NYT: Pacifica Isn't Radical Left, It's 'Grass Roots' And 'Gives Voice to Struggles'

Pacifica Radio and its best-known broadcast, Democracy Now, can be easily identified as a radical-left enterprise. Currently, it is touting the Occupy Wall Street protests with leftist guests like Michael Moore and Cornel West. It supportively offers audio news from al-Jazeera English. Its New York station WBAI offered a premium for donors who gave $100 or more: a President Bush trash can that says "White Trash" on it.

But a sympathetic profile of Pacifica by media reporter Brian Stelter was merely headlined "A Grass-Roots Network Gives a Voice to Struggles."  Some call Pacifica "progressive" (that's putting it mildly), but their anchor Amy Goodman wasn't even accepting that label:

Some fans as well as critics describe “Democracy Now!” as progressive, but Ms. Goodman rejects that label and prefers to call it a global newscast that has “people speaking for themselves.” She criticized networks in the United States that have brought on professional pundits, rather than actual protesters, to discuss the Occupy protests.  

Let's review for a moment how a listener could safely place Pacifica firmly on the further fringes of the Left (supported by about $1 million each year in station grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting):

-- On Memorial Day 2010, Democracy Now hosted radical leftist Noam Chomsky railing against Ronald Reagan and his fans. He called it "the cult of the great killer and torturer Ronald Reagan, one of the grand criminals of the modern era....For President Obama, this monstrous creature was a ‘transformative figure.’"  

-- On July 5, 2010, Michael Moore concluded by suggesting taxpaying Americans (even anti-war taxpaying Americans) aren't getting into Heaven due to their government's warmongering. 

-- In 2009, the show promoted leftist writer Max Blumenthal and his new book "Republican Gomorrah," complete with the bizarre theory that the Grand Old Party is a movement based on parental sadomasochism, that James Dobson’s book "Dare to Discipline" was essential: "By creating a belt-wielding army of milllions, Dobson created the next generation of Republican shock troops, who are more radical than before." 

-- In a 2008 "presidential debate" with only leftist radicals, Ralph Nader raged that Obama friend Bill Ayers was a small-time saboteur next to those "clinically verifiable mass terrorists," George Bush and Dick Cheney.  

But Stelter and the Times tried to present with significant (but unconvincing) ideological camouflage. It's merely a nonprofit chronicling struggles for justice:

The newscast distinguishes itself by documenting social movements, struggles for justice and the effects of American foreign policy, along with the rest of the day’s developments.

Operated as a nonprofit organization and distributed on a patchwork of stations, channels and Web sites, “Democracy Now!” is proudly independent, in that way appealing to hundreds of thousands of people who are skeptical of the news organizations that are owned by major media companies. The program “escapes the suffocating sameness that pervades broadcast news,” said John Knefel, a comedian and freelance writer who started listening about four years ago and now tries never to miss an episode.

Another definition for "escaping the suffocating sameness" is "radical haters of the free market and other American ideals." But the Times seemed to be writing for their pledge drive, not writing for accuracy.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis