Steve Yasko and
by Paul DeRienzo
Steve Yasko complains he was the victim of a conspiracy meant to destroy him personally and over time the attack intensified. He says the worst smears came from a former Pacifica employee and self-described anarchist named Lyn Gerry. Yasko explains that to teach himself computer skills he set up a small personal web homepage under the name of an "alter ego" style character named Mike Bilt that was dedicated to gay travel. Yasko says part of an original version of his web site was inadvertently left posted after he started a new version. Still posted on the old site was a page linked to a site called Hillaryshair.com dedicated to "critiquing" changes in Senator Hillary Rodham-Clintons hair style. Hillarys site had been reviewed in the news and Yasko says it was "entertaining, cute and not malicious."
Long after Yasko forgot about his original web page, which was still partly up on a web server run by his ISP, the domain name was "trounced," a computer term for when an abandoned web page is surreptitiously taken over, usually by a pornography site. According to Yasko thats what happened to hillaryshair.com and he adds that when Lyn Gerry found out that hillaryshair.com had become a porn site she "pounced on it." Later ABC radio talkshow host Lynn Samuels, a former WBAI producer, broadcast the trumped up sex charges, mentioning Yaskos name on WABC. Yasko says there was "no tangible reason to destroy my life. The only thing Amy Goodman was asked to do was behave and report to her supervisor. There was never anything we asked her not to do."
Yasko claims that Lyn Gerry was one of several people who worked closely with Goodman and Juan Gonzalez. He adds that they were actively looking to discredit him and that Yasko claims that in particular he discovered that "Amy and Juan wanted my resume to try and show I wasnt qualified" for a job with Pacifica.
Yasko learned the depth of the campaign against him after he got a phone message from an agent hed worked with for years urging him to "get me your resume quick, theres a major market job opening." Yasko was skeptical but provided his agent with the information and left for a business meeting in New York. That night Yaskos cell phone started ringing. He says the caller was impersonating a member of the board of directors of the "major market" station that was supposedly interested in him. The caller said, "why did you come to New York to fire Amy Goodman." Yasko answered that the caller was wrong and that "Amy is a treasured voice on Pacifica, there are no plans to fire Amy Goodman." Afterwards his partner told him hed earlier fielded a call from the same person who had just called Yasko and had given him Yaskos cell phone number. Yasko says his home number was on his resume. The following day Yasko's resume and cell phone number were posted on the Internet by Lyn Gerry, who he says harassed him for days with what he calls "lies and impersonations."
Yasko says the tactics of his enemies would have been funny if it werent for what he says is the lost opportunity to expand the network's audience. He conducted a survey of Pacificas listening audience and found that between 1996 and 2000 only KPFT in Houston had seen its audience increase. He claims by over 150 percent. The other four Pacifica stations had an almost totally flat listenership for the same five-year period. Yasko adds that KPFTs growth was so large that it created the false illusion that the entire network had grown. KPFT, then managed by Garland Gantner, had long before removed programmers with marginal shows, replacing them with a "Sounds of Texas" music format. Although popular with Texans, Gantners changes enraged his enemies within the Pacifica community.
According to Yasko the problem is that unlike most radio stations Pacifica stations receive a large percentage of funding from a small number of wealthy donors with political motivations who write checks because they "think its important." Often these same donors arent listening to the stations they are funding and make no demands for quality programming.
Since the new iPNB took power Utrice Leid says there has been "serious mediocrity going on." But Leid doesnt accept any blame for Pacificas current financial crisis; "The people who conducted the war are now accusing us of looting Pacifica when they caused the expenses." Leid is characteristic in her scathing critique of her enemies, "They are a small group who cant control the place, its a classic case of cutting off their nose despite their face. They just dont have what it takes."
Meanwhile all is not well on the West Coast according to some Pacifica employees and their associates. Noelle Hanrahan was co-host with Dennis Bernstein of KPFAs daily newsmagazine Flashpoints; shes also a union shop steward at the station. On February 11th Hanrahan says she was suspended from her job for two months. Hanrahan says her suspension was the result of a campaign by Bernstein to force her to quit. Hanrahan confirms that in October Bernstein began trying to bully her into leaving the Flashpoints job by screaming at her that "Im going to torture you until you quit or I force you to leave." Bernstein had already been suspended for ten days in November after he verbally slammed Hanrahan during a 20-minute call in show.
Hanrahan blames Bernsteins aggression on her suggestion that it was time to return air-time to regularly scheduled programs a month after the September 11th attacks in New York. Hanrahan says Bernstein didnt want to give up any of the air that he had requisitioned for coverage of the terror attacks. Hanrahan claims Bernsteins has intimidated and threatened numerous KPFA broadcasters including one incident in January when Bernstein was put on probation for punching Aaron Glantz, a producer of Free Speech Radio News. FSRN is the non-union outfit thats replaced the laid off unionized staff of the Pacifica Network News soon after the iPNB came to power. According to Hanrahan FSRN is funded through Barbara Lubin, who she calls Bernsteins "chief lackey." Lubin is Executive Director of the Berkeley based organization "Middle East Childrens Alliance." Hanrahan adds that Bernstein wants to get her off of Flashpoints so that he can partner with Robert Knight. She says Knight is already receiving a salary thorough FSRN.
Glantz admits the attack happened but he hasnt vigorously pursued an assault complaint against Bernstein. He says Pacificas new Assistant Executive Director and former PNN news anchor Verna Avery Brown is investigating and he trusts shell settle the matter. Hanrahan hints that programmers fear Bernstein because he wields the real power at the station although Jim Bennett (the current KPFA station manager is Roy Campanella II) is officially KPFAs General Manager. Hanrahan and many others involved in the Pacifica battles regard Bernstein and Amy Goodman as exercising management power even though they are both officially defined as Pacifica employees. The situation allows Bernstein and Goodman to evade accountability for their sometimes-erratic and often anti-union behavior.
Some others in California are not so reticent about speaking up about what they say is Bernsteins dictatorial behavior. Ralph Schoenman says he has firsthand experience dealing with Bernstein at political events. He says Bernstein told organizers he would not emcee an event if Schoenman were allowed to speak. According to Schoenman, Bernstein told the organizer of the event, which was about the US bombing of Yugoslavia, that he didnt need Schoenman because he would just repeat what Bernstein was already going to say. Schoenman complains that he had never met Bernstein before these events and knew very little about the man. Schoenman says hes learning, he now refers to Bernstein as a "Stalinist."
Schoenman is a long time peace activist and author of many articles and books including the 1988 classic "The Hidden History of Zionism." During WBAIs October 2001 million dollar fund drive Utrice Leid invited Schoenman to take part, his insight into the history of the middle east fit into the publics thirst for knowledge about the region following the terror attacks in New York. Schoenman, who is based in the Bay Area, appeared together with his partner Mya Shone on WBAI with a program called "Taking Aim" during Leids administration. Schoenman says he found himself banned from the use of KPFA facilities by GM Jim Bennett who Schoenman says demanded money for an engineer before he could use the stations digital line. Because of Bennetts obstruction the program had to be broadcast over inferior telephone lines. Despite the handicap, "Taking Aim" became the best single fundraising program in WBAI history.
Jim Bennett and KPFA were also embroiled in a murky incident involving an unnamed person or persons who took papers from KPFA offices and impersonated themselves as KPFA agents so that could deposit donations without the funds going to Pacifica. Although the incident was handled quietly by the bank iPNB member James Ferguson raised the issue at the January 2002 iPNB meeting in New York. Noelle Hanrahan says Goodmans enemies manufactured the story, but in New York Bennett admitted there was a problem with a "renegade" bank account that has since been closed.
The activities of the Pacifica Campaign are continuing. Juan Gonzalez stepped down in January and was replaced by Denis Moynihan. Since then the Campaign has launched lawsuits to overturn the Board of Directors of KKFI a community radio station in Kansas City. Although claiming the assault on KKFI originated with "long standing supporters" of the station a Pacifica Campaign web site post accuses that KKFI General Manager Robert Barrientos* of complaining about Goodman. The December 21, 2001 posting read in part that, "When former Pacifica National Programming Director Steve Yasko put out a call nationally for complaints against Amy Goodman from affiliate station managers, only one manager responded: Robert Barrientos."
Yasko confirms the incident, he says Barrientos had the courage to face up to Goodman. In addition although Goodman was "hated" by nearly the entire Pacifica staff most were afraid to confront her because of her fanatical followers. Now it seems a Pacifica affiliate is feeling Goodmans wrath as well. The Pacifica Campaign web site reports that on February 15th in Kansas City Goodman "spoke to a standing-room only crowd of well over 450 people," claiming it was "the largest event in KCs progressive community in recent memory."**
Whether or not the actions of the Pacifica Campaign will aid their stated goals of a democratized media is yet to be seen. However the campaign wont be the first or the last group that attempts to win justice and democracy through undemocratic and anti-democratic means. Its an issue as old as politics itself, do the ends ever justify the means? It might just depend on whose ox is gored.
While Gary Null was attacked for allegedly supporting a "boycott" fundraising for WBAI in fact the Pacifica Campaign had wanted a lot more. The Pacifica Campaign demanded in 2001 that "all Progressves follow the ABCs" in dealing with WBAI. Read about it here.
Financial llegations against WBAI managers presented to the WBAI LSB
in March 2004.
Yasko -vs- Goodman
Leonard Peltier's Critique of Democracy Now! employee Denis Moynihan
"After speaking with Denis a couple of times, I became leery of
him. I told myself I just didn't know him all that well and ignored those
feelings. I met him, finally, and I asked him how long he was committing
himself. He said six months. I convinced him to stay a year.
*In his cluttered KKFI office, Robert Barrientos holds up an article titled "Is Your Station a Radio Club?" KKFI has been operated too long by programmers who treat the station as a personal social club, Barrientos says. He intends to transform KKFI into a professional-quality radio station. But KKFI's history includes no one quite like Barrientos. The Pitch, May 31, 2001
**"They yanked 'Democracy Now' off the air on KKFI today," rails Dennis Moynihan of the Pacifica Campaign. "It's an absolute disgrace what they've done at this station." --The Pitch, Feb. 21, 2002 Read the Article