YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

September 30, 2015

Pacifica Radio and how I achieved a measure of free speech

The day I got my Ph.D. 1993

The day I got my Ph.D. 1993

Several Facebook friends have sent me the same Guardian article claiming that the Pacifica Foundation is dying and on its last legs. That Pacifica is on its last legs may be true, but the blog is about how loose organization at the top enabled my own intellectual development and courage.

As I have mentioned in my sort of scholarly Pacifica memoir, Pacifica was a creation of corporatist liberals in coalition with such as the Ford Foundation and many Stalinists or Quakers.

Its glory days were at the height of the 1960s civil rights movement, which is when I got involved with it. From 1969 on, that decade  (the 1970s) was a happy and productive time for me, because I had my own radio program, The Sour Apple Tree, which was devoted to the internal politics of the art world, which few of the radicals then in charge knew of or cared about. These uncensored years were the happiest decade of my life, for management hardly noticed me, and I developed a following of curious listeners, many of them in the arts, academe, or even math or science.

Being connected to a diverse audience willing to put up with long, detailed interviews and an increasing number of essays (all initiated after I had started graduate school in history, 1983-1993, especially during the Bush campaign of 1988) gave me courage to strike out wherever the evidence led me, and I felt loyal to a growing, supportive, audience.

It was not until I became Program Director in 1981 that I learned that free speech at KPFK was sharply circumscribed by Stalinists whose influence till then was unnoticed by me. As I have written before, multiculturalism was enforced at all the stations shortly before I was appointed PD, and I misunderstood it, thinking it to be some kind of inclusive history with no holds barred. (The complete history is laid out in this set of links: https://clarespark.com/2010/07/04/pacifica-radio-and-the-progressive-movement/.)

I have written this very brief blog because many on the internet and Facebook believe that they are, in fact, practicing free speech. I questioned this assumption here: https://clarespark.com/2015/01/12/what-free-speech/.

Two factors enabled my political and intellectual development: lack of editing by higher ups, and connection to an audience that cared about the issues I raised. If my graduate education in US and European history was fraught with conflict and took many years, it was because I had already experienced relatively “free speech” and had no intention of regressing to the docility and ignorance that had marked my young adulthood. Loyal to my audience of autodidacts who expected me to “kick against the pricks,” I spoke up where other graduate students or faculty were silent.

In retrospect, I understand why my blog posts seem to be eccentric or ornery at times. Once you have experienced real intellectual freedom (limited only by your ignorance), you can’t go back to unquestioning deference to individuals or institutions. Luckily, I have found kindred souls (other misfits?) on Facebook and elsewhere.

The Pacifica Foundation has been ruined by underdisciplined anarchists or overdisciplined Stalinists. But I shall ever be grateful for the experiences that unleashed me before it was too late.

free-speech

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March 9, 2011

NPR vs. the money power

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 5:30 am
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Ron Schiller, stung

      This is my take on the NPR sting, unveiled today March 8, 2011, with more to come. Both Pacifica and NPR present themselves as “community” radio and “listener-supported.” They make their pitch pitting their virtuous, unbiased selves against “commercial” or “corporate media.” So it is “the money power” (Jews) who are the real enemy. It should surprise no one that they share conventional populist sentiments. I wrote my own memoir (I was program director of Pacifica Radio in Los Angeles) here: https://clarespark.com/2010/10/21/links-to-pacifica-memoirs/. I left out most of the dirt, but what I included was bad enough.  I never thought I would see this day. Hooray Mr. O’Keefe.

See also https://clarespark.com/2009/10/26/answer-to-a-comment-from-a-pacifica-producer/. Also https://clarespark.com/2010/09/11/is-wall-street-slaughtering-the-middle-class/. Plus everything I have written here on populism.

July 18, 2010

White elite enabling of Black Power

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Christopher Edley debates affirmative action with Charles Fried, Harvard Law Bulletin (Spring 2004)

These materials are taken from my unpublished ms. “Eros and the Middle Manager.” Some of the quotes have already been posted in my memoir of Pacifica Radio and also in Rough Ride Through The Culture Wars, but the material from Yale is new to the website. For an index to all my black power blogs, see https://clarespark.com/2010/07/15/index-to-black-power-blogs/. But also see a recent blog that shows how the moderate men demonized pioneers and frontiersmen as the worst racists, whose legacy haunts us today: https://clarespark.com/2014/01/08/the-frontiersmansettler-as-all-purpose-scapegoat/.

[From Black Studies in the University: A Symposium, edited by Armstead Robinson et al (Yale U.P., 1969), a transcript of papers presented at a conference organized by the Black Student Alliance at Yale, late spring 1968, and featuring among its speakers Harold Cruse and Ron Karenga, two prominent spokesmen for cultural nationalism (an irrationalist ideology); they and other speakers hold up urban and campus violence as a warning, noting that time is running out for the advancement of social peace.

Harold Cruse defines cultural nationalism, Q&A (26-27):  …in a society such as America, in which you have the ideas and achievements of black people constantly de-emphasized, “overlooked,” unrecorded, or excluded in the general realm of ideas, any attempt to re-emphasize these ideas must take the form of cultural nationalism. Cultural nationalism is nothing but the attempt of a group or nation or minority to express what is indigenous to its own historical background in order to enhance its public image–social image–in the eyes of the world. Unless there is a spirit of cultural nationalism, you would not have any national or ethnic group resurgence on any level, in any sphere. In America, where it is difficult for the white outlook, and often the black outlook, to accept the fact that the black group exists in many ways in a world separate from the whites, it is difficult to accept the validity of cultural nationalism on the part of the Negro as a group in American society because this is not the way we have been conditioned, educated, or trained to see this particular aspect of social reality. Cultural nationalism is nothing but an attempt to prevent the cultural particularism of the dominant white group from continuing to overshadow and submerge the essence of the black experience in America. If you examine this society as a whole, you will notice that all American groupings and sub-groupings have resorted in the past to the cultivation of their cultural nationalism in their attempt to adjust and gain recognition in American society. Without this impetus, there cannot be a concerted drive or thrust toward the creation and perpetuation of a course of black studies in the university.  You have to have this as a motivation, or else the whole idea of the institution of a black studies program becomes very meaningless.

[Ron Karenga explains his separatist educational philosophy  (Q&A, 44-45)]: I feel that black people should communicate black things. Why? We teach that methodology is very important in instruction, but unless one understands that education is more than just the communication of ideas for political effect, we’ll never see that education is basically two things: the provision of inspiration and the provision of information.  Now, we put inspiration first, because black people are an emotional people and our first commitment is an emotional one. Quite a few times myself I have been extremely rational, and blacks have no counter to it, but they disagree–either out of a false sense of Socratic tradition, which says that it is intelligent to disagree even if someone is right, or because he has been emotionally estranged from me.  We teach that the first commitment is an emotional one.  I cannot become emotionally committed to a white person, no matter what he says: I can laugh at what he does if it’s ridiculous enough, but I cannot become emotionally committed to him. I must have an image to identify with and that image must be personified in the man who’s communicating that thing to me or the image he projects. I’m saying that education is basically an inspirational thing and that methodology should take into consideration inspiration before information….

[Gerald A. McWorter introduces a theme that others amplify: there is very little scholarship available on “the black experience” or “the black community” so Yale and the other preserves of white financial power will have to develop curricula and scholars almost de novo. (Karenga offers his services as a consultant during the question period.)  This is how McWorter, a sociologist teaching at Spelman College, characterizes the worthless work of Gunnar Myrdal and his nameless black collaborators (after criticizing the work of the Chicago sociologists around Robert Park as overly focused on race relations):]

[McWorter:]  One must also mention in this concern with “race relations” the book by Gunnar Myrdal, AN AMERICAN DILEMMA, which to black people contains the white Myrdalian dilemma, not the dilemma of black people. Here I want specifically to note the whole question of “race relations,” because in the beginning period of empirical inquiry, it was race relations that was a concern–that is, people were concerned about the relationship of black people and white people and not, not, the life within the black community.  I suppose that’s natural, since these people were concerned about the survival of the society which was white. Now, the Myrdalian dilemma essentially is that, even though he had tremendous contact with a significant number of black scholars, he saw black people basically the same way as William Faulkner, the white racist novelist of the South. That is, he said that white people presented all of the alternatives available to black people, and if one ever wanted to understand black people, you merely had to look at white people who were around them, calculate the obverse of what you saw and you’d come up with what black people are about. There was no inkling in his mind that over a period of time black people could create a community, a culture, that would be functionally autonomous from the white oppressors who raped them from Africa.  Again, it seems to me that this should be clear to anyone with knowledge of recent research who is listening to voices coming from the black community.

[From a small conference “to explore the role of education in combating racial discrimination,” Martha’s Vineyard, July 1968, published as Racism and American Education: A Dialogue and Agenda for Action, Foreward by Averell Harriman, Harper and Row, 1970:]  

[Kenneth Clark (President of the Metropolitan Applied Research Center, Inc. Member of the New York State Board of Regents, and Professor of Psychology at City College of New York):]…I don’t see how we can avoid coming to the conclusion that teachers, who are supposed to be professionals with confidence in the potential of human  beings, are deficient in areas in which higher education is supposed to provide knowledge.  In some research among teachers selected by their principals to discuss teaching with us, the common denominator, interestingly enough true of Negro teachers as well as white teachers, was a profound illiteracy on what you would consider critical areas of knowledge.  I mean the attitudes, well not just the attitudes, but the knowledge of cultural anthropology or modern and contemporary knowledge about race and racial differences and racial potentialities or social psychology...They were really illiterate…in areas of social science that were relevant to their jobs (52).

[C. Van Woodward (Sterling Professor of History at Yale University):]…Americans in the early phases of nationalism did really foolish things.  In order to establish what they would now call their identity, Americans denigrated everything European in culture, and at the same time exalted everything American.  If it was American, it was beautiful, and if it was European, it was not.  Of course, that resulted in a lot of third-rate art and letters and sculpture and so forth.  I think we have recovered from our earlier excesses of nationalism in this respect, but by no means are we free from nationalism as a country.  The black nationalism, I think, will manifest many of these same excesses.  I think this is inevitable, and I think we are going to have to live with it in the colleges, in the public schools, all down the line.  We’re going to have to adjust to it.  I think we must think about it with as much dispassionate wisdom as we can muster, because it’s likely to get out of hand (64-65; see Kenneth Clark rejecting tolerance of black nationalism, 68).

[Christopher Edley (Program Officer in charge of the Government and Law Program at the Ford Foundation):]…I’m convinced that the way you eliminate prejudice and racism in America is not by talking and education and explanation.  I think you have to start with a simple cliché‚ like God, motherhood, or country.  You have to have something that has a noble ring.  And it seems to me that what this country needs is a movement, and I don’t know that this is the appropriate group to sponsor it.  This country needs a movement.  The way to eliminate prejudice is to smother it.  If we could bring about a climate in this country where no one could express a prejuducial viewpoint without being challenged, we would begin to drive prejudice underground.  And I submit to you that prejudice unexpressed and unacted upon dies–it doesn’t fester and grow–it dies.  Now this is high sounding, and I don’t expect people to agree with such a simplistic solution.  But I really believe that you can stamp it out.  And if you look at our national figures today, there are certain people who cannot make a prejudicial remark.  Many of our Governors, the President, many responsible Senators are precluded in their public lives from ever making a prejudiced public statement, and if they make a statement that sounds like it’s prejudicial, they’re called on it and the next day, as General de Gaulle found, it was necessary to recant.  So we don’t allow them to get away with anything.  But at the lower levels, over the dinner table…[ellipsis in original, Edley is an African-American now teaching at Harvard Law School.]

[Franklin Roosevelt (Former Chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Congressman from the Twentieth Congressional District in New York during the eighty-first to the eight-third Congresses):]  The citizen level…[ellipsis in orig.]

[Christopher Edley:]  At the citizen level, we say it’s perfectly all right for a bigot to express his bigoted thoughts.  If you’re anti-Negro you can speak out against the Negro at supper.  The simplicity of the idea I submit to you is the thing that gives it some national potential for changing the climate (145).  [Identifications as published, xiii-xv].

[Ed Goodman, Manager of New York City Pacifica Station WBAI, report 1972:]  The tension between access and quality appears to me to be inevitable.  The tension is now more pronounced due to the heightened consciousness of various disenfranchised groups such as gay people, blacks, women, etc.  The problem is particularly acute within the context of the electronic media where the opportunities are limited by the numbers of hours in the day, and the licensing prerequisites.  These limitations are absent in the theater, print journalism, and other areas of expression.  Though the assertion that we should hire talented people and the hell with other considerations is, on the face, appealing, it is much too simplistic and ultimately self-limiting and suicidal.  It denies the contention that there are unique points of view and perspectives that are reflective of one’s ethnic background, sex, sexual proclivity, life style, and economic status.  The station is therefore enriched if its staff can reflect the diversity of the listening audience.  Of course, if diversity of this kind is sought for political expediency to the exclusion of talent and intelligence, this course too is limiting and destructive. [end, Goodman excerpt]

Erasing “class” as an analytic category.  The maturing academics who entered the professoriate after their baptism in tumultuous 1960s social movements, movements without linkage to the disorganized and quiescent working class whose members were often understandably resentful of privileged “draft dodgers” and “anti-Americans,” responded indignantly to the claims of “equal opportunity,” the pride of upwardly mobile urban ethnics embracing the tradition of Jackson and Lincoln.  Since women and non-whites were so obviously underrepresented in university faculties and curricula, and since many 1960s veterans were sympathetic to black power and other national liberation movements (viewed as responding to internal colonialism and imperialism), some insurgents accounted for the absence of women and non-whites in leadership positions as symptoms of “white male” or “patriarchal” intolerance/hegemony.  The “multiculturalists” did not argue that the position of women/non-whites in the family and labor force precluded the lengthy period of leisure, privacy, travel and acculturation anyone (including working-class white males) needed to become a scholar; rather their “difference” made their cultures of “the Other” unfathomable to transparently obtuse white males.  The new pluralists settled into ghettoized ethnic studies and women’s studies programs which, by virtue of their particular institutionalization in response to the 1960s black power and radical feminist movements suggested ethnic and gender difference as the most relevant variables, the engines of history for non-whites and women (however often “class” might be dropped into the mix of “class, race, and gender”).  As was feared by the conservative liberals at Martha’s Vineyard promoting the coöptation of black nationalism, race (and gender) had virtually erased class as an objective category.  Not surprisingly the dissenting individual also went the way of all flesh, collapsed into a notion of “individuality” as a feature of groups (race or ethnicity).

Fitting neatly into the idealist counter-Enlightenment which had promoted the concepts of racial, ethnic and national character, many theorizing young scholars, adopting a pseudo-Marxist, pseudo-Freudian rhetoric and, following the subjectivism, irrationalism, and group-think of Herder, Kant and Max Weber, defined themselves as revolutionary postmodernists, declaring that the categories of race, class, and gender, like literary taste, were all “socially constructed,” historically rooted, and thus “radically Other,” i.e., resistant to empathic readings or universal standards of truth and craft. [I understand that my characterizations of Kant and Weber are controversial.]  These anti-pluralist pluralists, champions of diversity and tolerance, have not been promulgating “hegemonic” Enlightenment or Victorian notions of species-unity (other than Herder’s international yet localist crazy quilt); they have mostly attempted to demolish the rationalism and universalist ethics spawned by the radical Reformation and scientific revolution then born by the philosophes, “Old Jewry”–radicals like Price and Priestley as they were characterized by a hostile Edmund Burke–liberal feminists, abolitionists, English Chartists, the independent labor movement, and the civil rights movement.

The underlying unity between apparently warring generations (authoritarian liberals and Stalinists versus the New Left generation) is illustrated by their common periodization of Cold War-style repression of civil liberties in “McCarthyism.” Little attention is paid to centuries-old élite resistance to mass literacy and numeracy and the torrent of democratic ideas that followed.  After the brief hiatus of the Nazi-Stalin Pact (1939-1941), American Stalinists dropped that short-lived campaign against American warmongers, once more supporting corporatist New Deal policies against the assaults of “fascist Republicans” or “monopoly capital.”  The prolific Carey McWilliams, editor of The Nation and foe to racism and censorship, was impressed by the methodology of Talcott Parsons and other “moderate” top-down planners who, after the war, opposed the arms race as an excessive drain on the welfare state.  Like many of the other corporatist thinkers described here, McWilliams was a regionalist and a populist; whether or not he was a member of the Communist Party as charged, he was certainly never a materialist Marxist.  His papers from the 1930s (at UCLA) suggest that he was following the Communist line, switching from a view of the New Deal as “social fascism” to best friend of the working class during the Popular Front (1935-1939).  Like other New Deal social democrats, he wanted to strengthen capitalism by bringing good labor unions and racial minorities into the system to stabilize the base.  After the war, “McCarthyism” was bad because it confused conservative reformers like himself with real communists.

Writing in the late 1960s, political scientist Michael Rogin denied that populists were antisemites, as neoconservative Richard Hoftstadter had charged in his Age of Reform (1957).  McCarthy was not a populist, Rogin argued, but a spokesman for traditional conservative élites, the selfish laissez-faire crowd of materialists participating in the (bad) American Lockean consensus.  Denouncing white supremacy (hitherto an emblem for Wall Street and the power of Jewish money), New Left radicals like McWilliams and Rogin internalized the Soviet-Tory terror-gothic scenario for the history of the last five centuries: Frankenstein monsters, the unique progeny of crazy scientists, Victorian prudery, and “the culture of narcissism” i.e., the ever unitary [Jewish] West, have produced genocide, exploitation of the Third World and the colonization of domestic minorities, mind-control by the mass media and CIA, urban snobbery, reification, commodification, luxury, and consumerism.  The radical scholars apparently hate money (commercialism) more than they love the creative, questing individual.  Do these populists resist the market as a coercive, brutal mechanism or, like displaced feudal clerics and aristocrats, would they ban the site of judgment by upstart “consumers” they cannot control?  Or, as anticapitalists and anti-imperialists, have they carved out their own super-moral niche on the market while apparently rejecting it?

More from the Martha’s Vineyard conference.

 [Kenneth Boulding:] Suppose we do something like this: We go to a voucher plan.  You give every child $500 to $1000 a year, and he can spend it any way he wants.  And give every Negro child $1500.

[Jerome Wiesner:] But that’s racism.

[Kenneth Boulding:] But I mean I am in favor of racism.  I think racism is important.  Well, they call it discrimination–not the same thing as racism at all.  These are two quite different subjects.  If you want to introduce some kind of counterweight to discrimination, this is where the federal government comes in.  We may see the federal government, the whole taxing-and-subsidizing business, as a total picture weighted toward correcting some of these ills of society.  This seems to me to be its major function (32).

[Christopher Edley, explaining that his support of black power in the 1950s and 60s did not entail a belief in racism:]  Now some excesses have come to the fore.  There is a danger of black nationalism, there is a danger of black separatism that goes beyond the temporary withdrawal to recoup our strength, to regroup and to seek out the powers that we want–the economic and social powers that seem to be attainable for us as a group only through the use of black identity.  Now I think there are roles that Negroes have to play.  It seems to me that the power structure has only responded to the excessive demands that have been made in the Negro community, and that there are certain Negroes who because they are bold and courageous, because they have little to lose, must demand things of the power structure which are excessive.  And I think that if we–the Ken Clarks and the Chris Edleys and perhaps the Lisle Carters–have a role to play, it is to capitalize on the softening up process that results from the excessive demands… [Black identity and race pride] will enable [students] to band together to overcome the obstacles.  I think that subconsciously they are seeking to get into the melting pot and the mainstream of American life.  I don’t believe that black nationalism will be the major thread…I don’t think that we need condemn [black-power studies], and I think many of us get caught in the situation where we have to think as Americans, as Negroes, and perhaps as something in between.  And I think it is possible to identify rationally the roles that people are playing and to realize that really in the long run they complement each other rather than being antagonistic to each other (71-72).*

So much for checks and balances.  In all cases, the Romantic Wandering Jew (the Byronic hero, Ahab, Peer Gynt as historian, myself) and our critical apparatus curse the strange diagnostics of democratic pluralists and anti-pluralist multiculturalists alike; s/he totes “the melting pot”[1] that jams Durkheimian solidarities too close to bad Jews, the latter identified in the nineteenth century by one republican theorist with “the moral nature of Anglo-Saxondom, with its virile instincts of right, freedom, and humanity, defending our cause against all comers, with indomitable courage and constancy of faith.”[2] Such troubling figures were revising and reconfiguring the past and present to produce what the “pluralists” regard as protofascist anomie, the alarming switch from homey, heimlich Gemeinschaft to intrusive and alienating, unheimlich Gesellschaft. [3]

[Untitled poem submitted to London Mercury by an Englishman, Lawrence Binyon (a William Blake reviver of the 1920s):]

From the howl of the wind/ As I opened the door/ And entered, the firelight/ Was soft on the floor;/ And mute in their places/ Were table and chair/ The white wall, the shadows,/ Awaiting me there./ All was strange on a sudden!/ From the stillness a spell,/ A fear or a fancy,/ Across my heart fell./ Were they awaiting another/ To sit by the hearth?/ Was it I saw them newly/ A stranger on earth?    [4]

*Christopher Edley, Jr. rose quickly to powerful positions in academe. For twenty-three years he was a professor at Harvard Law School, later becoming Dean of the UC Berkeley Law School, Boalt Hall.  He was an informal adviser to Barack Obama. In the illustration, he was debating the Solicitor General in the Reagan Administration, Charles Fried. The latter argued that affirmative action had done its job and should be phased out. Edley strongly disagreed according to the “Brief” in the Harvard Law Bulletin.

Postscript. This week (July 19-23) was largely devoted to shoddy reporting of the Shirley Sherrod tape of her NAACP talk, a snippet of which was revealed by Andrew Breitbart, who has since been held up to ridicule by the MSM, howling in unison. One of the few accurate reports I have seen was Andy McCarthy’s Corner piece in NRO. http://corner.nationalreview.com/post/?q=YjVmMjg3MDZlNDBmOGY1ZmQyOWNmNmM4MGNiZDdjZDM%3D. I watched the entire tape, took notes, and discerned a clever propaganda ploy, in which Sherrod laid claim to the heritage of the integrationist civil rights movement while actually reiterating the main tropes and story lines of black nationalism. It is interesting to note that Fox News Channel has been unable to describe the actual content of the Sherrod talk; either its pundits do not recognize the narrative, or are afraid to appear guilty of accusing black people as “racists” (it is the claim of black nationalists that the oppressed are incapable of racism; as victims of white supremacy they are simply freedom fighters on behalf of suffering humanity).

Ms. Sherrod’s line can be summarized as follows: Just as her father was murdered by whites (who were never punished) and just as the Klan burnt a cross on her lawn as she involved herself in civil rights (they too, though recognized, went unprosecuted), “mean-spirited” Republicans are resisting health care reform: i.e., powerful whites have been killing blacks  and getting away with it, but this may change with this administration or the election of a second black president. But most astonishingly, she invents an even longer heritage for white racism. There was once a golden age of race relations in colonial America, when black and white indentured servants intermarried. Wealthy whites, appalled by miscegenation (analogous to the black-white unity in the service of social justice she was calling for in her talk), invented slavery and racism. Thus she established the narrative: (wealthy, hate-ridden) whites will continue destroying black people until reparations are instituted and whites experience a change of heart, demonstrated by a statism and redistributive policies implemented by savvy blacks like herself. In other words, she represents the chief tenets of black liberation theology. For my numerous blogs on black power see https://clarespark.com/2010/07/15/index-to-black-power-blogs/. And don’t miss the ones on Arne Duncan.

NOTES.

[1] The particular menace of the melting pot is made explicit by the Catholic, Irish Nationalist, pro-Nazi James Murphy, Adolf Hitler, The Drama of His Career (London: Chapman & Hall, 1934): 120-121.  Catholic Centre coalitions with godless Prussians and socialists promoting a secularising Jewish press were similarly disasters for the simple, insightful peasants Murphy defends throughout.  He cites and recommends Hans Ehrenberg, Deutschland im Schmelzhofen (“Germany in the Melting Pot”).

[2]See Charles Sumner: An Essay by Carl Schurz, ed. Arthur  Reed Hogue (U.of Illinois Press, 1951):97. Schurz was referring to the Englishman John Bright, linking his character to Sumner’s.

[3] See Ferdinand Tönnies, Community and Civil Society, ed. Jose Harris, transl. Jose Harris and Margaret Hollis (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge UP, 2001. Originally published in 1887, Tönnies’s book is considered to be a classic work of sociology, but not until after the first world war (xxviii-xxviii) was it canonized. At first seen as a “communist tract,” it was taken up by German “ultra-nationalists,” and in America during the 1930s was read as “an essay in consensual structural functionalism.” The editor of this edition seems favorably disposed to this elusive and mysterious work. Tönnies was the son of a merchant banker, and given his hostility to modernity, one wonders how much of his disgust with the modern world was intertwined with his feelings about his father. In 1892 he “helped found Society for Ethical Culture, the vehicle for his life-long involvement in various co-operative, social reform, and self-improvement movements.” (xxxi-xxxii)

[4] Lawrence Binyan was an English Blake scholar, and a key figure in the William Blake promotion that followed World War I; the poem is in the J.C. Squire Papers, UCLA Special Collections.

September 14, 2009

Historians, journalists and polarization

Jean-Jaques Rousseau

I suppose you could call this blog a kind of discourse on method, with apologies to Descartes.

The term “polarization” does not mean that a group (in this case the U.S.) simply has sharp disagreements over policy. Rather it describes a situation that is highly irrational, in which hatred of the opposition is the dominant emotion. In such heightened emotional states, it is pointless to ask that we step back and 1. Describe with accuracy the status quo that the policy aims to reform; 2. Analyze proposed policies in detail, asking whether the reform in question can achieve the stated goals of its proponents; 3. Imagine better alternatives, describing these in sufficient detail to elicit either assent or opposition from concerned voters.

That sounds reasonable, right? But it is impossible to get agreement over the basic facts, or to even want to know them, in a society that is moved by partisan propaganda, often vitriolic, and where key words mean different things to different individuals and groups. (Take the word “secular” for instance. More on that later.)

Note that I did not specify what polarizing policy I had in mind. These (rational) protocols listed above could be applied to any of the current debates that roil the country: health care (or health insurance) reform; the war in Afghanistan; U.S. relations with Israel; whether or not radical Islam poses a deadly threat to the security of the West; the chief cause of the recession and measures that would aid recovery. (The latter dispute could include the causes of the Great Depression and how we got out of it.); gay marriage and compliance with the SCOTUS  decision; and immigration reform, etc.

During the month of August and early September I blogged here almost every day, hoping that an historical perspective that was also informed by depth psychology might contribute to the return of curiosity and rationality in a public sphere that seems to me to be spinning out of control toward either violent confrontations, even race riots, or toward the instituting of dangerous, misconceived policies that could hurt people with even greater inhumanity. In particular, I have emphasized embedded antisemitism in popular culture, an ever more visible phobia that defeats the rational scrutiny of controversial subjects as listed above. Not every historian does this kind of analysis, and why this is so is in itself historically determined.

First, there is the chasm between 1. Those whose intellectual and emotional makeup leads them toward skepticism to all authority until that authority is able to justify its existence and power to affect individual life; and 2. Those who are driven by faith in leaders, and who generally submit to their will, without too many questions. Let me stipulate here that historians are, by training, supposed to line up with the first group, whether their emphasis is on institutional structures, cultural patterns, the decisions of leaders, or the imperatives of the natural world and its slow or rapid transformations. Preferably, historians should provide an explanatory synthesis that comprehends, however tentatively, all of these great forces for change or stasis, but few have the training, the imagination, and the nerve to attempt it. Could it be that some do not want to appear as ”Jewish” troublemakers and catalysts of social change?

Unfortunately, given the immensity of the task facing the historian who wants to explain any conflict of significance, it is rare to find one with the imaginative skills and time to develop a satisfactory theory on all but a limited terrain. That is why I wish historians would shake off their graduate school training and its approved “lines” of interpretation coming from senior faculty, and move toward greater intellectual independence. “Faith” in our dissertation directors or other mentors must give way to bold forays into uncharted waters, where we identify those areas and conceptions most helpful in depolarizing the conflicts that rule the day.* One challenge is deciding the level of detail and context needed by a broad public in assessing foreign and  domestic policy. (I tried to do that yesterday in my account of oil politics and Obama’s framing of the Arab-Israeli conflict: I drastically reframed the conflict as generally transmitted in schools and in the media.) Another area of activity would be to define key words as they are deployed by competing social movements, for instance “secular” forces as opposed to “traditional” ones.

The word “secular” has changed its meaning: no longer commonly understood as a reference to the separation of church and state, i.e., a plurality of institutions affecting our orientation to public policy, hence enhancing “choice,”  “secular” now is often a curse word for some opinion leaders on the Right who take it to mean the mindless destruction of American values, as these are embodied in the beliefs of the Founding Fathers and the Constitution. Whereas, instead of using scary words implying parricide and patricide, they could be doing real, appropriately detailed investigations, assuming that they are allowed to by their colleagues and employers. Or how about historians decoding the omnipresent admonition to “take responsibility” for one’s health? How can there be meaningful choice when determining structures remain invisible, and where we have only limited understanding of the emotions within ourselves that muddle “rational choice?”

One more word about journalists who are not trained historians, but who work for the media, and for whom loyalty to the organization often trumps loyalty to seeking the truth and educating the public about events and their causes. Newspapers and other media are in my view, adding to the polarization owing to the political postures of the owners and their advertised intentions to act as the “newspaper of record” or to achieve “fairness and balance.” Of course, the New York Times and Fox (owned by Newscorp) provide neither a complete record, nor fairness and balance, for few even know what “balance” signifies (as I have argued in a previous blog); nor is it widely known that “balance,” like “equilibrium” is a word used in psychological warfare to soothe the target audience. That is why the failure of the Pacifica Foundation remains such a bitter disappointment in my own personal history, for I once thought that listener-sponsorship would remedy the structural causes of bias and finally bring about a vibrant marketplace of ideas, but I did not take into consideration the overwhelming influence of corporatist liberalism and its concealed collectivist (“multicultural”) outlook, a matter discussed on this website at length.

Will the internet provide the much-needed way out of this imbroglio, a tangle of clashing opinion pushing us into some form of madness? As long as our schools and families do not prepare children to “quarrel with God” as Herman Melville did throughout his literary career (and for this he was read as a “Jew” by some prominent critics), the internet will add to the noise, but will not help us distinguish between true and false claims as to the crucial facts that affect public policy-making in a democratic republic: a democracy that does not call the primitivist Rousseau its intellectual parent, but is the creature of  Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution of the seventeenth century.

[Added 1-9-11:] I did not mention demonizing as a habit of the media, along with demonic possession as an explanation for psychosis or sociopathy. If your core readers believe in the Devil or in innate evil in human nature, calling out the dark forces is another strategy for selling newspapers and increasing traffic on cable television and websites. Goethe (illustrated) made a dramatic intervention in the Faust legend when he wrote his two-part drama in which Faust does not sell his soul, but makes a bet with Mephistopheles, a point that is ignored by those who don’t study intellectual history. But the Romantic Goethe, like Schiller, did become more conservative after the French Revolution, and it shows in their dramas.]

*One such historian is Niall Ferguson, whose masterful synthesis explaining Western ascendancy is of intense interest to me.

Tischbein portrait of classicist Goethe

September 8, 2009

Making Political Love, Not War

infographia imagines elements of critical thought

infografia imagines elements of critical thought

Today, September 8, 2009, the President addressed a national audience of schoolchildren from kindergarten through K-12, reiterating the American Dream, a dream attained through “taking responsibility,” learning from failure, overcoming obstacles, and, he advised, almost in passing, learning to think critically. That critical thought remains a controversial and muddled value, or might be opposed by fundamentalists of either Left or Right, or might, as a concept, be simply incomprehensible to younger children was not addressed by either Nina Easton or William Kristol on Fox News Channel, both of whom praised the talk as reinforcing conservative values. Meanwhile, Joe Hicks told Pajamas Media viewers not to emulate Sean Penn’s tantrums by succumbing to Obama Derangement Syndrome before they even heard the speech; that Eric Holder’s hiring of numerous civil rights litigators to dig up rampant racial discrimination, notwithstanding his appointment by a black president, was worthier of attention.

Shortly after watching Obama’s speech, I opened my Facebook page and learned that Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism had been deemed by one reviewer as the most important book of the last decade (a book that, in my view, does not look at the resistance to informed political participation from a long enough time frame). I invite readers of today’s blog not only to consider what each of us means by appropriately critical thought in a would-be democratic republic, but to find out what attitudes, facts, and narratives teachers of history and social studies in the public schools are actually relating concerning the national biography. As my own contribution I resuscitate an essay written almost twenty years ago, while I still had hopes of reforming Pacifica from within.

And all that Jazz.    On 15 July 1990, I met with Pacifica listeners who had listened to my radio series, “How Do We Know When We Are Not Fascists?” and wanted to discuss its implications face-to-face.  It was valuable to me as a guide to future programming, and helped me to understand how my work differs from that of other social critics, both in its form and its content.   The listeners who attended our fund-raiser ranged in age from the twenties to the sixties.  Many were social activists, some were teachers and graduate students; they also included accountants, an air-conditioning repairman, a house painter, an artist, a TV editor, and a manicurist.  One listener was a Holocaust survivor.  We were all white people, neither very poor nor very rich.  Everyone was well informed and articulate: there were many expressions of anxiety about our society, disgust with mass culture, and despair for the future; one listener wants to leave the country.  After I had summarized my argument for the series and answered questions and criticisms, I got three interesting objections to my analysis.  One person felt that my emphasis on anti-Semitism was a furtive defense of Israel.  Another was frustrated with me; I talked too much about the past.  She seemed to want rules and recipes for action, as if she wanted to know whom to hate. Whereas I, hoping to counter the demoralizing effects of centuries of antidemocratic propaganda, had only offered the idea that we must always improvise and address the specific circumstances of the moment; finally we must rely on our own critical capacities to evaluate and judge competing interpretations of society and plans for social action; I was saying that such enlightened determinations would be the result of study, introspection, debate, and the testing of would-be-allies and leaders over time.  Another listener, a member of a Maoist group wanted me to say that America was already fascist because of our behavior in Central America. [It seems to me today that neither of these three understood that you can’t get to peace and love through hate. Not good for conflict-resolution, if that is your thing.]

Dirt: a problem of the transition.  Why should we compare the political culture of Nazi fascism to our own?  I continue to argue that “fascism” is not simply the brutality of counter-revolution and the suppression of a militant labor movement, but an attack on the Brain, on the critical spirit of the Enlightenment that alone could make democratic participation and self-management effective.  This critical spirit was represented by organic conservatives as the figure of the Romantic Wandering Jew, dirty, demonic, restless, and a transgressor: the practitioner of solitary vice, reading library books and doing archival research and investigative journalism.  He is ourselves in the Pacifica audience.

If we fail to make the distinction between Nazi fascism and authoritarian tendencies in our own culture, then we will not be able to understand contested institutions like the media, traditional families, and the school system: we will not know how and where to put our energies.  We will not be able to evaluate the analysis and tactics of “progressive” social movements or embattled artists and writers based in the petit-bourgeoisie, and which are clamoring for our support and which may be proto-fascist and therefore deluded and destructive.  We will not see the openings for effective social action and dialogue with those who do not agree with us, but may continue to feel desperate and immobilized.  Moreover, if we fail to understand the Holocaust, we may not be able to prevent mass death today; we may continue to do to ourselves and to our environment what the Nazis did to the Jews of Europe.  Like them we will attempt to turn back the clock and recover the good father who alone, could and would restrain the predatory side of capitalism.

Three discussions of Nazism are of interest to me this week. In May, Saul Friedländer’s UCLA seminar showed Syberberg’s 7 1/2 hour film, Our Hitler, A Film From Germany; during our fund drive, Michael Parenti gave taped talks on the abuses of psychohistory and then Nazism; Elinor Langer’s article on Neo-Nazis was the centerpiece of last week’s Nation magazine. Though it did not advertise its Burkean antidemocratic commitments, the Syberberg film represented the conservative nationalist position, claiming that Hitler was elected democratically, that he was the inheritor of German Romanticism through Wagner: he was the little man who had seized the printing press and the film camera, aestheticizing violence and creating the corrupting spectacles of mass culture.  Like the Jungian psychoanalysts in America who worked for the OSS analyzing Hitler’s perverted psyche, Syberberg made Hitler archetypally Jewish.

Michael Parenti offered the Stalinist interpretation of Nazism: it was monopoly capital’s assault on the labor movement; anti-Semitism was a propaganda ploy to smear communists; he dismissed the question of fascism’s appeal as not terribly relevant.  The tactics of the KPD were not mentioned, nor did he attempt to explain the Holocaust.  Eleanor Langer’s article worried about Tom Metzgar, David Duke, and skinheads, collapsed Jew hatred into racism in general, and argued that racism, ostensibly at bay after World War II was alarmingly returning.  The issue was filled with advertisements from liberal anti-Nazi, anti-Klan organizations asking for support.  Langer did attempt to counter the ADL characterization of neo-Nazis as extremists; we should look at mainstream racism, she said finally (contradicting her earlier statement about the abated racism after the war?).  Because none of these social critics has delivered a satisfying account of antisemitism’s functioning in Nazi culture, they cannot help us identify it here or frame effective tactics to defeat fascism today.  For the remainder of this broadcast, I shall show that historical analysis helps us understand the present and gives us hope and courage, but also demands that we examine our attitudes toward America and the “right-wingers” we are certain are our sworn enemies, and who, we are certain, bear no resemblance to ourselves.

What was the threat of the Jews?  What was their connection with the rationalism, science, technology, and radical puritanism we associate with the word Enlightenment, and which accelerated in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries?  What was unique about modernity?  For the first time in history, the material conditions for global peace were developed.  The unfettered imagination created the technology that would one day eliminate toil and gross inequities of wealth; the preconditions for maximum personal development would finally be realized.  Mass communications made mass education (and therefore responsible political participation) plausible.  The psychology of John Locke proposed that experience, not our fallen state, determined one’s understanding of the world.  This Lockean tradition emphasized possibilities of cooperation and educability: Lockeans stressed the importance of institutions that could be modified and improved; twentieth century Behaviorism owes more to Locke than does conservative psychoanalysis, which may be viewed as counter-revolutionary, e.g., in its emphasis on the Death Instinct.

The English Civil War, the American and French Revolutions raised the specter of lower-class autodidacts whose nosiness and insatiable curiosity were questioning the virtue of ruling élites.  Customary “deference” was over.  The radical Protestant sects which emerged during the period of the English Civil War were identified with Old Testament Jews by their Royalist enemies.  Meanwhile, the new science was promoting the idea of species-unity, as all of nature seemed governed by knowable and universal laws: nature was our teacher and a text anyone could learn to read.  The procedures of science were implicitly anti-authoritarian.  The senses were no longer deceptive as the Church had argued, but a relatively reliable source of positive knowledge.  As a scientific explorer of the world, you were expected to prove your assertions with observable facts and replicable experiments, not intuition or inspiration.  Thus was the basis laid for legitimate, not coercive, authority.  This democratic science is at the heart of voluntarism and rationalism: it is our only protection against demagoguery and the exorcisms that must follow the sleep of reason.

In the English and German Terror-Gothic art that followed the French Revolution, the figures of the Wandering Jew and the femme-fatale represented the fearsome specter of revolution from below: revolutions were linked to sex, pantheism, curiosity, narcissism, androgyny, and reason (all were illicit passions).  Victorian Tory Radicals and Christian Socialists identified America as the nation of Bad Jews–we were revolutionary puritans, the bearers of the most radical Enlightenment ideas.  “The Hebrew Children” carried the critical spirit; they were the transgressors of the boundaries set by the old and apparently declining European élites.  For extreme conservatives in this country, the American frontiersman was the type of the dangerously egalitarian and ambitious bad Jew bringing death to the paternalism of the Old World.  D.H. Lawrence inspired the nativist radicals who followed when he characterized the typical American as hard, stoic, isolate, a killer: he was surely thinking of the nosy Hebrews and modern women he also complained about.

European élites did not sit idly by, then, gracefully bowing to the rising classes that would remove their privileges, but counter-attacked with all their Hearts.  Their strategy was to co-opt the materialism and environmentalism of the Enlightenment: their perverse productions haunt us today and may be an obstacle to coalition-building in the 1990s.  First there was scientific racism to justify expropriation of land and slavery: this countered the Judeo-Christian ideas of single creation, international brotherhood, equality, and ideas of species-unity popularized by science and commerce.  As an improvement, we got polygenesis and the Aryan myth.  By 1945, Franz Boas and his students in cultural anthropology had apparently made valiant progress in demolishing these vicious ideas.  But Boas, along with students of Frederick Jackson Turner and the other Progressives had simultaneously supported pseudo-scientific notions of national and regional character: the doctrine of blood and soil which we usually associate with Germany, or the Southern Agrarians of the 1920s and 1930s, not 1960s America.  For the ethnopluralists like Boas or Turner (both ideological descendants of the German Romantics), different racial stocks interacted with their material environments to produce unique qualities, rooted in local history, which was again, also natural history.  All events were now “rooted” in a specific incomparable moment; events were unique; the past was no guide to the present in this brand of historicism.  Turner’s pseudo-materialism created the intellectual foundations for much of the new social history and fashionable studies of “material culture” in academic cultural history and in museums.  It sounds Marxist, but is not. (Turner explicitly vowed to promote a pseudo-materialism in the public universities to counter the growing authority of Marxism in Europe and America; see his essays in The Frontier in History, 1921.)

Similarly, Social Darwinism undermined the materialist analysis that the Enlightenment made possible.  For the social Darwinists, national or regional struggle was the motor of history and was healthy and progressive, uplifting, weeding out the lower races, like the English imperialism that J.A. Hobson ambivalently criticized in 1902.  Racial unity was normal; if class warfare erupted, it was the fault of Jewish finance capital: its symbol the Stock Exchange.  The absentee ownership born of the Stock Exchange destroyed the warm personal relationships that were supposed to have moderated relations between master and man (Hitler’s fantasy).  Meanwhile, conspiratorial and always lying Jews had seized the technology of mass media to instill greed and dissatisfaction with things as they are (The Protocols of the Elders of Zion).  In America, nativist reformers argued that immigrant Polish Jews had corrupted the native American working class, convincing them that they would be exploited under capitalism, no matter what the AFL said.  Antimodernists everywhere saw the Jewified city as the source of dissension; mixing races and nationalities, its bohemian inhabitants were going native to overthrow the authority of the fathers; these primitivist revolts, melting pots boiling over, were the first step in the descent to internationalism, chaos and decay.

As we know, science, technology and psychology were continually co-opted by “moderate” conservatives to control the labor force and forestall socialist transformation.  John Dos Passos loved exposing the new techniques of public relations (U.S.A. is his masterpiece).  From the 1920s to the present, the lower orders, as usual, were fed images of their ugliness, irrationality and incompetence.  But bad Jews in movies and television did not invent this practice.  Plato had insisted on the necessity of the noble lie to keep the masses in their place, but he didn’t have mass literacy and newspapers to contend with.[1]  Aristocratic radicals, writing in the tradition of Plato to stigmatize the lower-class brain, have attacked positivism and objectivity: (popular) science is but one of competing myths, they claim.  As with other philosopher-kings, their wisdom and rationality in making these judgments is not contested; as David Hume asserted, moderation was hard to come by; truth and certainty were to be found, if anywhere, in the moderate point of view.  And like other élite theorists in Europe and America, the moderate men have attacked all materialists pointing the way to emancipation from upper-class terrorism.  The moderns and their radical liberal followers must be purged to restore normal, natural (i.e., racial) harmony, the de-centered localism they, Herder, and T.S. Eliot admired.  Like earlier élite theorists and carriers of Conservative Enlightenment, then, the aristocratic radicals dismiss the possibility of excellence in democratic societies.  By attacking the revolutionary bourgeoisie from the p.o.v. of the higher moderation, they have lined up with the displaced European aristocracy and can see only darkness in their future.

How have other twentieth century social movements positioned themselves with regard to the Enlightenment?  First the Nazis (who have been incorrectly portrayed as romantic individualists and decadents by some conservatives): The Nazi movement, based in the ruined middle-class and longing for restoration, embraced the harmony, balance and repose of classicism and corporatism, including its supposed socialist and internationalist left-wing–the S.A. (cf. Elinor Langer).  For these pseudo-aristocrats, the lower orders could be inclusively integrated into the whole; class hatred and class war would be banished forever once the Jewish irritants of finance capital and phony class analysis were removed.  At long last, true love: the proletarianized German nation (abused by the Treaty of Versailles), finally united, would struggle against other racial entities for its place in the sun.  Hardness would replace bourgeois sentimentality, humanitarianism, parliamentary politics, and pacifism.  The steel helmet was the perfect object; the insensibility of judenrein racial purity was the key to national greatness and creativity.  In fact, Nazi Prometheans would rescue the world from the Jewish, romantic, deracinating Marxist night.  Albert Speer’s searchlights could have symbolized this nobly enlightened mission to pierce the mystifications of the revolutionary bourgeoisie and its upstart children.  Nazism then, was the offspring of Conservative Enlightenment, not the excrescence of Romanticism that Peter Viereck and other conservatives claimed; like other relics of feudalism Nazis carried the logic of Social Darwinism to its inevitable conclusion.  Jews, however, were not simply rival professionals to be beaten or expropriated, or one of many labor pools to be subjugated: they were the obstreperous, incorrigible individualists refusing to reconcile the irreconcilable; they were the sinister, softening forces of modernity making political love, not war.  As Sartre famously noticed, the warring pluralities of fascist Germany could find unity only in their common enmity to the mythical Jew they had constructed.

Upper-class American Progressives and the nativist radicals (including Lewis Mumford, Van Wyck Brooks, Richard Chase, the New Left following romantic anticapitalists like Blake, the pre-Raphaelites, William Morris, etc.) have also spurned the radical Enlightenment, embracing Frederick Jackson Turner-style doctrines of blood and soil pluralism, and eschewing the radical liberals of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries for theories of racial, gender, and national difference or character.  Elinor Langer is writing to this audience; since they believe they are not racists, but right-on radicals, antifascists, and anti-imperialists, they cannot analyze proto-fascism in themselves.  These thinkers are especially given to despair; they do not want fascism in America, but see no possibility of dialogue with the hopelessly racist white males of all classes, i.e., the frontiersmen.  In fact, their discourse celebrating diversity and the multi-cultural experience resembles that of the liberal imperialists of England (knights of the Round Table), who promoted the idea of the multi-racial Empire, headed of course by the English upper-classes: the same ideology permeated the upper-class peace movement that Progressives backed after World War II (with Pacifica one of its progeny).

And what of the Old Left?  For strategic reasons, Stalinists supported national liberation movements in the Third World and cultural nationalist movements in America, no matter how hierarchical and internally antidemocratic and exploitative.  At Pacifica, a similar policy is displayed in the block programming initiated in the 1970s and 1980s, institutionalizing racial and gender difference, and making it difficult to confront internal antagonisms or experiences that deviated from positive images promulgated by “the community.”  A heroic myth was wanted; meanwhile other white male programmers were off the hook; their sometimes sadistic humor would be balanced by fulminations from the spruced-up ghettoes sophisticated conservatives had provided for them.

And what of the Trotskyists?  The Partisan Review intellectuals seemed divided over materialism and organicism; for some, it was not peculiar to be publishing the anti-Semitic and Tory T.S. Eliot, or to support Ezra Pound in the controversy that erupted after he was awarded the Bollingen Prize in 1949.  Insofar as Marxists go, I feel that Rosa Luxemberg’s left-liberal style of Marxism, not Leninist vanguardism, protects the democratic promise of the Enlightenment more persuasively than any other Left tendency.  (See Stephen Eric Bronner, Socialism Unbound.)

And what of the Frankfurt School: the Marxist-Freudians who emigrated to America from Germany ?  Many were as élitist and organicist as the nativist radicals whose work they cited and supported, figures such as Harold Lasswell and Henry A. Murray.  Adorno, Horkheimer, Herbert Marcuse, and Leo Lowenthal have devastatingly criticised mass media and American popular culture, seeing only thought-control and repressive tolerance (that is, Pacifica would be seen as impotent, existing only to make the system look good).  Not surprisingly, their followers have rarely bestirred themselves on behalf of our radio station; why bother?  And finally, there are the romantic Third-Worlders and deep ecologists.  These identify with the victimized Third World and Nature, and talk of them as if they are literally abused children or pets, not to be criticized for sexism, homophobia, or other counter-Enlightenment values, objectives, and tactics.

I have been describing obstacles to communication between Pacifica programmers and the audience; it is a dismal picture.  We are now the major repository of the critical spirit and mass education in America, such as it is.  We alone put up the good fight against “cold war culture,” it is said.  However, many of our listeners blame Western culture a.k.a. the phony liberalism of the Jews, for bringing all the ills of modernity, including fascism and ecocide to the world.  I am asking them to reconsider the upper-class ideologies that have contributed to their miseducation and thus their despair; I am asking them to contextualize the quietistic religions or peasant communities they believe are the antidote to Western desirousness and angst; I am asking them to renew their commitments to inter-group and interpersonal understanding in ‘our’ radio station.  This entails the continual retrieval of history, self-knowledge, the scrupulous search for truth, no-holds barred rational criticism, but always in the context of mutual respect, gentleness and patience.  If we shy away from this task, we will have missed a golden opportunity to intervene in the history of our time, to make political love and to leave behind the idealizations and monsters of the past.  Fascism and indiscriminate numbness are the problem: true liberalism and discriminating sensibility the solution.  In this ambiguous century, who else is going to know which is which witch?  [revised 10/96, 9-8-2000]


[1] Plato’s parable of the cave was featured in Walter Lippmann’s Public Opinion (1922), but not to attack materialism. Lippmann advocated the training of an intellectual class that would specialize in fact-finding to help the reading public evaluate competing claims from management and labor in an increasingly expert-controlled society; the fact-finding function was to be separated from policy-making, Cf. Emile Zola on naturalism.

August 14, 2009

My Life At Pacifica (KPFK-FM, Los Angeles): Part Two, with gory details

II. Every working artist and scientist will know what I mean when I claim that there is no consensus on the value of the dissenting individual, yet that Promethean figure is precisely what I, a listener and strong supporter of KPFK in the late 1960s, thought listener-sponsorship, diffuse and voluntary, was supposedly designed to protect and foster. Living in that illusion, the radio station changed my life, transforming me, notwithstanding its deficiencies, from a sheltered and naïve suburban housewife and mother, to a ‘public intellectual’ and, after graduate school at UCLA, into a professional historian. This is a crucial point for all those who study institutions, whether of the Left or Right: we are not helpless pawns, we are not stamped and molded, but persons able to reflect upon our experience and, when confronted by new facts and conditions, change our minds accordingly. Unfortunately for its subscribers, my libertarian outlook is in conflict with the ruling ideology of Pacifica as of other cultural institutions practicing ethnopluralism or multiculturalism as it is now called, and it is this difference that accounts most importantly for my traumatic and shocking firing as Program Director in 1982, then final banishment from the air in 1997. I am too insistent on the absolute requirement for independent and objective artists, scientists, and scholars unbeholden to any political party or controlling bureaucracy—that is, if an excellent popular democracy is ever to be realized. I have too elevated, too rationalist a view of the human capacity for self-management, too universalist a view of ethics, too optimistic a hope for the international understanding and cooperation that could accompany economic, scientific, and technological development, bringing in its wake, the reduction, if not abolition, of human suffering and destructiveness.

Although some observers may think I have changed my politics, this view is mistaken. I have always been more of a freethinker, artist and journalist than a political activist (hence under party discipline), but it is true that I have been identified and often self-identified as a Marxist (misunderstood by me as a radical liberal) during the years I produced a weekly radio program, The Sour Apple Tree for Pacifica Radio in Los Angeles (1969-1997) or for the eighteen months I served as Program Director (2-81 through 7-82). What is appalling to me in retrospect is the indoctrination into the revisionist version of the Cold War that I received as a listener to KPFK from 1959 on and then as a mature graduate student at UCLA in the Department of History (1980, 1983-93). Alleging that the United States was entirely responsible for the Cold War, the revisionist narrative was a version of twentieth-century history that blunted my understanding of world politics, but that I largely accepted until my dissertation research was completed, and I had time to examine recently declassified government documents of the late 1940s and early 1950s, demonstrating to my amazement that there was no evidence whatsoever that disclosed an American plot to magnify the Soviet military threat as I had been led to believe by Left and New Left scholars and journalists; to be sure, I found an enthusiasm for psychological warfare among social psychologists, but there was no agreement on policy; rather hot contestation about goals and methods. Where others posited conspiracy, I found evidence of chaos and incompetence. Beginning in the early 1990s former Soviet bureaucrats divulged their secrets and Soviet archives became partly available for scrutiny by Western scholars. Small wonder that I now believe that scholars should direct their attention to the political and psychological damage that distorted histories explaining the causes of war and of mass death in this century may have inflicted upon us all, for nothing less than political will and the capacity for enduring emotional and intellectual attachments is at stake. (Again: I do not mean to imply that the conduct of US foreign policy was or is above criticism; quite the contrary, as I have argued in my article “Who’s Crazy Now? An Essay Dedicated to Christopher Hill,” UCLA History Journal Vol.10, 1990, pp.1-37).

Before I describe a few of the shortcomings of the Pacifica Foundation and its five listener-sponsored radio stations, I must declare that the relative freedom of the work environment at KPFK until recently, the access I acquired to powerful people in both established institutions and in radical social movements, my generally positive relations with productive and significant intellectuals of the Left (despite disillusion and disappointment in some cases), and the direct and open interactions I had with the listeners of the most varied backgrounds and interests, not only made it possible for me to develop as an artist and scholar, intellectually and emotionally relatively free of institutional pressures, but also prepared me for a graduate education in history with confidence and resolve: I had a base in the thousands of autodidacts—earnest, intelligent, and decent–who had depended upon me as their teacher, and I was not about to sell them out for academic preferment and advancement.

The Sour Apple Tree years. I began my radio production in 1969, at a time when artists, like other Americans galvanized by the civil rights movement, were in revolt against the institutions that determined their careers. Museums and other cultural institutions mediated between artists and the public; my work gave voice to artists wishing to have a say about the way his or her work was displayed and contextualized, assuming that their work was represented at all. At a time when women and minorities were mobilizing to be included in galleries and museums dominated by white males, my programming gave voice to organized groups and individuals; I also focused on the interference of Boards of Directors with the day to day operation of the local museum; I was defending, I thought, the academic freedom of the curatorial staff. At the same time, (along with curators and other scholars) I resisted biology as a rationale for group exhibition. In Los Angeles, so I was informed, it was boards of directors and corporate sponsors in the 1970s, not curators, who insisted upon the entry of hitherto excluded or ignored artists as women artists, black artists, etc. This was a point that in retrospect is crucial to the understanding of the 1970s and its co-optation of dissent, apparently absorbing protests from below but turning a victory into defeat by reinforcing essentialist categories, i.e. sorting people out by race (ethnicity) and gender, then imputing similar ethnic or gender character to every member of the set. (It doesn’t sound so bad when this character is called “identity” with its connotation of inner integration and adjustment.)

What was the alternative? Artists share common sets of aesthetic and intellectual concerns at any given historical moment. If a curator wishes to illuminate the doings of artists, historic or contemporary, the show lays out the underlying unity of the works in the exhibition and focuses the viewer’s attention upon those aspects of form and content that are shared as well as those that are contested, opening the art and the culture that stimulated its production to interrogation by the viewer. If the gender or “race” of the artist becomes the rationale for the exhibition, then every member of the group must be alike in their concerns and responses, and women or non-whites and white males must be discernibly different. Needless to say, numerous artists were eager to take this line: that their unique and always radical (group) sensibilities made their work unattractive or undecipherable to the white male oppressor. Irrationalism of the most reactionary character was (or continued to be), in: the Enlightenment and the universalism of science as promulgated by the progressive bourgeoisie was (or continued to be), out. I put the case this way because I am not convinced that we have made the full transition from tribal or feudal to democratic social relations in any society whatsoever; even scientists and mathematicians, the designated Prometheans, do not control their institutional fates, most especially since a group of “geniuses” at Los Alamos held the fate of the world in their hands. [fn Sudoplatov, Special Tasks]

Several years before I was hired as Program Director in early 1981, Jim Berland, my future boss, led a coup that ousted Program Director Ruth Hirschman (now Ruth Seymour, Manager of KCRW) and Manager Will Lewis. As a volunteer programmer, I had little to do with the politics of KPFK. So I would not have known that when Jim Berland became Manager in 1978, he had been ordered to integrate the station by race and gender and to replace the morning classical music slot with a news and public affairs magazine; however that would have meant partly dispossessing the largely white male staff who dominated the air and who had been Berland’s lieutenants in the coup. At the point when I, the superdumb bunny who would take the heat, was hired, Berland was on notice to fulfill the directive in six months, or he would lose his job (not that he told me about the deadline when I was hired: it was the Executive Director Sharon Maeda who passed on this juicy tidbit). It is worth mentioning that Maeda, who later solicited corporate funding, had a vision of poor black people pushing wheelbarrows full of pennies up to our doors were we to program “their” music, interrupted with three or five minute public affairs spots.

PURGE #1. The story of my purge after eighteen months of startling successes in improving the credibility of KPFK and enlarging its subscription base makes no sense unless I relate how other institutions (including other Pacifica stations) had handled the demands of women and minorities in the civil rights, black power, and feminist movements. Responding to black power and the urban riots that followed the assassination of Martin Luther King, members of the education establishment (like the progressives who had preceded them during analogous moments of conflict from below) decided to co-opt black nationalist movements with ethnic studies and other reforms designed to combat prejudice and hate speech. Here is a portion of the edited transcript of a meeting at Martha’s Vineyard, July 1968, where liberal leaders aired their concerns and proposed a solution to the increasing intractable problem of urban violence. Though startling in its frankness and bizarre view of the remedy for “racial discrimination,” it has to my knowledge been utterly ignored by journalists and scholars commenting on the culture wars:

[From a small conference “to explore the role of education in combating racial discrimination,” Martha’s Vineyard, July 1968, published as Racism and American Education: A Dialogue and Agenda for Action, Foreward by Averell Harriman, Harper and Row, 1970:]

[Kenneth Clark (President of the Metropolitan Applied Research Center, Inc. Member of the New York State Board of Regents, and Professor of Psychology at City College of New York):]”…I don’t see how we can avoid coming to the conclusion that teachers, who are supposed to be professionals with confidence in the potential of human beings, are deficient in areas in which higher education is supposed to provide knowledge. In some research among teachers selected by their principals to discuss teaching with us, the common denominator, interestingly enough true of Negro teachers as well as white teachers, was a profound illiteracy on what you would consider critical areas of knowledge. I mean the attitudes, well not just the attitudes, but the knowledge of cultural anthropology or modern and contemporary knowledge about race and racial differences and racial potentialities or social psychology…They were really illiterate…in areas of social science that were relevant to their jobs (52).”

[C. Van Woodward (Sterling Professor of History at Yale University):]”…Americans in the early phases of nationalism did really foolish things. In order to establish what they would now call their identity, Americans denigrated everything European in culture, and at the same time exalted everything American. If it was American, it was beautiful, and if it was European, it was not. Of course, that resulted in a lot of third-rate art and letters and sculpture and so forth. I think we have recovered from our earlier excesses of nationalism in this respect, but by no means are we free from nationalism as a country. The black nationalism, I think, will manifest many of these same excesses. I think this is inevitable, and I think we are going to have to live with it in the colleges, in the public schools, all down the line. We’re going to have to adjust to it. I think we must think about it with as much dispassionate wisdom as we can muster, because it’s likely to get out of hand (64-65″); see Kenneth Clark rejecting tolerance of black nationalism, 68).

[Christopher Edley (Program Officer in charge of the Government and Law Program at the Ford Foundation):]”…I’m convinced that the way you eliminate prejudice and racism in America is not by talking and education and explanation. I think you have to start with a simple cliché‚ like God, motherhood, or country. You have to have something that has a noble ring. And it seems to me that what this country needs is a movement, and I don’t know that this is the appropriate group to sponsor it. This country needs a movement. The way to eliminate prejudice is to smother it. If we could bring about a climate in this country where no one could express a prejudicial viewpoint without being challenged, we would begin to drive prejudice underground. And I submit to you that prejudice unexpressed and unacted upon dies–it doesn’t fester and grow–it dies. Now this is high sounding, and I don’t expect people to agree with such a simplistic solution. But I really believe that you can stamp it out. And if you look at our national figures today, there are certain people who cannot make a prejudicial remark. Many of our Governors, the President, many responsible Senators are precluded in their public lives from ever making a prejudiced public statement, and if they make a statement that sounds like it’s prejudicial, they’re called on it and the next day, as General de Gaulle found, it was necessary to recant. So we don’t allow them to get away with anything. But at the lower levels, over the dinner table…[ellipsis in original]. ”

[Franklin Roosevelt (Former Chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Congressman from the Twentieth Congressional District in New York during the eighty-first to the eight-third Congresses):] ” The citizen level…[ellipsis in orig.]”

[Christopher Edley:] “At the citizen level, we say it’s perfectly all right for a bigot to express his bigoted thoughts. If you’re anti-Negro you can speak out against the Negro at supper. The simplicity of the idea I submit to you is the thing that gives it some national potential for changing the climate (145).” [Identifications as published, xiii-xv. Edley is an African-American, now Professor of Law at Harvard and a frequent spokesman for affirmative action.]

Multiculturalism, as hiring policy and program orientation, its racialist discourse intact, was instituted at Pacifica shortly afterward. As WBAI station manager Ed Goodman explained to a worried audience of New Yorkers in 1972:

“The tension between access and quality appears to me to be inevitable. The tension is now more pronounced due to the heightened consciousness of various disenfranchised groups such as gay people, blacks, women, etc. The problem is particularly acute within the context of the electronic media where the opportunities are limited by the numbers of hours in the day, and the licensing prerequisites. These limitations are absent in the theater, print journalism, and other areas of expression. Though the assertion that we should hire talented people and the hell with other considerations is, on the face, appealing, it is much too simplistic and ultimately self-limiting and suicidal. It denies the contention that there are unique points of view and perspectives that are reflective of one’s ethnic background, sex, sexual proclivity, life style, and economic status. The station is therefore enriched if its staff can reflect the diversity of the listening audience. Of course, if diversity of this kind is sought for political expediency to the exclusion of talent and intelligence, this course too is limiting and destructive.”

Ironically, the original mission statement called for the study of political and economic problems, studies that would generate understandings that would lead to world peace. It said nothing about quotas applied to programming staff to insure diverse points of view rooted in blood and soil (with almost as an afterthought, “economic status”). But then in the late 1940s when Hill had formulated the goals of Pacifica, the memory of Nazi ideology was still fresh in the minds of American citizens. Inevitably, in the new dispensation, cultural (i.e. “anthropological” or ethnological) explanations for conflict subsumed political and economic factors in explaining major conflicts or the wars of this century, while high culture and science were stigmatized as the oppressive emanations of Eurocentric supremacy.

Since all hell had broken loose at WBAI and KPFA when multiculturalism was instituted as ugly manifestations of cultural nationalism were now routinely broadcast and program quality had noticeably deteriorated, I had hoped to avoid a repeat disaster in Los Angeles. I thought that meant improving the skill level of all the programmers, along with the manners of a few of them. I did not see how we could reach out to new listeners in Los Angeles while tolerating racial or gender or ethnic or class slurs, insults that were either explicit or implicit in the opinions aired on social policy. But I was not interested in driving the insults underground, or confining their expression to private dinner table talk. Rather, I wanted to track social cruelty to its origins in institutional structures and practices as they had evolved. Everyone, including our listeners, would be responsible, over time, for educating herself in the history of women, minority groups, and labor and of course the stated ideas, bases, tactics, and objectives of the social movements that had given expression to their grievances. Such study did not mean separating out women’s history, as if it had it had its autonomous dynamic and responded solely to “patriarchy”; in my view “patriarchy” is an ahistoric category of analysis, that, by positing male domination as the primary contradiction in society, hides the useful knowledge about the real choices women have had, given the level of social and economic development of the society in question. Unlike the radical feminists, for instance, I was striving for a new synthesis that was not present-minded and that delivered the big picture.

I had found in my own experience that the more I learned about such subjects, the more I identified with the troubles of groups who were not part of my protected world and the more I wished to spare them yet more of the pain and rejection that accompanied bad leadership and ineffectual tactics. This did not mean the end of cakes and ale or “satire.” Indeed my own work was infused with the comic spirit, a spirit I might add that has always stood with the long-term needs of “the lower orders.” In retrospect I find nothing shameful or autocratic about my policies. The implicit idea voiced by Ed Goodman that giving voice to the voiceless, by itself and without further analysis, guarantees wisdom, accuracy, and fairness, hence contributes to the solving of problems that may be structural or partly personal in nature, is preposterous, whereas the notion of ongoing self- understanding and group education—the engagement with opposing ideas and the marshalling of hitherto unknown or ignored facts about institutional practices, letting the chips fall where they may, speaks to competence and compassion and elementary human decency.

During the first three years of the Berland administration, the station had gradually abandoned the sophisticated programming initiated by Ruth Hirschman in her several roles at KPFK: advanced culture of Europe and America with a strong liberal inquisitiveness into the politics of the Nixon and Ford administrations. Instead, the anti-intellectual programming that had always been part of the pluralist mix–the voice of the CPUSA cheek by jowl with the hippie counter-culture, New Age politics and Third-World-ish Berkeley radicalism– became the dominant note. The “Marxist” perspective offered by Dorothy Healey, Secretary of the Southern California branch of the CP, could sound like a fountain of sanity in that milieu. So, being systematic and methodical in my work habits, I presented my ideas at a meeting of all the Pacifica program directors in the Spring of 1981, called by the executive director Sharon Maeda to re-examine the mission of Pacifica. Having recently written an essay in my first quarter of graduate school objecting to Harold Cruse’s alarmingly antisemitic tract The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual (an attack on Jews in the Communist Party, contrasting them invidiously to the CP WASPS)–an article that I would controversially place in the KPFK monthly program guide as a point of discussion regarding the strong appeal and danger of cultural nationalist politics– I said flat out that [Cruse-style] cultural nationalism, with its irrationalist emphasis on unique hence incommunicable group facts, was understandable as a response to domination, but as the basis for program policy it had to go. I was an intuitive integrationist, wanting to bring people together, not drive them further apart at a time when knowledge of each other’s predicaments and our common danger was more and more important to rational political deliberation. In what was in retrospect a daring move, since no one had previously allowed the program directors to make significant changes in policy, the other program directors (including three non-whites) agreed with me, and I authored a resolution to be presented at the upcoming meeting of the National Board. Here is the last paragraph of the Program Directors Resolution as it addressed this very question. Contrast my handling of “class, race, and gender” with the approach advocated by Ed Goodman in 1972 (or by the social constructivists of today who believe that ‘class’ is too airy or contingent or dynamic a concept ever to be pinned down):

“…Tokenism. It follows from the above [that we are studying ways to heal conflicts without reinforcing structures of domination; that we should be historical and dialectical in approaching culture and politics, that we should be learning about the history of women, labor, ethnic groups, etc.] that by isolating class, race, gender, and labor questions to ghettoized programming—that is, by not integrating these questions into the way we analyze and create all our programming—we only perpetuate preexisting divisions and the pitting of groups against each other as they fight for turf. This has been the strategy of co-optation since the sixties, and it has fragmented the staff and audience and, we believe, turned off large portions of our constituency. The integration of class, gender, and race into a coherent analysis of society and conflict requires a sophistication barely and rarely achieved by radical scholars. It must, however, be a Pacifica project to strive for such analyses and syntheses.”

Imagine. We were asking our program staff and volunteers to do something difficult; something they had never thought of before (although every social novelist of the nineteenth century had mastered or at least attempted such a grand synthesis); something that would require strenuous effort, reading, and discussion; something that could bring Pacifica into fruitful controversy and dialogue with social movements as they were currently constituted; something that would justify Pacifica’s 501(c) 3 status as a tax-exempt educational organization; above all (as far as I was concerned) that would strengthen the critical tools of our listeners, most of whom had not the benefits of an expensive upper-class education, nor, as autodidacts, the time to do the reading and research that our generally privileged volunteers enjoyed.

Surprisingly, the resolution was passed and ordered to be implemented by Chairman Jack O’Dell, though I had been red-baited by David Salniker, then manager of Berkeley flagship station KPFA, as imposing “a political litmus test” on the programmers. (Salniker, a labor lawyer and member of Democratic Socialists of America, was later to be executive director of the Foundation). At the point that the air of freedom, of unfettered inquiry and decentralized institutional control, began to waft through the corridors of Pacifica Radio, the masks were dropped, the fine words evaporated, the limits of “diversity” and “complexity” came into focus, and the authoritarian character of the ostensibly liberal organization made itself obvious to those with eyes to see. But not all at once. My first opponents were, of course, those who had benefited from the previous fragmentation of the air.

I was immediately cast as the girl Stalinist and am still remembered as inveterate enemy to “pluralism” by my critics. It was never my intention to liquidate the opposition, but I did believe that the listeners had a right to editorial oversight and quality control. And overall quality meant that the tabloid sound and other appeals to the irrational had to identified and challenged. Nor did I prevent programming blocs of special interest to women, Latinos, blacks, gays, etc. Indeed, I supported them vigorously, but also asked that their news and opinions not be fenced in, but rather engaged and debated by other programmers, whatever their class origins, skin color, or gender—when relevant and appropriate. Here are two of my most controversial interventions and their outcomes:

On the news front: I broke the monopoly of William Mandel, Dorothy Healey, and labor reporter Sam Kushner on discussion of the Soviet Union, the Marxist left, and the labor movement by bringing in other Marxist programmers such as Suzi Weissman, Jon Amsden, and Carl Boggs, all of whom were trained scholars and experienced journalists, critical of Stalinist interpretations and alliances. Healey (to whom I had even offered additional air time) stigmatized the interlopers as Trotskyite destroyers; the Spanish Civil War was an especially sensitive subject. I was told that she marched into the news room one day and exploded: “There are too many Trotskyists in here.” Mandel, an inveterate reader of Pravda on the air would no longer have his weekly program, but would have to take turns with Suzy Weissman’s “Portraits of the USSR” (my troublemaking title). He did not take the novel competition lightly; when an outraged letter-writing campaign was initiated in the Bay Area on his behalf, I dared to call Mandel “an apologist for the Soviet Union” and was strongly criticized for my “mistake” by the President of the Foundation, Peter Franck.

I also asked Sam Kushner, generally sympathetic to the labor bureaucracy, to deal with the growing antagonisms between Latino and Black workers in the region. He refused. So I gave air time to a competing analyst of the labor movement: a young man with an M.A. from Cornell University, sympathetic to rank-and-file issues and struggles. And, after my firing, Dorothy Healey lobbied numerous liberal organizations to oppose my reinstatement, claiming that I was a Trotskyist, an anti-feminist, an antisemite, and personally destructive. (Healey, like the manager Jim Berland, used the on-air reading by Suzi Weissman of Israel Shahak’s controversial article published in the anti-Zionist Trotskyist journal Khamsin (nos.8 and 9, 1981), on Judaism as the most authoritarian religion in history, as evidence of my antisemitism, even though Weissman arranged for a critique of the article, also on air. Given the Stalinist record on antisemitism and anti-Zionism, this was a strange accusation. In retrospect, the strong response of listeners wanting copies of the article is ominous.)

On the culture front: I asked Carl Stone, Music Director and Paul Vangelisti, Cultural Affairs Director, (both fond of modernist poetry and music in its most neo-classical manifestations) to open up new, difficult music and other art to the listeners by describing what it was and what it meant to the artists who composed it and the audiences that consumed it. Moreover, disk jockeys were to research the music they played and provide commentary. This is about as radical as asking for program notes at a concert, but it provoked a secret meeting with all the volunteers in music and cultural affairs after the first fund drive when my announced policies were vindicated with unprecedented pledge totals. Stone and Vangelisti denounced me as an enemy to all music and cultural programming, which I was plotting to remove from the air within six months in order to create an all-news, all public affairs station. The manager was flooded with mail demanding my removal and the local press investigated the controversy, to my benefit. Later, when I learned of the secret meeting from a young volunteer, the manager Jim Berland (who had known of these shenanigans all along) forced Stone and Vangelisti to resign, but never told the audience why they were leaving. Moreover, they were permitted to give the impression that my policies had driven them out—even though numerous vanguard experiments and live concerts had been frequently aired under my tenure (and at their initiative), and I sought the involvement of local artists and poets in our peace festivals as a matter of course. Not to speak of my long record as a defender of the First Amendment and academic and cultural freedom. To this day, there are program volunteers at KPFK who sincerely believe that I was out to get them. And my performance as PD was officially evaluated, shortly before my removal, by these same volunteers who had no reason to believe that I was not the confidence-woman depicted by their department heads.

But stepping back a bit from these (apparently) petty power plays, there was a structural adjustment that may have been more disruptive than I understood at the time. I and my supporters in the News and Public Affairs department had brought the listeners meaningfully into the dialogue that created programming decisions: not only did I conduct an open-phone, unscreened Report to the Listener for an hour at prime time every week, but newly formed “Friends of Pacifica” groups, dispersed throughout our broad listening area, discussed the articles I wrote each month on programming philosophy and approaches, giving me valuable feedback. As a result, momentum existed for the Friends groups, viewed now as more than dutiful fund-raisers, directly to elect representatives to the local advisory board (that in turn elected members to the National Board) hence potentially breaking the oligarchy that ruled the foundation. The Friends groups were dissolved about a year after my removal, but supplied troops to protest the second stage of the purge a year later when Marc Cooper (News Director) and Tim Frasca (Head of the Pacifica Washington Bureau) and Robert Knight (News Director of WBAI) were fired: all had protested the impending acceptance of corporate money to fund equipment in the news departments. [Marc Cooper has a somewhat different recollection of this incident, and should amplify here.]

The firing and its aftermath. I was about to put the conflict between myth and science on the table as conversational theme for Fall Fund Drive of 1982; plans were already under way and programmers were peacefully cooperating with me, including one of my most vocal critics (Mike Hodel). Why was I removed? The manager had been trying to fire me for about six months, but we (the newly invigorated News and Public Affairs Department) kept making money—the most weekly income that the station had ever generated, Berland told his management team–and yet we were broke. He was about to mortgage the building at 22% interest when I asked the President of the Foundation to evaluate his performance, including his fiscal management and the bureaucratic layer Berland had hired that I and others felt was not carrying its weight. Two days later I was fired by Berland as a disruptive force in the station. I was ordered to resign during a private meeting ostensibly called to present my suggestions for the next year’s budget. I refused, so Berland ordered me to leave the building (that my ex-husband’s family had largely paid for, by the way), by 5 pm. It is true that I had been sort of warned: Berland had said to me earlier that year, “Now that we have a really radical radio station, it is your job for the next year to make it look like it is not. I’m not sure that you know how to do that.” Before that he had criticized me for printing my critique of Harold Cruse and cultural nationalism in the Program Guide. I had moreover failed to prevent the use of the word “capitalism” by some of our left-wing programmers: they should have complained about “big business” (a populist touch, that). And my management style was insufficiently conciliatory, too confrontational; i.e. I did not pretend to consult the staff and volunteers while doing what I pleased, as he had suggested earlier.

My pathetic attempt to be reinstated through a grievance procedure over the next few months was doomed. Peter Franck, President of the Foundation, a Berkeley radical and once member of the Free Speech Movement, had told me to get a lawyer, hinting that we would reinstate me if I allowed him to test the new internal procedures without going to the press. However, when the process was complete and I had produced abundant evidence of a witch-hunt, Franck (who has repented his decision, but privately ) upheld the firing lest the managers’ prerogatives to fire “at will” be threatened. A remarkable judgment from a Left-wing radio station, no? Out in listener land, I was said to be fired either because of a Zionist conspiracy or because I was a strong woman. Neither rumor is true in my view. At the most fundamental level, I was fired because I thought we were accountable to the listener-subscribers who had given their hard-earned cash and labor; I did not insult their intelligence; and I was supporting structures that decentralized authority, bringing the “audience” into the decision-making process, i.e., into the rational deliberative give and take of a popular democracy that took its educational responsibilities seriously.

Though I had been invited to continue my volunteer programming after the firing, I was now in graduate school at UCLA, totally immersed in the rigorous study of American and European history and the debates in the field, and by the way, trying to understand the dynamics of the witch-hunt to which I had been subjected by Pacifica. By 1986 I had passed my qualifying exams and started dissertation research with a comparatively relaxed schedule. So when the George H.W. Bush campaign mounted its attack on all liberal policies, unfairly and excessively I thought, I returned to the air with a new series, “How Do We Know When We Are Not Fascists?” –an ironic and subtle title that immediately aroused suspicions among the more alert listeners who suspected that I might be taking pot shots at the radio station they were listening to. Actually, my remarks were more generally directed at the entire liberal left and all others who had perpetuated a distorted account of the causes of mass death in the twentieth century and delivered vague and ahistoric accounts of fascist ideology; i.e., fascism as excessive nationalism, or as “monopoly capitalism,” not as an historically specific response to economic crisis and working-class militancy made victorious by disgraceful sectarianism on the Left and Stalinist tactical alliances with Nazism.

As my reading deepened, and I learned something about the history of antisemitism and Nazi ideology (a subject that was curiously missing from my course work in the U.S. field at UCLA, as it was absent in the 1960s New Left), I became more and more suspicious of the critical theorists of the Frankfurt School who had so impressed me in the 1970s, and who influenced my articles in the monthly program guide (republished in my essay “Pacifica Radio and The Politics of Culture,” American Media and Mass Culture, ed. Don Lazere (University of California Press, 1987). Gradually I became aware of the propaganda contrived by threatened aristocratic elites and directed against the rising middle-class ever since the seventeenth century. It became obvious that the step-by-step institutionalization of the civil liberties so prized and so central to the education and emancipation of women, Jews, slaves, and workers, were the achievement of the radical bourgeoisie, especially in America. I also saw that the explanations for the appeal of Nazism and fascism offered by school curricula, museums, and Pacifica programmers had little to do with the facts of the historical record, but everything to do with the ideological imperatives of “multiculturalism” and the organicist discourse that it transmitted. In other words, there was supposed to be an organic entity called “America.” Its repressive puritan mission, the very mission of the deceptively labeled enlightened bourgeoisie, was “essentially” imperialist, patriarchal, and destructive of nature–sins from which our radical critics were exempt. With horror, I recognized the narrative of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Armed with this astonishing insight, my doctoral dissertation on the Melville Revival was refocused upon the changing academic readings of Melville’s Captain Ahab, since the late 1930s, a representation of the (Hebraic) American character as proto-Nazi and unprecedented in its technological capacity to inflict cruelty upon hapless Others. My listeners were kept up to date on my research and the witch hunt that had been directed against Herman Melville for decades by powerfully placed allies of the New Deal, including the Stalinist Left.

Something came over me the summer of 1997 as Herman Melville’s birthday loomed. I had revealed hot stuff from my research for years, but now the question of identity, the buzz-word of many academic leftists, was on my mind. Since Melville himself had adopted various and contradictory personae (to the confusion of his enemies), not only in his family, but as author, I thought I could make a point by playing with the notion of mistaken identities in a distinctively Melvillean way. Something told me it would be my last radio program on KPFK and I was right as it turned out.

PURGE #2 as told by C. Augusta Dupinstein. “The week before the broadcast, air promotion was read by the announcers at Clare’s request: Clare was to reveal a witch-hunt directed against Herman Melville by his academic champions. As soon as the program started, she introduced herself as Dr. Etta Enzyme, here to expose that Marxist Clare Spark, who had been annoying sober and honest professors with her weird fantasies. In high dudgeon Etta read from Clare’s red essay on his “crazy” novel Pierre, linking the subversions of the dark Lady Isabel to the New York State Rent Wars of the 1840s—”See, I told you she was a Marxist!” cried Etta. At the break, the listeners heard Stephen Foster’s lament for a deceased virgin: “She will come no more, Gentle Annie…” Clare returned to the air announcing that she had just killed Etta Enzyme. She went on to read more of her work, then took phone calls from the listeners. The phone lines lit up. The first two callers were horrified: How could a Progressive radio station allow such red-baiting to go on? Couldn’t Clare bring back Etta so that they could have a debate at least? One of the calls made sense: Clare should lay out systematically and off-the-cuff what it was about Herman Melville’s writing that infuriated conservatives. Clare complied in a plain and orderly fashion, but that did not satisfy the 26 year-old program director, Cathie Lo, who had never read Melville, and who did not want a “clubby” air sound, as she later explained in the offing of Etta Enzyme. Clare’s cassette copy of the last radio show was duplicated for review and several weeks later, after Clare left a message asking for air time to talk about the racial discourse of multiculturalism, Clare received a phone call from the PD: she was never to use the name Etta Enzyme again; she must pre-tape her next program for review, and she would get only 30 minutes to review the history of the concepts ‘race’ and ‘ethnicity’. Clare said it was too insulting an offer for a programmer of her experience and achievement. She would not be monitored in this fashion, although in her persona as scholar, not artist, she had no objection to using her real name. Cathy Lo said she understood her predicament and said that she would call her back to arrange an air time, without prior review. That call never materialized.

A few months later, Clare, having learned that the manager had misrepresented to her whether or not certain recent National Board meetings were open to the public, clinched her final separation from Pacifica by retracting a prior letter she had written to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting supporting the Foundation against Free Pacifica, a group of disaffected listeners, staffers, and programmers objecting to current management and its (perceived) mainstream and autocratic policies. In her latest (and still unanswered) letter, Clare asked the CPB to clarify what the new classification of Pacifica radio as a “minority” radio network [still unbeknownst to the listening audience!!!] entailed for hiring and programming. The manager angrily accused her of sour grapes, having lost air time–there were no principles involved. “Hell hath no fury….”

III. What have I learned from all this that could deepen our understanding of the culture wars? Double messages and reaction are inherent in ethnopluralism: To understand the causes of religious and racial and philosophical antagonisms is the ostensible mission of Pacifica. These are not seen as intertwined with and dependent upon social relations in historically specific and evolving economic institutions. Hence it can be advanced that such antagonisms can be solved with better inter-cultural communication and self-knowledge; i.e. the universal propensity for scapegoating of the Other or Prejudice. But the multicultural or social psychological strategy is contradicted by its own precept of cultural relativism: existentialists and nihilists that we are, we can’t really get inside each other’s heads. So segregate the racial or gender group by dividing up jobs and program time according to women’s issues or race or ethnicity. Identify the enemy as white male supremacy. Repeat and repeat the assertion that the national identity of the United States is essentially destructive of the individual (while erasing the concept of the free-standing individual in organicist categories such as ethnicity or “race” or an essentially imperialist, capitalist, patriarchal, and ecocidal Amerika).

Pacifica’s multicultural program policies exemplify the wider trend in which individual biography (as synecdoche for group biography) becomes the content of ‘history’: hence the emphasis on the subjective report of actors in social movements. There is no longer any need to move out of the subjective impression into the world of actually existing institutions, market and property relationships and power relations within institutions. The abstraction of “bourgeois society” and its “hegemony” (“corporatism”) is sighted as the implacable force (me for instance) erasing individuality instead of making unprecedented demands upon the newly politicized individual and upon newly accountable governing institutions.

For my primitivist detractors, “progress” is a ruse; the artifice/dissembling of the money power withers natural desires (instincts). Their propaganda message is simple and direct: purging this too cerebral, too demanding intellectual/moral presence (Clare, a Bad Mother) restores the warm personal relationships of the happy family, of the small producer, of the simple pleasures afforded by the small town nestled in benignant nature. For Pacifica, then and now, ‘bourgeois individualism” or “bourgeois subjectivity” is the enemy. Allow me to speculate: One great loss in the transition to rational secular society is the comforting concept of the immortal soul. What if blood knowledge, the intuitive knowledge of the “race” was a substitute for the missing soul, necessarily sought because the conditions for autonomy of the kind Locke had in mind are still intolerable to our most advanced societies, which refuse to evolve toward structures that would enable each one of us to form an integrated, i.e. unconfused, non-internally contradictory self? A self that did not always need masks; a self that could remember its past and its actions without fleeing in shame and panic. And where do we fly? toward structures that demand authority and obedience–that find the free-standing individual to be rootless and unstable. The individual may lack continuity and memory, but not the racial entity. So we are to merge with group memory (the soul-soil) and find our uniqueness in its untranslatable and undefiled past. Here lies the fatal attraction of multiculturalism.

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/.]

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