Californian station chauvinism raises its destructive head – again

Below is an eight-point post made today to the Pacifica Radiowaves group on Facebook. It views the appalling display of Californian station chauvinism at the Tu27Aug PNB Finance Cttee in the light of facts about Pacifica’s five stations provided the next day by National Elections Supervisor Renee Penaloza. California isn’t as healthy as the chauvinists like to think.

The Pacifica Chair, Grace Aaron, was in attendance at the Finance Cttee meeting. She heard the absurd station chauvinism, & the derision it evoked in others. She chose to maintain a deafening silence throughout.

This is of the greatest significance. In so doing,

  • she refused to rebuke the station chauvinists;
  • she refused to remind the station chauvinists that their job (1) as a delegate of a Local Station Board (it’s a standing cttee of the Pacifica National Board) & (2) as a member of a PNB cttee, is not to supposedly represent ‘their’ station but to represent Pacifica, which means promoting the interest of Pacifica, a supra-station interest;
  • she refused to exercise leadership, to insist on the promotion of the Pacifica interest;
  • in choosing silence she behaved cowardly, not least as she’s a delegate of a Californian LSB, that of KPFK; &
  • in failing in all these ways, she refused to discharge the duties of not just a delegate & a director of the Foundation but, moreover, the chair of its Board.

Any self-respecting Pacifica chair, with a sense of honour & responsibility towards the offices they hold, having committed all these failures so effortlessly, would resign as a delegate, as a director, & as chair of the Board.

But this applies to a person of honour – so we know what’ll happen.


[Other membership data, with some computations, are presented in the next post:]

1) With all the Californian station chauvinism on display last week, at Tuesday’s PNB Finance Cttee, one could easily be misled, in two senses. But National Elections Supervisor Renee Penaloza, in particular, came to the rescue with her progress report the next day: over the last three years to 30June2019, West Coast stations’ membership fell 9.5% (2 881) whilst the East Coast rose 13.8% (1 752); & over the last 7½ months to 30June2019, KPFA fell by 8.2%, so by 1-in-12 (1 285), KPFK fell by 8.1% (1 163), whilst WBAI grew by 20.2%, so by 1-in-5 (1 375). So, how to explain this anomalous growth of 20.2%? Has WBAI been flooded by the DSA, the Democratic Socialists of America, as their Red Wave slate of nine competes for the 12 Local Station Board seats currently up for grabs? Are they upsetting the coconut cart?!fyAwGICZ!-4uWYMHZW3CHxt6yCOITu006SVZ4AyNPjT9bWw6csb0 (page 19; this, the NES’ nominal 2018 pseudo-election final report, has come, gone, & is now back on the NES’ website) & (page 1) [UPDATE: I’ve corrected the West Coast three-year fall: apologies for mistakenly using Texas’ 38.1%. Major d’oh, yes? Also added the West/East absolute changes.]

2) The Tu27Aug PNB Finance Cttee was, frankly, embarrassing. But what’s new. This time it was Sharon Adams, KPFA Treasurer, & Mansoor Sabbagh, KPFK staff-delegate & Pacifica director, coming out with the tired chauvinist assertions we’ve heard for years (a taster is 14:51 & 19:28, with 30:03 carrying a spoiler alert, ‘b’ audiofile). It took Nick Arena, WPFW Treasurer, to remind them that all station chiefs are appointed nationally (28:00, ‘b’ file). He could have added that the most significant negotiations aren’t done by the station – such as the small matter of the Empire State contract to house the WBAI transmitter. Yes, even something as important as having to pay rent or not has never been in the gift of a station. And, importantly, a station isn’t responsible for the size of the disposable income of its listeners, be it either per person or in total, nor for their wealth.

So, station financial performance is largely determined from without. And given the minimal powers of a LSB – they can’t even require the general manager to attend a LSB meeting – there’s even less justification for turning one’s ire upon fellow delegates from ‘enemy’ stations. (The theatrical Sabbagh couldn’t help embarrassing himself further by seeking an apology from Comrade Nick (30:03, ‘b’ file). No wonder he’s earnt the moniker ‘Spade’ Sabbagh.)

Only the naive or disingenuous will infer much from station-specific financial data.

3) Station chauvinism & the way the chauvinists talk about ‘station responsibility’ is not just facile but dangerous. Besides being unwarranted by the facts, & excessive pride being rather unseemly, comical, in a word, self-debasing, it’s also politically highly divisive. It’s the most destructive force produced within Pacifica, gnawing away at the ties binding the stations together.

Not to be ageist, but station chauvinism is juvenile, politically immature, trying to reduce a pan-Pacifica political matter to a combination of inter-station & interpersonal invective. Representatives of Pacifica have a responsibility to practise the best politics they can, & not degenerate, capitulate, collapsing into an easy station chauvinism.

4) Layered on top of all this is the proprietary reality: a station owns nothing, not even one paper-clip. There is no such thing as a KPFA building: it is a Pacifica building, which Pacifica has decided to let KPFA use. This is not proverbial ‘semantics’, but the substantive reality, which demonstrates how misleading everyday expressions can be. All assets, & liabilities, are Pacifica’s, that of the Foundation as a whole. It’s simply a historical accident that some stations use Pacifica buildings; moreover, it’s a historical accident that, at the beginning, Pacifica & KPFA were one & the same.

5) Just take a step back. How does a Pacifican view the recipient of a trust fund or a set of genes? To whom & to what does a Pacifican assign (causal) responsibility? Does a Pacifican practise the pervasive blame culture? So-called progressives shouldn’t forget that the principle they should uphold is that a later generation is to be neither condemned nor rewarded for the endowment conferred upon them by the ancestors. We can do without a second PEP, Progressive Except on Pacifica.

Conclusion: station chauvinism is a politics that has no place in Pacifica.

If a station is being maladministered then ultimate responsibility lies with a majority of directors, for the PNB to act if it deems the executive director has lost control. A LSB, let alone an individual delegate, is irrelevant.

6) One needs to be humble about what a Pacifica station is. A station is a production & dissemination unit for Pacifica. A station is an organising node for recruiting & retaining listener-members of Pacifica. A station is an accounting unit of Pacifica. (Pacifica’s management accounting policy could be different, stripping rent & other contingencies out of station accounts.) A station should also do all the other things in the Mission that are hardly ever done. This wouldn’t have to be said if, to the fore, was coordinated Pacifica action, with a correlate of a Pacifica ideology & sentiment, all co-existing with justified local pride.

7) Instead, the political problem of station chauvinism festered whilst the PNB proved unable to steer Pacifica through the financial & audience crisis starting in 2007, so long ago that this was even before the last slump. The PNB failed to devise adequate policies & to exercise persuasive leadership. As a result it lacked moral authority & political trust. So localism grew at the expense of a network response, even out of despair with a lack of direction from the centre.

8) When the Foundation is most stressed, this localism is expressed as station chauvinism, & most dangerously as separatism, an anti-solidaristic politics. More anti-progressivism within Pacifica. Ayn Rand with a Pacifica face as it were, with the perceived strong going it alone, leaving the weak to wither & die. This found organised expression c. 2013, when moves were made to prepare & engineer a break-up of Pacifica.

As the financial pressures intensify at Pacifica, with cashflow now so acute that “KPFK [is] facing layoffs” (James Sagurton, WBAI listener-delegate, Tu27Aug PNB Finance Cttee, 2:44; he was challenged by no-one, including KPFK delegates such as Pacifica Chair Grace Aaron), some Californian station chauvinists will clamour for separatism, although they possess neither the building nor the FCC broadcasting licence. This politics was on display at KPFA’s recent town hall, Sa17Aug (for example the first speaker, Tess, 1:26). It’s not going away any time soon.


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