KPFA and A Different Kind of Joe
A good friend recently sent me an email asking, "Is the US public that gullible and so hoodwinked by the media that they do not know anything?" My reply to him was to bring up the current happenings at KPFA Pacifica Radio in Berkeley, California. I brought up the hypothetical scenario where all my major and daily acquaintances are asked the question, "Do you know what is happening at Pacifica radio station KPFA?" I easily conclude that without exception the answer would be: "Pacifica who?" And, after filling them in about the stifling of Free Speech at KPFA by the national Pacifica Board by corporate/State interests, the most likely reply might be, "If the government is trying to take them over then they must have done something to deserve it" or "The staff who got fired must have warranted their own dismissal." Yeah, right. All of them?
So, does the US public know anything? Well, yes. They do. They know what is presented to them, that is, what is brought to them through dumbing-down media of (mostly) television and radio - corporate infobusiness of which KPFA Berkeley (since 1949 - the first station to ask listeners for funds) and WBAI (the largest and most famous of all non-commercial stations) in New York City are not. These stations never have and do not take any corporate funding nor air the cutesy little one-liner commercials - the ones that say, "Funded by Archer Daniels Midland, 'Supermarket to the World.' " Ah! No wonder the likes of Mary Francis Berry, friend to Bill Clinton, on the Pacifica National Board (and head of the US Human Rights Commission) are trying to shut them down after taking away local community control. More John John less know know!
While hundreds of people camp out on Martin Luther King Street in tents in what is known as Berkeley's Camp KPFA and Radio Free KPFA pirate broadcasts to the local community (simultaneously available on ShoutCast MP3 audio on the Internet), the rest of the country gets the John Kennedy pseudo-royalty story ad infinitum. If only the search for the airplane could last as long as the search for the stained blue dress. This would be on-going news of tremendous importance.
I'm just as saddened as the next person to see a tragedy take place. The death of three people in a private aircraft is sad news, no more or less sad then if our son, Dylan and I or my wife JeanneE were to go down in one of our occasional volunteer-pilot flights from Vermont to Boston for his post-kidney transplant medical checkups - no more nor less tragic than the death of community volunteers, who without a single line or breath of recognition, daily contribute to making their communities a better place by helping people in need.
Yes. I am a different kind of Joe. I have no fortune, no fame, no easily recognizable and famous name, no corporate or empire legacy from ill-begotten activity. Yet, the tragedies that befall me and everyone like me are as real as John Kennedy, Jr.'ss and his family. And, at least equally tragic is the stifling of community radio and Free Speech in Berkeley, real news which garners little or no play in the national media. Imagine if the KPFA Berkeley Free Speech story were updated, analyzed and expert- witnessed-testified-to half as often as the latest status reports on the US Coast Guard and police searches for the airplane and the remains of its occupants. In deference to the Kennedy's let's give the on-going KPFA story and growing national consciousness on corporate dominion just one-tenth the air time. Then, people might begin to know something, and, there are many somethings to learn about.
Yes. I am a different kind of Joe. Unlike John Kennedy and other members of his family, I do not live on the edge, unless of course you consider donating a kidney to our son Dylan back in 1991 as living on the edge. Not being a celebrity, there revolves no celebrity culture about me. Please do not misunderstand, I do not envy celebrity or the celebrities of this nation. I do, however, celebrate the struggles of working-class people in helping achieve peace and social justice. There are those who through happenstance function with the benefit of millions of dollars. Such tucked away resources are a luxury. They can be called upon in the event that an effort just doesn't quite work out. One can simply do something else, or try again. Most of us are not so fortunate.
The celebration of the struggle for peace, social justice, an end to racism. should be all over the television and other media. The Veteran for Peace who sang at Camp KPFA, the staff gagged and dragged out of the studio while on-the-air, the padlocking of the station against its employees and the subsequent arrest of many of them for trespassing after working at the station for 20 years, police brutality especially against minority populations, these struggles deserve much much more than mere sound bite, or occasional coverage. This is what KPFA, WBAI and other Pacifica affiliates do. They cover the corporate unacceptable - stories such as the Chevron oil-related atrocities in Nigeria.
The Chevorn story brought major international recognition to Pacifica. A journalism award, the George Polk Awards 98, Citation in Radio Reporting was presented by Tom Brokaw to Amy Goodman and Jeremy Scahill for their show, "Democracy Now", documenting at great personal risk, a remote Nigerian Delta, oil-rich, tragedy. Brokaw conveniently left out the word "Chevron" in the title of their story. Goodman and Scahill refused to accept the award. Get the picture? But, what does the US populace know? Chevron (San Francisco) eventually admitted it paid and transported Nigerian military and police troops on May 25, 1998, who shot and killed unarmed Nigerian activists peacefully protesting on one of the company's offshore oil rigs. More Monica less chronicle - the standard corporate media fare...
What is wrong with this picture? What is wrong with media that shows little or few bodies blown to bits during the bombing of Kosovo and Serbia? Albanian tragedy reporting is fine. Serbian (collateral damage) is not. Ever notice how few pictures or coverage there was of cluster-bomb blown apart Serbian bodies? It's more "sanitary" that way and in the best corporate-State interest. What is wrong with millionaire reporters working for mega-millionaire CEOs of billion-dollar corporations bringing us scandal over substance, soap-opera over investigation, salacious interest over State perversity? The answer is simple. Nothing is wrong! Nothing - if you're interested in covering up US involvement in Columbia's civil war under the guise of conducting a drug war. Nothing - if you're interested in espousing human rights and then making mega-profit deals with sweatshops worldwide including countries whose systems we supposedly despise, like Red China.
Why not present non-ending coverage of the profits US transnationals make shipping US jobs off to China? Did you ever notice that we don't even call it "Red" China anymore. If we did, heaven forbid, most of us would have to take the "commie" sneakers and shoes out of the closet, throw out the Christmas ornaments, give the Asian pignolia (pine) nuts to the dog, chuck out the computer and angst of all angsts, take those cheap ultra-violet producing and dangerous torch (excuse me torchiere) lamps to the town transfer station or the dump. We might have to get rid of the cell phone! Oh! They're hazardous to our health are they? Let's up the frequency some more.
So many of us in the US and (more and more through globalization of) the world are being brought the "world as it is" through the eyes and ears of NAFTA and GATT-esque interpretation. Ask the average Joe what the significance of NAFTA has been or even more ominously the implications of GATT? He's more likely to tell you that GATT is something you have as in "I GATT a six-pack of beer." Explain it to them: GATT is the General Agreements on Tariffs and Trade. Huh? Oh, but ask them about what plane John Kennedy was flying? Or, where was the blue dress hidden? Where was the stain? Was it O.J. or was it Memorex? Sure enough, they know. How could they not with saturation exposure to not just these stories, but, any story they wish to push for whatever purpose the ruling elite have in mind.
No. I'm not the average Joe, for while my email friend asks the question, I'm afraid that both he and I know the answer, which is that what the vast majority of the populace know, most they learn from the distributors and purveyors of "information" according to GE (NBC), Disney (ABC), Westinghouse (CBS) and Time-Warner (most cable) - the truth according to the Corporations, those entities operating under anything-is-possible-for-profit so that they have no vested interests in the reporting and the presentations they put forth.
This is why Pacifica stations such as KPFA and WBAI must survive as community-based listener-sponsored radio without corporate-State interference. They know it. It's time to educate the US populace so that they know it as well. Be a different kind of Joe, not different than John Kennedy, Jr. but, different than the I don't know Joe. Get involved. Support KPFA, WBAI and all non-corporate listener-sponsored radio. Go to website and help anyway you can. Free KPFA!
© 2003 Jozef Hand-Boniakowski, PhD