kpfa's antiwar voice

KPFA's Antiwar Voice

by Daniel Borgström

When people ask me why I joined the Marine Corps (at age 18, back in 1959), I tell them, "Because where I grew up there was no KPFA or Pacifica Radio affiliate." There was just the constant corporate drumbeat of anti-Communism which took many forms, often pretending to advocate world peace, but always in one way or another campaigning against China and Russia.

I'm told that KPFA bravely exposed Cold War propaganda during the McCarthy era. But in recent years our station has been backsliding, subtly but increasingly echoing the corporate media's calls for "humanitarian" interventions around the world. Some KPFA hosts feature guests from NGOs aligned with the U.S. State Department, giving them airtime, presenting them as though they were doing good work abroad, and not asking them hard questions or revealing where they get their funding.

Since Trump's election, KPFA has taken a sharp turn for the worse, presenting itself as a voice of "resistance" -- a resistance that does not resist war. While vigorously bashing Trump (who does deserve bashing), the station often functions as a pseudo-progressive voice of the Deep State, echoing the mainstream media and the neoliberals and neocons.

Children and impressionable teenage listeners (potential future military recruits such as I once was) could get the perception from some KPFA programs that America's proper mission in today's world should be to sally forth to find and slay monsters.

Once upon a time it was KPFA's mission to expose such propaganda, and that's what KPFA needs to get back to doing, to find its soul and once again become an antiwar voice.

US Marine Corps 1959 - 1963


October 2, 2017


October 12, 2017
Carolyn Birden forwarded the above essay with this note:

Daniel Borgstrom is a long-time activist and writer (you could look it up, as Gilda used to say) who has succinctly expressed the exact issue for Pacifica, WBAI, and all the other stations. Read, re-read, and think about it, please. Especially the part about “the mission to expose such propaganda.” We are losing listeners, I suspect, in proportion to our abandonment of this mission. --Carolyn

October 12, 2017
Dave wrote

Dan: Amazing article! Yes! KPFA supports disarming the working class -- and arming the cops. It supports every Democrat, in every election. It trashes Trump with the Democrats' false Russia Conspiracy tales, but supports Trump and the Democrats against ISIS and "terrorists". KPFA condemns Kim Jong Un and the DPRK, pushing the line that they should make a deal with the USA giving up the tests for a peace deal -- yeah, like Iran did? KPFA promotes the pacifist fantasy that nuclear weapons must be banned. Such a ban would give the USA's world-wide conventional forces an unstoppable advantage in any future war. KPFA promotes the reactionary Bernie Sanders economic program of protectionism and the myth that the wealth of the capitalist class can be curbed and redistributed through tax policies. Nonsense. Capitalist profits are plummeting. That's why the casino economy has replaced production.
Ubi dubium ibi libertas.

October 13, 2017
Jim Hogue of WGDR in Plainfield, Vermont

Hi Daniel,
I've got some time at about 4:30 ET on the air today if you want to say something about this. Do you think the CIA propaganda machine has anything to do with this? Or is it just the stupidity of the people running it or what?

October 13, 2017
Hi Jim,
I think it's a huge amount of both. CIA and stupidity, plus denial. Stupid refusal to recognize the reality that the CIA DOES mess with us. A lot of the problem is the Democratic Party which plays a role in this.
Thank you for the invitation. I'll phone you this afternoon.

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In the following essay, Virginia Browning discusses the programming at KPFA

KPFA's Programming: criticisms, thoughts, & suggestions

by Virginia Browning
October 1, 2017

For the good that KPFA has brought, it has lately become quite discouraging to see what it has become and compare it with the potential it has to aid this massively suffering world, very possibly on the brink of its demise (the earth's and KPFA's)

It is necessary, when one talks about “ethnic cleansing”
“humanitarian interventionism”
“state-sponsored terrorism” against ones own people
“undemocratic” regimes....

it is necessary, when speaking of these things on a radio station/network that actually DOES care to expose for consideration an alternative to mainstream viewpoints

to include research and discussion of the geopolitical context, the big powers behind the scenes.

It is not whether we want more on Myanmar or Syria or politics in general, or even music – it is HOW this is all considered and presented.

Brian Edwards-Tiekert spent 15 minutes on a recent show to present a viewpoint nearly unchallenged that somehow, with all the other possibilities, that it was Russia we should really be concerned about as the cause even of the recent “Antifa” protests. His guest was from a conservative think tank.

Pacifica Radio was started by pacificts because they felt the need to have, SOMEWHERE in this huge media bombardment, some small place at least that actually advanced an alternative.

Now the whole set of hours in early drive time as well as well-listened-to times on Sunday morning are full of large swathes of viewpoints which are every bit as mainstream as elsewhere. I wonder whether those who actually run the station believe that weaving a few “radical” (alternative or even honest) viewpoints into this muck is enough, and besides leaving the muck on brings in more money. But it is a disaster for both the financial sustainability of the station as well as of the planet to justify continuing to court those who are happy to use a few crumbs of their enormous wealth to insure that KPFA never really becomes a threat to the way the war machine is run. In the long run, what the popular Brian Edwards-Tiekert and the sometimes outright misleading and dishonest “news” has done is to create an audience who “think” they're savvy and radical, but who, because they are able to repeat the latest cultural nuance (trans-gender respect for example), and because they have decided to turn their brains over to the impressively eloquent Brian, have also turned off their own capacities for challenging the real threats to the planet. KPFA has now become one of the main builders of status-quo thinking, NOT challenging the planet-destroyers, within its signal area, among the vast majority of listeners who consume media during the morning drive time.

There have been media/government projects at least since the 60s in which “alternative” viewpoints are presented for cultural aspects of the world – race, gender, etc. but which never fundamentally challenge the economic organizational underpinnings that allow these global interventionist wars to continue not only “unabated” but increasing in number, though they are not called wars but some other name.

We need exciting media that challenges the underlying assumptions of the military/industrial/and NGO pushers lined up to preserve the status quo in its economic core. The highlighted villains may change from inner city drug lords to Iraqis to Russians to Iranians to Koreans, to Myanmar, but without a major investigation as to why these flare-ups keep happening, they will in fact keep happening.

Few emphasize that Korea, for just one recent example, has ALREADY been destroyed by U.S. firepower, and the war games and threats occurring currently just outside their boundaries are one main reason for the terror and terrorizing bluster.

How can any of these Upfront or other paid producers KPFA can barely afford (or can't), spend precious air time fomenting the same war-mongering fears as all the other stations do without a firm, steady constant devotion to the fact that none of the world's self-destructive massacre is without a global context, and one in which the U.S.A. and its wealthy handlers hold most of the cards, and millions – millions of human beings with children and grandparents just like ours are simply mown down or worse. Generations to come are seeded with hatred of the hypocrites who have destroyed the planet. This should be behind every discussion of “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing” etc. but it seldom is, especially on the paid shows so touted and promoted.

As for financing and sustaining this programming into the future? The audience being courted by this policy is mostly older, wealthier, whiter, and soon in the grave. That is not sustainable.

There are in fact many senior members of today's audience (not so rich) who should be promoted and encouraged in a movement to join with the young in their terrible fight to remain in their homes in this bay area and in fact in most gentrified areas of the country.

A few wealthy people have in fact bought up an enormous portion of the property now for sale, jacked up rents, and, though you might not again hear the context behind it on KPFA, it is a reason why many even with formerly thought to be “good” social security benefits are wondering how they are going to afford mere shelter in the coming years.

KPFA should not simply report “ain't it awful” but continually seek to expose the web of connection behind this terrible reality. It could also serve as a welcoming hub of encouragement to bring folks together in concerts, parties, events where MUCH needed solidarity and community love could be tended. Instead, the jaw-droppingly-devoted young (and older) dear hearts who would devote even more of their dollars and their lives to working to keep KPFA alive are scuttled away, treated as second-class people, “not professional.” Absolutely ridiculous waste of resources KPFA already has available but wastes massively. Yes, there are a few blustery and rough-diamond types – but there are empathy-tent experts (unpaid) and some whose expertise is vast, despite their not asking KPFA to pay them for it. It is an ungodly waste that KPFA does not work much harder to find a way to get these people coordinated in creating the media they want to create. Instead of training them KPFA kicks them and keeps them less-developed in their skills, when they truly are motivated to pull the station up. This is a crime.

How can many minutes of KPFA's “news” (as they now are) be devoted to stories about “state terrorism” or “ethnic cleansing” without connecting to an awareness of what is happening right now in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico for example, where people are literally without water; some are dying for lack of electricity for needed medical care; many more are living in such unhealthy conditions now there is a real fear for future social and psychological epidemics.

In short:
use the paid staff resources at KPFA to train and encourage the devotion so many unpaid producers now possess to move this station and network into the fun, progressive, exciting, alternative hub of resistance to the war machine it was created to be. Help to coordinate this. Producers can be shared across programs. Meetings that respect all staff participants can create some very exciting media.