Open letter to Katrina van den Heuvel on Marc Cooper

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Wed Feb 20 14:05:49 MST 2002

Date: Wed, 20 Feb 2002 11:11:18 -0800
To: kat at
From: Gray Brechin <gbrechin at
Subject: Re: The Nation's disastrous complicity

An Open Letter to Ms. van den Heuvel:

As the author of the introduction to a recently-published collection of
writings by the former editor of "The Nation" entitled "Fool's Paradise: A
Carey McWilliams Reader" and as a long-time subscriber to your magazine, I
have been deeply disturbed by the magazine's equivocal (to put the best
light on it) editorial position regarding the Pacifica crisis which has so
deeply split what's left of the left over the past three years. That policy
was, I believe, largely set by Marc Cooper who has, I hear, just been
suspended from his position at KPFK and now seems determined to use every
means at his disposal to further cripple or destroy the network. I want to
explain to you why I believe that McWilliams -- not to mention founders
F.L. Olmsted and Edwin Godkin -- would have been ashamed by the role which
their magazine played in allowing the crisis to develop to the point that
it did, now revealed by the criminal looting of Pacifica's assets as soon
as the previous board understood that it was losing its grip on the network.

A year ago, I had the misfortune to have an email exchange with Marc Cooper
after reading the kind of toxic bilge that he had sent to others. I felt
splattered with the same myself, and was glad to call the correspondence
quits. I felt an immense disconnect between Cooper's pious public and
venomous private personnas.

My problem with Cooper goes back to the initial article that he wrote for
"The Nation" in which he took his soon-familiar stance of "a pox on both
their houses, but a lot more pox on the dissidents' house." In that
article, he gave what appeared to be an eye-witness account of the lockout
here at KPFA. Cooper, however, was not here. I was...I got inside the
station after hearing Dennis Bernstein's on-air scuffle with security
guards and was nearly arrested myself when Garland Ganter ordered the
reluctant Berkeley police to start hauling "trespassers" (i.e., listeners)
off to jail. When I confronted Cooper with his absence from the scene of
the crime, he responded that he had gotten his account from "several
credible eyewitnesses" whose names he would not reveal. Those sources could
only have been the representatives whom Mary Frances Berry and Lynn
Chadwick had installed inside the station and who were then in the process
of locking it down: Ganter, Chadwick, Elan Fabbri, and the armed security
guards strategically brought in weeks before (some of whom had worked for
the FBI and CIA). What Cooper will not reveal is why he flakked for the
Berry faction whose clear intent, as revealed in the Micheal Palmer memo
aired that day by Bernstein, was to shut down the station, reprogram it,
and sell either or both KPFA and WBAI for a very handsome profit.

Cooper also revealed to me in those emails his withering contempt for
Dennis Bernstein, whose "daily 'journalistic' on air exercises," he wrote,
"are the laughing stock of every real reporter in the Bay Area." How odd, I
thought, that no reporters I know hold that opinion. Could it be that
Bernstein is virtually the only on-air reporter in the Bay Area who gives
the Palestinian point of view about what is happening in the occupied
lands, and that he carries live reports from the war zone, for which he has
received death threats and been called a self-hating Jew? Whether Cooper's
motives were political or financial, they certainly included an element of
personal vendetta which seems to constitute a generous component of his
Iago-like makeup.

Cooper's account was like the music critic who reviews an opera that he has
not attended and is caught when the diva suddenly cancels her appearance. I
am convinced that McWilliams would not have tolerated such journalistic
duplicity. I joined many others at that time in canceling my long-time
subscription; I am grateful that I did so, for it enabled me to discover
Lewis Lapham's "Harper's" which maintains the kind of journalistic
integrity that "The Nation" appears to have lost.

Gray Brechin, Ph.D. U.C. Berkeley Department of Geography

Louis Proyect
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