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Larry Bensky - another side

by repost
He also led the movement to de-democratize KPFA.
Larry Bensky was the leader of the opponents to a democratic KPFA/Pacifica) starting around 2004, when he helped form a group of "entrenched staff", which he called KPFA Forward, in struggling against the majority of delegates we (PeoplesRadio) had on the LSB. He was most popular with listeners then in spite of hanging up on callers-in (to his Sunday show) when he disagreed with them.
He was very articulate in defense of most of the left agenda, but very angry when it came to what was called "conspiracy theories", such as the assassination of JFK. This might have had something to do with his past role as editor of the Paris Review, a literary magazine set up by the CIA, to blunt the then current intelligentsia's critiques of life in the US, as seen,for example, in Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman", which they tried to discredit. Were any of Bensky's attitudes drawn from this former milieu of his?

He was fired by Mary Francis Berry's Pacifica National office. She was head of the US Civil Rights Commission (in the Clinton administration) who was trying to take KPFA's and Pacifica's democratic governance away, around 1998. This National Office came to Berkeley and were met with opposition from Bensky and other KPFAers, so they considered plans to sell KPFA and I believe WBAI (what else is new?), and ended up firing Bensky, Dennis Bernstein, and Nicole Sawaya, a new and popular KPFA General Manager. They locked down KPFA, there was a listener encampment outside, while the station, under a occupation from outside management, was made to broadcast repeats of old programming. Meanwhile union busting "security" "guards" were trashing $$ of broadcast equipment within the station.
(What else is new?)

Bensky's opposition leadership led to a 10 or 15,000 march and rally in Berkeley to rehire Sawaya and take the station back.
As a result of a win in the court new bylaws were required which recognized the listeners democratic role in As a result of a win in the court new bylaws were required which recognized the listeners democratic role in managing the stations, above and beyond just funding them.

However, when the existing semi democratic Program Council voted to move Democracy Now to drive time at 7:00-8:00 am the paid staff component refused to make this change. The LSB of 2004 affirmed the change, but it was never honored, due to opposition from a small segment of paid staff we called the "entrenched staff". This staff component did not accept the new democratic governance, and many a General Manager who agreed with honoring the Program Council decision was rejected by entrenched staff and their listener arm, the "Concerned Listeners"
The CL was formed with the help of programmer whose mother was a leader in the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club, made up partly of ex-Stalinists, and their influence continues to this day.
They aligned with the entrenched staff in refusing democratic decision making. They have wealthy donors and professional advisers and have retained a majority on the Local Station Board, due to their large outside constituency. Their candidates and following believe them to be a reputable progressive force, and while many nice well meaning leftists gladly follow their leadership, their goals and tactics are less well understood by the members, which vote as a bloc on the LSB to support decisions by their leaders. In other words, this is a political machine, independent of its nice leftist LSB members who bloc vote with their loyalty to their central leadership which is not necessarily giving them the true picture.

Their public narratives are incorrect and self serving. Their goal has been to take over KPFA, their tactics, to leave decision making to "management", by blocking any decision.making by the LSB, and spending money into insolvency of the Pacifica network, then having KPFA put on the market and acquired by their allies for pennies on the dollar. They would have the station become more "moderate", to attract "moderate progressives", another NPR. It does not concern them that Pacifica is the only independent national progressive radio network, with 5 stations in major metropolitan area, and over 200 affiliate stations which depend on some programming from the Pacifica stations. Plus has an invaluable Archive of historic recordings. And all this could be lost by wrenching KPFA out of the Pacifica network, perhaps selling WBAI for funding.

This is not by any means a new struggle. This comment was made by Maria Gilardin in 2004. in an article she titled "Why Did the Staff Not Prevent the 10-year Corporate Raid":

"Democracy has a hard time coming to KPFA in spite (or some would say, because of) the leanings of so many paid staff members towards the Democratic Party. . . . Ownership of airtime, turf and power have also prevented an open, honest discussion over strategies to produce the best possible programming for the station as a whole."

For more detail see her entire letter at
and another at
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