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LASAR, Matthew " From Dialogue to Dissent: The Pacifica [Radio] Foundation and The Cold War, 1942 to 1964 ’

Sunday 6 June 2004

Ph. D., 1997. 504 P. The Claremont Graduate School

DAI, 57, no. 11A, (1997): 4898

“From Dialogue to Dissent traces an institution’s journey from a pacifist communitarian to a liberal individualist philosophy, and outlines the factors that led to that transformation. This dissertation argues that in its first two decades, the first listener-sponsored radio network in the United States reconstructed its broadcasting mission. The Pacifica Foundation, created in 1946, had its ideological roots in pacifism, anarchism, and cooperativism. The organization saw its primary goal as promoting "a pacific world" by encouraging communication between people of diverse backgrounds and beliefs, and only secondarily as an advocate of free speech and individual rights. With the inauguration of radio station KPFA in Berkeley in 1949, the founding Pacificans hoped to attract a mass audience to their dialogue-oriented project.

The requirements of the Federal Communications Commission and onset of the Cold War, however, subverted this agenda. McCarthyism gradually forced the foundation to define itself formally as a haven for unpopular ideas, and for the absolute right of individuals to speak such ideas. With the emergence of WBAI in New York City and KPFK in Los Angeles, a second generation of Pacificans adopted a much more aggressive broadcasting style, challenging the actions of what historian Daniel Yergin calls the "national security state." The consequent conflicts with that state only intensified the foundation’s need to emphasize the "unpopular" individual’s right to dissent as its raison d’etre. In this process, the Pacifica Foundation created what would later be called "alternative radio." It also created a crisis of meaning for itself. What larger mission unified a world of dissenters? What higher purpose did free speech broadcasting serve besides the right of the individual to speak?

This monograph argues that by the late 1960s, the Cold War had created an imbalance within the Pacifica network. McCarthyism compelled the institution to emphasize the rights of the lone dissenter while de-emphasizing a sense of mutual purpose and obligation within the Pacifica community. What makes the Pacifica story so significant is the extent to which the organization’s early history illuminates that enduring conflict in American society: the simultaneous desire for both community and individual autonomy"