Censoring Bonnie, by Roy Tuckman of KPFK

Censoring Bonnie

Roy Tuckman, a programmer at KPFK, a Pacifica sister station of KPFA, wrote this letter regarding the censorship of "Guns & Butter."

August 20, 2018

To: Quincy McCoy, General Manager of KPFA
1929 Martin Luther King Jr. Way
Berkeley, CA 94704

Your censorship of Bonnie Faulkner’s “Guns and Butter” program indicates an ignorance of the very reason for the Foundation of Pacifica. I was an avid listener and supporter of KPFA in the late 1950’s before moving to KPFK in the 1960’s where I have been a staff member since 1972 and on air since 1977. My dedication to Pacifica results from the very kind of programming you eschew, along with the Mission in general. And much of this programming provides a solid basis for the pride Pacifica well deserves.

I certainly contest holocaust denial, having lost family members I never met to the gas chambers in WW II and I have carried a weekly anti-fascist program for over 30 years on KPFK, even when it was considered by many to be a foolishness best left to the history books. This position is a bedrock for the fascist movement today in our country and the rationale should be discussed and destroyed., not ignored and left to the ignorant to blindly accept. I abhor climate change denial as a threat to life on Earth, and we should expect Pacifica to air the arguments on both sides here too; to convince with facts and not censor with power to a large population to remain convinced to a sentence created by high paid oil executives. And the Parkland mass shooting craziness needs to be aired and explained, and again not left to the blind to be manipulated by mythological and unexplained evidence.

“Guns and Butter” was previously censored at an crucial time when the California Legislature was about to vote on mandatory vaccination and two programs convincingly destroying big pharma’s arguments were censored. Thus we are left with obligatory vaccination at a time when the head of a CDC study has admitted that a study was purposely falsified and suppressed to avoid the data that clearly showed that African American boys suffer 3 times the effect of autism after the MMR vaccination as any other group. (no – not debunked!! – but announced to the Senate). And now we are treated with the knowledge that Glyphosate (Roundup) by Monsanto now makes its way directly into the bodies of California children via many contaminated vaccines manufactured by several companies – known for over 2 years. And KPFA suppressed valuable information which may or may not have stopped this crime by the California Legislature and big pharma.. But at least this crucial information should not have been suppressed.

It is in areas such as these that Pacifica should shine for anyone listening. It is through such ‘dangerous’ adventures that we have built the value of the stations and the network and contributed hugely to the education of the listeners.

Ahh, but there is still the past we can be proud of when programs searched for truth in face of intense criticism and hatred.

The years long programming against the war in Vietnam placed Pacifica into suspicion of our very support for our country, support for our troops, treason against the purported 'war against communism.' And it was years before the tide of public opinion changed . But the very information in opposition to state propaganda kept many out of the war (including myself) and helped foment the opposition that stopped it.

This suspicion of treason or anti-Americanism was enhanced by KPFA’s William Mandel on his program “Soviet Press and Periodicals” and Dorothy Healy’s “Marxist Commentary” programs played weekly, which gave the average listener the ONLY chance to hear people discussing rationally the news, economic philosophy and politics of the ‘enemy.’ And the intensity of that antagonism can be illustrated by Richard Nixon’s political shibboleth of “20 Years of Treason” as the basis of his campaigns of the ‘40’s and ‘50’s characterizing Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. No doubt many critical letters and calls were received.

Gay programming, at least at KPFK, started as strange subject out of left field about a ‘lifestyle’ considered abhorrent to the popular mind. We were even characterized as promoting sexual deviance. But it was an important beachhead which, over time, brought knowledge, acceptance and increased the freedom to a sizeable number of people.

Another triumph of informational broadcasting was KPFK’s (maybe KPFA?) straight reading of the semi-secret John Birch Society’s “Blue Book” – without comment. It presented the philosophy and goals of the organization. This certainly created an avalanche of negative mail also, including from the John Birth Society itself. But they changed their mind about it, and the KPFK listeners got a rare and unvarnished look at freedom’s organized opposition.

I remember hearing a positive program on marijuana on KPFA in the late 1950’s. This brought the accusation of drug pushing to our programming by our “Reefer Madness” culture. There grew an argument about it on the air with Alan Watts giving an open acceptance to the idea and weekly programmer Kenneth Rexroth accusing Watts of seeking “the goofball way to enlightenment.” All this subject of course was taboo everywhere in the media.

Another strange and unique program from KPFK was a program on women called ‘Holding Up More Than Half the Sky.’ I admit to being ignorant of most of the subjects and problems to be subsequently explored but did support it as an experiment since experiment is what we’re about. When the female program director rejected the idea because it would ‘intimidate the men’ at the station, I presented every male programmer with a petition saying they would not be intimidated by the show. Everyone with one exception signed it and the program went on. I needn’t bother to describe how the power of women as exploded in our society. But at the time, it did seem a bit of a strange idea to many. And again we were at the beginning, breaking ground.

And one more program which convinced me of the openness of the station. That was Pauline Kael’s film criticism which was on weekly. Her intelligence and wit was brilliant and biting and I was a regular listener. At one program she declared that she was about to say her millionth word on the station and was preparing to leave KPFA. She announced she would spend the current and two more programs over the next two weeks criticizing KPFA, which she did that day and the following week and the week after. What astounded me was that she was able to do this, even with ‘early warning.’ Her criticism was biting and sincere and she then bid farewell. I believed that to let her do this 3 week critique spoke volumes about the openness and fairness of the station. Unfortunately, in the Pacifica Archives, there is only one show that has been preserved. But I heard all three of them and my pride and amazement at Pacifica increased even in light of her criticisms.

And Quincy, I submit that if you had been the General Manager in the 1950’s onward, there would have been no anti war, no women’s programming, no communist commentary, no gay programming, no revealing of John Birch Society, no pro-marijuana arguments until 2018, and certainly no Pauline Kael diatribe. And the GM would have fewer angry letters and emails to deal with.

And because of your apparent ignorance of the purpose of Pacifica and its mission, I feel you should bring back “Guns and Butter” or leave the station and go on to a less dangerous one and leave the driving to us. We are supposed to bring light and air to the usual one -sentence ‘arguments’ and 3-word conclusions which permeate our national discussions.

When we light, we win. When we censor, we lose.

Roy Tuckman
KPFK Programmer-Engineer
Los Angeles, California

KPFA 94.1 FM in Berkeley is one of five stations of the Pacifica radio network which are located in major cities across the country. The other stations are WBAI 99.5 in New York, WPFW 89.3 in Washington DC, KPFT 90.1 in Houston, and KPFK 90.7 in Los Angeles. There are also about 160 affiliate stations.