Peacewashing KPFA

Is KPFA transitioning from Antiwar to Peacewashing?

by Daniel Borgström

Early morning radio listeners might've thought they'd tuned into the wrong station. No, they had the right one -- KPFA at 94.1 FM. But yes, something was strange, weird, and even downright wrong. Listeners were hearing a pitch for improving the Military Industrial Complex, a need to build up U.S. defense industries in order to send more weapons to the proxy war in Ukraine.

This new show was "Background Briefing," hosted by Ian Masters. He came to KPFA in April 2023.

"I had never heard of him until I tuned in at 5 a.m., and there he was," a listener emailed. "I didn't find much for the first part of his broadcast to disagree with. Then he said something that made me cringe. It took about fifteen minutes for me to recognize that this guy wasn't any kind of leftist I was familiar with."

Other listeners expressed similar surprise and disapproval. This was KPFA, founded by Lew Hill, a dedicated pacifist who spent time in prison for his uncompromising beliefs. Since going on the air in 1949, this station stood up to Senator Joe McCarthy and the witch hunts of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). Show hosts at this station opposed the wars in Korea and Vietnam as well as nuclear armament. They supported the Civil Rights and other progressive movements. This is a radio station with a seven decade tradition of speaking out on social issues and opposing war.

Nevertheless, here is a very different voice, promoting a proxy war. Before coming the KPFA, Ian Masters hosted his program at KPFK [90.7 FM] in Los Angeles. Like KPFA here in the San Francisco Bay Area, the LA station is part of the Pacifica radio network, dedicated to opposing imperialism and promoting social justice. Nevertheless, Ian Masters seems to have had no problem with offending the station's listeners. "He regularly lambasted Venezuela and Cuba," a listener from Los Angeles remembered. "He rejoiced when Fidel Castro was ailing."

Ian Masters attacked Mumia Abu-Jamal, an award-winning prisoner-journalist whose commentaries are aired on Pacifica stations. When a person in New York emailed and asked him about that, Ian Masters replied with the police narrative and called Mumia's supporters "gullible."

Many, probably most of us who listen to Pacifica stations, support Mumia Abu-Jamal. Mumia is an archetypal case of a person who got railroaded through the "justice" system and continues to be denied a fair trial. And here's a show host who endorses that ongoing injustice and calls us "gullible" if we don't go along with him.

KPFK kept Ian Masters on the air until two years ago, when he got in a hassle over the outcome of a "New Day" sponsored referendum which was a bid to take over the Pacifica radio network. That referendum failed, and the "New Day" folks disputed the results. Ian Masters, also a member of New Day, took the dispute a step further. During the station's next fund drive, he urged listeners NOT to donate to the station. He broadcast that request on KPFK's airwaves, two and sometimes three times a day, for a week. That was in July 2021.

With that he finally became persona non grata and left the station. Nothing was heard of him again till last spring when he showed up on the air at KPFA, the Bay Area station.

His fund drive sabotage in Los Angeles would seem terminally outrageous enough to render him forever unwelcome anywhere in the five-station Pacifica radio network. So why was he now welcomed to KPFA? Strange! Or maybe not so strange. He was a staunch supporter of "New Day," which is aligned with the "KPFA Protectors." The "Protectors" represent the gatekeepers at KPFA and have a super majority on KPFA's board.

That group, which goes under several deceptive names including "New Day", "
Safety Net," "KPFA Protectors," and formerly "SaveKPFA" -- that last a name ripped off from many of us who worked to save the station in the 1990s -- has done numerous destructive deeds. Here are a couple of examples from a long list: in December 2020 they asked a California court to put the Pacifica network into receivership -- bankruptcy. The petitioners included Christina Huggins, chair of KPFA's board. Had that request been granted, the entire network, including KPFA, would've gone into the hands of a corporate lawyer and from there presumably become the private possession of the "New Day" folks. Through that and other lawsuits, they've cost Pacifica OVER half a million dollars in court costs -- this at a time when the foundation is out of money and deeply in debt, on the very edge of financial collapse.

The secretary of KPFA's board, Carol Wolfley, petitioned the FCC to deny renewal of the New York station's broadcasting license. She and their majority faction, the "Protectors," passed a resolution in support of it. If the FCC were to grant the "Protectors" request, it would cost Pacifica the loss of an asset valued at somewhere between $20 to $50 million.

Compared to the actions of his associates, Ian Masters' fund drive caper pales to relatively minor mischief. Anyway, his show, Background Briefing, is being aired, so I wondered, what is it like?

Actually, it's handily available for review. For each broadcast he posts a summary of this topics, along with the names and backgrounds of his guests. These
summaries, regardless of whatever else anyone might say or think of Ian Masters, are very well done.

Let me take a couple of lines to say that one of the big weaknesses of KPFA is that these summaries are generally not done. We live in the 21st century -- an age of podcasting -- and yet few programmers at KPFA seem to be aware of that. This means that a listener might visit the website to look for an excellent show on the topic of X, Y, or Z that was aired a couple of weeks ago, and not easily find it. Since archives aren't properly labeled, it's like searching through the proverbial haystack. Our affinity group, "
Rescue Pacifica," has brought this issue up time and again over the years. But nothing happens. Or at least very little happens. Now here comes this war promoter who does an outstandingly excellent job of summaries and labeling. I have to admire the perverse irony of this situation.

So, returning to Ian Masters. He promotes the proxy war in Ukraine, accuses Russia of blowing up the Nova Kakhovka dam, and suggests that the Russians may be planning a false flag operation to blow up the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant. Nevertheless, on the other hand, he also discusses progressive topics such as climate change, abortion access, LGBTQ people's rights, student debt cancellation. He castigates "Draconian cuts in an already inadequate social safety net," and "Republicans who are equating Latino immigration with white replacement while blaming immigrants for crime."

And he criticizes the defense industries -- for their inefficiency. On August 1, 2023 his topic was the "history of the Military Industrial Complex's consolidation, privatization, outsourcing, job cuts, federal inaction, and a hunt for larger profits that has created a perfect storm which now hobbles security assistance for Ukraine, and potentially
for future conflicts as well."

Okay. It's a well known fact that the U.S. war industries are notoriously corrupt. But what does anybody who's been paying attention think those defense industries are for? Their primary mission is to make money on overwhelming quantities of incredibly expensive junk. The F-35 for example. But really, do we progressives want an efficient war machine to defend the empire? Well, I sure hope not!

The warmongering agenda used to belong to the centrists, the establishment Democrats and Republicans. Now it has moved into the Progressive zone. A major part of this shift happened during the 2016 election, when Donald Trump launched his candidacy. Trump is a bad guy to be sure, but when you look behind the façade, most U.S. presidents aren't really so wonderful. What distinguishes Donald Trump is his bizarre and powerful charisma that attracts many people and repels just as many. Folks on both sides of the divide lose their rationality over Trump. His supporters follow him blindly, and vast numbers of his opponents are smitten by an acute psychotic disorder known as "Trump Derangement Syndrome," (TDS). The corporate media has played a major role both in publicizing Trump and in promoting TDS very effectively. And since enemies of enemies may look like friends, any and all who opposed Trump became the "good guys" -- that included the FBI and
CIA, whose many sins were forgiven.

Our rehabilitated and now trustworthy FBI joined with the Hillary folks in crafting Russiagate, a very successful effort to falsely tag Donald Trump as a Russian agent, and portray Vladimir Putin as our evil, conniving and underhanded enemy. That fabrication was extremely useful in mustering public support for NATO and the proxy wars. Although it's been exposed as a deception, Ian Masters works to keep Russiagate alive.

On his May 31, 2023 show he castigated investigators and researchers who'd made "
the label 'Russiagate' equivalent to a hoax when the evidence is overwhelming that Putin helped elect Trump in 2016." Ian Masters concern, he tells us, is that if Trump were to return to the White House, he would "cut off aid to Ukraine and pull the US out of NATO."

Actually, his fears of a peaceful Trump are probably unfounded. During his recent presidency Donald Trump did his share of bombing, and would presumably do so again.

Donald Trump is one of Ian Masters' favorite topics. He has other topics too, and not everything he says is wrong or incorrect. So here we have this show host with some good stuff while pushing a new cold war ideology and promoting some of the empire's biggest hoaxes and most intense propaganda. What to make of this? Maybe it's like a guy in LA said, "Ian's MO is to always keep his 'progressive' credentials polished so that he appears to be seen in that light."

A lot of folks, in Los Angeles and elsewhere, have repeatedly told us, warned us, and reminded us that this show host is a CIA asset. But do we know that for sure? There's a saying: If it walks like a duck, swims like a duck, flies like a duck and quacks like a duck, then you still better not assume without absolutely solid proof that it is a duck. Lacking final confirmation, we can only report on how it walks, swims, flies, and quacks.

What we can say is that this bird doesn't fly with the Pacifica mission.


September 13, 2023

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