When Progressives Cheat

The below article was written in the aftermath of the KPFA election of 2007, but little has changed since then. Much of KPFA's history has been a decades long fight between grassroots community radio activists vs. a well-connected group of gatekeepers now calling itself "SaveKPFA."

by Daniel Borgström

When Republicans cheat to get their candidates elected, we do our best to expose the violations and make noise. But what about when we see our fellow progressives cheating? That's the dilemma facing KPFA listener-activists after the recent election for the Local Station Board (LSB).

KPFA's management team controlled the mic and openly intervened in the election to tip the playing field in favor of a slate of candidates whom they had recruited for the purpose of packing the board with rubber stampers As in the national presidential elections in Ohio 2004 and Florida 2000, the cheaters won. They will now have close to a 2/3rds majority on the board.

Complaints of the numerous violations were filed, but, without an enforcement mechanism, the election supervisors were powerless to do much. For example, when a prominent ex-programmer illegally used a station email list to call on listeners to vote for the pro-management slate, the election supervisor ordered as a remedy that each of the opposition groups be allowed to send out a message of their own over the same list. But, as with so many other election procedures designed to ensure fairness, this order was not implemented by KPFA management. The election supervisor also imposed a penalty on the culprit, banning him from the station's airwaves for the remainder of this year. However, only three days after the announcement of the penalty, the offending programmer was a guest on the Morning Show. He's also scheduled to host a segment on the upcoming KPFA crafts fair. In this and other instances, the election supervisors were unable to enforce regulations, remedy violations or impose penalties on offenders. Without such powers, fair elections won't happen.

Remedies won't be easy. There will be the inevitable polarization, bitterness, pain, disgust and bad feelings, and no matter how it may come out in the end, we progressives are going to look bad. It's messy, and it's tempting to forget the whole thing, pretend it didn't happen. On the other hand, if nothing is done, the cheaters will go on cheating; they'll control KPFA, and what kind of community radio will that be?

Daniel Borgström
KPFA listener-subscriber
November 27, 2007

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August 2010 UPDATE

The "Concerned Listeners" have appropriated the name
"SaveKPFA" -- a name belonging to the group of activists who fought for listener democracy during most of the 1990's. Their name "Save KPFA" is legendary, inappropriate for the "Concerned Listeners", a group whose purpose is diametrically opposite.

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