather its advocates resort to the ritual repetition of slogans defining the enemy as monolithic and hegemonic, whether that enemy to simplicity and spiritual values be the bogus Enlightenment, the idea of Progress, markets, high culture, Amerika, white males, patriarchy, Wall Street, commercialism, consumerism, science and technology, positivism, etc.

Logically, with such overwhelming forces (the Devil is everywhere, remember) arrayed against the spiritually-attuned grass-roots, what must be the emotional and social consequences? Led by Lasar’s research into Pacifica’s early history, I now have a better view of the crisis, and why there has been so much desperation, impotent rage, alienation, depression, cultural despair, and acquiescence to corruption. Well-meaning radicals fatally continue to reject the “bourgeois,” hence tainted, critical tools that would have brought coherence and quality to Pacifica’s mandated (if vaguely stated) exploration of the causes of war and all forms of social violence. The current critics of Pacifica management should consider where the Foundation has been before it offers alternative forms of governance and programming to a muddled, ineffectual, and declining organization. There was no Golden Age; what we have now is a golden opportunity to rethink every aspect of public radio, but especially Pacifica. Shall it be bound to the illusory Good King, reaction, narrow racial/ethnic politics, and cultural backwardness or shall it be wide-open, experimental, and a safe environment for those who believe that an excellent universal education, grounded in the observable facts of the real world, is indispensable to a more peaceful future?

August 13, 2009

My Life at Pacifica Radio: a memoir, part one

Study in orange, black, and white

[Pacifica Radio founder, Lewis K. Hill, suicide note, 1957:] “Not for anger or despair/ But for peace and a kind of home.”

[Don’t stop with part one: part two and Storming Pacifica contain juicy personal anecdotes, and I name names.]

Multiculturalism, or ethnopluralism, as it is sometimes called, may have done more to sharpen group antagonisms, than to have advanced inter-group understanding and social peace as was intended by its advocates. Originating in the theories of the German theologian J. G. von Herder in the late eighteenth century as a defense against French cultural domination and the “mechanical materialism” of the Dutch and French Enlightenments, multiculturalism has been a weapon in the arsenal of class harmonizers in America since the early twentieth century and was recognized as such by its critics as a departure from the melting-pot empiricism of the eighteenth century. As political ideology multiculturalism presided at the birthing of the Pacifica radio network in the late 1940s. In early 1981, after twelve years of producing radio documentaries and cultural criticism, I was hired by Pacifica station KPFK as Program Director to implement affirmative action and “multicultural” programming policy. In my naiveté, I interpreted that mandate as the legacy of the civil rights movement: we were to present an integrated history of women, minorities, and labor as part of a comprehensive long-term project of education and research in the political, economic, and social history of these groups, locally, nationally, and where possible, globally. Simultaneously, in my own work at the radio station (and afterwards, in graduate school), I continued producing materials about institutional censorship and the decoding of antidemocratic propaganda.

Pacifica and I were on a collision course. After eighteen months, I was fired, even though by all objective criteria my leadership was successful in increasing subscriber income and in gaining broad community support, including that of the liberal press. Significantly, my removal prevented the confrontation between science and myth that I was preparing for the Fall Fund Drive. And when I returned to the air in the late 1980s-1990s, tracing the contested definitions of fascism from the 1930s on, I was purged again, this time, permanently, after ten years of attempting to rescue the libertarian heritage of science and what I thought was the progress advanced by meritocracy and the marketplace of ideas.

In terms of programming, such a mad scientist approach challenged what had been a post-60s commitment by Pacifica to policies that were simultaneously replicated on college campuses: in response to 1960s social movements, separate women’s studies and ethnic studies departments were institutionalized, staffed primarily by women and minority faculty in the spirit of rooted (as opposed to rootless) cosmopolitanism. The separation was legitimated by a social theory derived from Herder and German Romanticism: only members of the (stigmatized) group were privy to the “consciousness” or “spirit” of their Volk. And since women and minorities were oppressed (whatever their class position), it was the mission of these new departments to “struggle” against white male “hegemony” and the death-dealing “whiteness” enforced by imperial Amerika. It is the broad acceptance of the role of activist scholar throughout the humanities (e.g. cultural studies) that has led to what libertarians and conservatives now decry as a recent left-wing takeover and the absence of intellectual diversity.

This essay/memoir, written after I had studied the shaping of the history curriculum by “moderate conservatives” since the Civil War, but especially after the second world war, attempts to explain the politics that led to my disillusion with Pacifica and finally to distancing from the populist-progressive agenda and its disturbingly antisemitic and protofascist embedded discourse. The campus “Left” has little in common with the updated eighteenth-century radical liberalism that its advocates often claim to serve.

I. Pacifica, from the moment of its inception, reflected and transmitted the politics of a coalition of Leninists, anarchists, and romantic conservatives left over from the 1930s: they were “anti-imperialists” of the Left and Right as reflected, for instance, in the coalition of America First and the Communist Party during the Nazi-Soviet Pact period (1939-41). Their affinity group included neo-Thomists (like Robert Hutchins, a powerful presence on the air at Pacifica during the 1960s), New Humanists, Southern Agrarians, and the English Distributists Hilaire Belloc and G. K. Chesterton. Pacifica’s politics became less murky after I read THE AMERICAN REVIEW, edited by Seward Collins, a periodical of the mid1930s that supported Mussolini’s corporative state, aspects of the New Deal, regionalism in politics and aesthetics alike, and at times even Hitler. Writers for THE AMERICAN REVIEW became “New Critics” at the end of the decade and powerfully influenced the teaching of the humanities after World War II. Their organic conservatism is reiterated in the critical theory that now dominates the teaching of literature, the “new historicism,” though new historicists often declare themselves the democratic antidote to New Critical formalism and its implications for coerced harmony in other institutions. Recuperating the agrarian critique of industrial capitalism, they proposed that a network of small towns, independent producers, and stable hierarchies would defeat the anomie, nihilism, miscegenation, decadence, and class warfare induced by modern science and technology, speedy urban life, giant corporations and Jewish money: the same primitivism, along with its demonology, has characterized Pacifica and “community radio” in general.

THE FOUNDING MYTH(S) EXPLODED. There are extant at least four versions of the history of Pacifica: all are partly right. The continuity myth states that radical pacifists disgusted with the Cold War and its anticommunist distortions started KPFA to provide balance. The discontinuity myths are apocalyptic: in one version an originally worker-managed station with direct accountability to the community was overthrown by establishment liberals in the mid-50s, perhaps causing the suicide of its idealistic and ultra-democratic founder, Lewis K. Hill, who had earlier warned his Quaker lieutenants: don’t trust the liberals! A New Left multicultural rendition identifies a high culture station controlled by and for white people that, with much internal mayhem, finally sunk roots into diverse communities where it flourishes (or would, if mainstream forces were not intent on stealing the foundation away from their communities). Yet another version also sees sudden change: the genius poet Lew Hill, opening minds with no designs upon the listener, was supplanted by fragmenting politicos who seized control in the 1960s [Larry Josephson documentary, 1974, played by KCRW July 27, 1999]. My historical sketch will note both continuities and discontinuities.

The original mission statement of the Pacifica Foundation, the entity that holds the increasingly valuable broadcast licenses, was formulated shortly after World War II by Lewis Kimball Hill, a conscientious objector. Hill had been assigned to a reclamation project but was discharged for failing health in 1943. He then ran the Washington office of the ACLU, at that time mostly representing conscientious objectors. Hill also served as radio announcer and Night News editor for WINX, a station owned by the Washington Post. But Hill quit, reportedly over differences with management over the one-sidedness of the news coverage, setting out for bohemian San Francisco. It is worth noting that Hill’s parents had sent him to a military academy “for discipline” after two years in a public high school; moreover he never completed his undergraduate work at Stanford University which he had attended from 1937-41 as a student of English and philosophy. But he did get some of his poetry published. Hence the impressive set of goals set forth in the Pacifica Articles of Incorporation take on a particular resonance in light of the personal history of Lew Hill—who was apparently antagonistic to military discipline or to any conflict whatsoever—a quality that would be found in many a Pacifica programmer and listener hoping to find a kinder home.

In its Articles of Incorporation, Pacifica told the FCC that it would promote lasting international peace through the study of conflict, would present objective news from a variety of sources, and would “encourage and provide outlets for the creative skills and energies of the community” by rewarding performance and writing skills in the arts among young people. Nearly fifty years after KPFA went on the air in Berkeley, KPFK manager Mark Schubb appealed to libertarian and patriotic sentiments in his Report to the Listener of June 29, 1998. With July 4 upon us, it was fitting to remind the subscribers that KPFK’s intellectual independence stems from the freedom from corporate sponsorship; hence Pacifica was able to get different “kinds of people” (i.e. races and ethnicities) to talk to each other. Vague reference was made to an original antiwar mission of the Pacifica Foundation intended to oppose the promotion of the Cold War in commercial media. Schubb did not say that such pacifism was agreeable to the American upper-class peace movement supported by the Soviet Union after Hiroshima; nor did he mention the early support of the Ford Foundation, formed to provide a labor-friendly image for business. [fn Berkowitz and McQuaid, Creating The Welfare State] Lew Hill, whose wealthy Oklahoma parents had interests in oil and insurance, echoed the same class-harmonizing progressive goals as the Ford Foundation (or other upper-class groups with which Pacifica has been associated, such as The Nation or Robert Hutchins’ Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions).

The Founder has been presented as a champion of the labor movement in one doctoral dissertation and as a fighting radical in other publicity generated by Pacifica. However, in “KPFA, A Prospectus of the Pacifica Station,” dated May 1948, Hill hinted that it was the class war that required pacification:

“…despite the high incidence of unionization and the consequent involvement and interest of hundreds of thousands in labor affairs and news, newspapers, and radio stations in the [San Francisco] area report on labor only when it is a protagonist of conflict, the antagonist of “business.” Unfortunately the only press and radio sources of consistent and comprehensive labor reporting are either controlled by the Communist party or Stalinist in inclination. There is no source, Communist or other, which incorporates labor news with general news reporting in any fair and realistic proportion.”

It is no wonder that the word “class” is missing from the mission statement: Pacifica was to study “political and economic problems” but to _determine_ the “causes of religious, philosophical, and racial antagonisms.” One did not need to be a Marxist to posit class antagonisms as one important engine of history. It was far more radical for the Progressives and later conservative reformers to believe that class harmony (without structural transformation beyond modest redistribution measures and a weak welfare state) was an attainable goal. For Hitler, the erasure of the divisive Jewish mind would permit the return of the warm and paternalistic relations between master and man said to exist in pre-industrial Germany before modernity and distinctively “Jewish” institutions—such as money interest, absentee ownership, the stock exchange, mass media, and mass politics—made the scene. For Lew Hill, presumably, better communication between different cultural groups would contribute to the solution of political and economic problems; solutions that would bring world peace. Hill’s prospectus, nearly erased from the Pacifica memory bank until I read it on the air in the mid-1990s, gives one concrete referent to the mission statement call for comprehensive and objective news coverage brought together in the same place; his prospectus allies him with the moderate center, not the Left as Pacifica has been represented and indeed has proudly represented itself. Pacifica helps us to forget that it was not working-class movements that invented Populism and Progressivism; that credit goes to agrarian reformers and moderate Republicans like Theodore Roosevelt and other social hygienists who were losing political control to an urbanized, industrial society crowded with scruffy, saucy immigrants; all were said by many a Populist and Progressive intellectual to be secretly manipulated by finance capitalists whom they identified as international Jews. The recognition of the hidden antagonism between the atomic Jew and the rest of us was the single unifying concept to be found in this still powerful centrist progressive political tradition.

Explaining the original intent of the fallen Founder, a suicide after a bitter faction fight at KPFA in the mid-1950s, Hill’s “right hand” Eleanor McKinney restated and clarified the mission statement in an essay of 1963 (it could have been T.S. Eliot, romantic anticapitalist and ally to Southern Agrarians, talking):

[Eleanor McKinney, “The Pacifica Venture Into Radio Communication,” January 1960:] Lewis Hill, the founder of KPFA was intensely concerned with two contemporary problems: communication, and the strife between individuals and between nations which plague modern society. He believed these two problems were fundamentally one…It was obvious to the group originating Pacifica that war cannot be prevented through primarily intellectual appeals. Common beliefs are formed close to home, in the events of neighborhood and city. In the average man, on whom war prevention depends (the group believed) the sense of right action is formed in a familiar and satisfying adjustment to the people and institutions of his immediate environment. It was the conviction of Pacifica’s founders that the major job of education toward a peaceful world is through public communications centers–newspapers and radio stations, where principles of world understanding have direct import in familiar situations. Searching out these principles in the open controversy of the traditional American free forum was a major concern of the Pacifica Foundation, along with the communication of the musical, dramatic, and literary arts, and the exploration of religion, science, and philosophy. The group’s concern was directed to the quality of the human spirit out of which community life is built.”

Note that modern society is plagued by strife, but it is individuals and nations who are the combatants, not classes and not incoherent institutions that only partly deliver what they promise. And we solve these problems, not through the activity of intellectual investigation, deliberation, and politics, but through passive adjustments to the folks close to home. We are not to be alienated, not even temporarily, while we think (or rather sense) things over. McKinney comments in defense of “the traditional American free forum” safely bounded by localist commitments might be read against the backdrop of a government investigation of alleged Communist infiltration of the Pacifica Foundation earlier that year. The anti-monopoly propensities of populism were held by Peter Odegard, former president of Reed College and spokesman for Pacifica, to be the antidote to fascism and all other forms of totalitarian control:

[From the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee Hearings investigating alleged Communist infiltration of the Pacifica network, January 10, 1963; Peter Odegard interrogated by committee counsel Sourwine, explains that populist institutions stop fascism:]

Mr. Sourwine: Do you think Hitler could have taken over and attained the power he did if he had not access to the radio?
Mr. Odegard: Mr. Sourwine, I spent a year studying this movement, and I do not think I could give a simple answer to that.
Mr. Sourwine: Well then, pass it because our time is short.
Mr. Odegard: May I just make one statement on this? I do not think nationalism, fascism, any more than communism, could survive in an atmosphere of freedom or could survive without a monopolistic control of these great agencies of communication. This I am convinced of, and that is why I believe a free–
Mr. Sourwine: That is why, is it not, the Communists always seek to infiltrate mass communications as early as they can in every country, why it is a prelude to the Communist takeover in country after country?
Mr. Odegard: Well, I do not know about this.
Mr. Sourwine: I have no more questions, Doctor.

Nazi-style antisemitism propagated by some black nationalist programmers at Pacifica has been rightly denounced by many listeners and observers, but these cultural nationalists should not be isolated as uniquely destructive and irrational. For the Pacifica Foundation, in the late 1940s and now, commerce was always the enemy of “public” broadcasting: filthy lucre and greed were sufficient causes to explain what was held to be the lowbrow and demagogic, i.e. the protofascist, character of mass media. For filthy lucre, read the Jewish gold that had bought up mass communications and strangled the voices of antifascism. Pacifica defined itself against the “materialism” that Hitler, Stalin, and contemporary aristocratic radicals identified with inordinate Jewish power in the modern world: rootless cosmopolitanism– corrosive antagonist to the organic people’s community–represented the mobility and fungibility of money. The aristocratic radicals (aka postmodernists today) were not issuing a call to popular democratic revolution in forms recognizable to seventeenth and eighteen-century political theorists, but affirming the spirituality that bound people to each other: the hierarchical social relations of feudalism, the old kind of home, were to be maintained or reinstated. (Of course, the memory of the old kind of home had been purged of its constant factional warfare, anarchy, and poverty for the masses of people. We had really expensive William Morris wallpaper to remind us of an intertwining vegetable love.)

The story I am about to tell offers a glimpse at the ways an apparently incoherent coalition of liberals, Old and New Leftists, anarchists, and cultural radicals, united to maintain top-down control of a radio network advertising itself as free from external, antidemocratic pressures of every kind. I will restrict the focus of my tale, too rich and awful for a short article, to the pervasive hostility to artists and independent intellectuals that I have found in numerous “liberal” institutions, not only the Pacifica Foundation, which is no better and no worse than any other bureaucracy responsible for public education. The problems that I will identify are not only features of Left or New Left culture and politics, but are common to every society with democratic aspirations insofar as they are hamstrung by bureaucracies that determine their fates while unaccountable to an informed, appropriately educated citizenry.

[This is the end of Part One. It will obvious to readers here that all of my blogs are variation on a theme, and the impetus to study the material probably was produced by my shocking experiences in an institution that for many years I felt was my true home. For more on Pacifica history, see https://clarespark.com/2009/08/18/storming-pacifica-revising-my-view-of-pacifica-history-july-22-1999/ and part two of this memoir: https://clarespark.com/2009/08/14/my-life-at-pacifica-part-two-with-gory-details-and-more-on-identity/.]

Blog at WordPress.com.