Internet Free Speech Under Attack from
"Free Speech Radio"
A web site through which listeners have sent more than 800,000
protest emails and faxes has been threatened with legal action by
the employer of Ken Ford, vice chair of the Pacifica Foundation.
The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), employer of
Pacifica vice chair Ken Ford, made the threat in an email to Steve
Freedkin, operator of the Progressive Portal web site (http://www.progressiveportal.org/).
"This is one more case of the people who took over our
free-speech radio network trying to stifle the speech of others,"
said Freedkin. Previously, Pacifica threatened several other protest
sites with lawsuits, but it later relented. One small site was
temporarily forced offline by the action.
Gerald M. Howard, the NAHB's Executive Vice President and Chief
Executive Officer, sent Freedkin a letter stating that NAHB is
"exploring options for legal action." He added, "We strongly urge
you to take down your web-page."
NAHB pressure also resulted in Progressive Portal's Web hosting
service directing him to stop the letters. An alternative host was
found, and the letter-writing continues uninterrupted.
Freedkin is joined in this effort by the Public Citizen
Litigation Group of Washington, DC. "Public Citizen is concerned
that the attempts by Pacifica and NAHB to silence their critics
could have a chilling effect on Internet activism," said Paul Levy,
an attorney with Public Citizen. Levy defended the Web sites
previously threatened by Pacifica with legal action.
Public Citizen is the advocacy organization founded by Ralph
"We can see no legal basis for NAHB's threats against Progressive
Portal," Levy said, adding that NAHB's attorney has yet to explain
the grounds for his client's complaint.
Activists continue to use Progressive Portal to write to hundreds
of NAHB members throughout the country. They argue that Ford's
behavior on the Pacifica board brings disrepute to the home
builders, and call for Ford's resignation.
The letter campaign from www.ProgressivePortal.org has been part
of a wide-ranging activist campaign that has forced the resignation
of four members of the progressive radio network's board of
directors, including board chair David Acosta. These members, along
with Ford and six others, have been targeted by activists because
"they have turned Pacifica into an anti-democratic institution,
stifled the progressive programming that is the lifeblood of the
network, and banned or fired dozens of the most skilled and honored
personnel throughout the network," Freedkin said.
He said the current board majority is a "clique" that has made
the board self-selecting rather than selected by the local
communities of the network's five stations. Ford, he asserted, is
one of several members serving illegally, having long since passed
the end of his board term according to the organization's by-laws.
"These people have no progressive credentials, no radio
credentials, no reason for being there," Freedkin said. "Ford works
for a regressive lobbying group that opposes environmental
protection and the rights of the disabled -- the antithesis of
Pacifica values. It appears this is nothing more than a power grab
by a corporate cabal intent on destroying Pacifica." He described
Pacifica as "one of the few remaining media outlets with a
progressive point of view."
Freedkin said he has no intention of curtailing Progressive
Portal. "The fact that they must resort to these sorts of threats
shows that we're having an impact. That's our purpose, and we intend
to continue putting the pressure on, not just to restore Pacifica,
but on a host of progressive social issues."
Progressive Portal is an independent project launched by Freedkin
with a number of unpaid volunteers, he said.