I was just listening to Dennis Bernstein’s Flashpoints, a news and analysis interview program airing every weekday from 5 to 6 PM on Pacifica Radio’s KPFA. Dennis’ guests were three political analysts and academics talking about the Korea summit, including the politics and history of US-Korea relations. South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s political background came up. Tim Beal remarked, “[It’s] as if Dennis Kucinich had become president of the United States.” K. J. Noh countered, “No, it’s as if William Kunstler or Lynne Stewart had become president.” Noh detailed President Moon’s background as a political prisoner, torture victim under the US-backed Park Chung-hee dictatorship, and brilliant people’s lawyer.
This depth is typical of KPFA’s flagship commute hour radio program. Dennis Bernstein is perhaps the most perceptive interviewer on radio. He never asks any but the most relevant questions, has astonishing recall of political and historical events, and always guides, but never hinders, his guests in giving their take on the issues in their own way. He is also a widely published investigative journalist and poet, and the recipient of numerous awards, including the 2015 Pillar Award from the National Whistleblower’s Conference, the National Federation of Community Broadcasters Gold Reel Award and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee Reporting Award. In 2009, Pulse Media dubbed him one of the “20 Top Global Media Figures” of the year.
Now we have the gift of Dennis’s fascinating interviews in this generous collection — Follow the Money: Radio Voices for Peace and Justice (2018, Left Coast Press) — spanning the years of the Obama administration. Bernstein’s editor is Riva Enteen, a San Francisco Bay Area activist and organizer, who comes to the work with a law degree and a decade of experience as past program director of the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild.
The book boasts a foreword by famed journalist, author and political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal, who expresses special gratitude for the volume because in prison he cannot listen to Flashpoints: “So, the stirring, soul-touching and moving interviews with Dennis and his guests are lost to us. That is until Follow the Money.” (Hear Mumia read the foreword.) In her brief editor’s introduction, Riva aptly suggests that the volume’s 66 interviews done in the seven years preceding the 2016 US presidential election “provide the writing on the wall for the toxic stew we now live in.” The book is dedicated to “the late, great Robert Parry, founder of ConsortiumNews.com, home of many Flashpoints interviews, which continues his tradition of true, courageous investigative journalism.” The book’s very last page reprints Marge Piercy’s celebrated poem, To be of use, which shares the spirit of activism in which the book is offered.
The interviews are grouped into nine broad themes, such as “The Class War,” “Domestic Dissent” and “Global Militarism and Empire.” The interviewees include many of today’s most important journalists and academics on the Left. Their voices are invariably eloquent, insightful, and informative, as these excerpts show:
Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, Partnership for Civil Justice: The Tea Party was having rallies across the US where they were openly carrying weapons. [Some rallies were] outside where the President of the US was speaking, but what does the FBI do? They are going after the non-violent, peaceful Occupy Movement.
Shahid Buttar, First Amendment Coalition: [T]he Obama administration is already our nation’s far-and-away most aggressive anti-press administration. More national security whistleblowers faced prosecution in the last five years than in the entire preceding 225-year history of the Republic.
Birgitta Jonsdottir, member, Icelandic Parliament: I wept. I wept many times over this video. It is painful not only to see the war crimes that happen in this video. … They had kids in their car and they were killed, slaughtered. It was a murder of innocent people who were trying to do a decent thing, by saving somebody who was dying, and the way the soldiers spoke about it was horrifying. Dennis: There was almost a gleeful hysteria. Birgitta: It was “Look at the dead bastards. Line them up, nice. It’s their fault to bring their kids to war.” Who brought the war to Iraq? It certainly wasn’t these people — it was from a country far, far away.
Vernellia Randall, retired professor: Of all the churches [Dylan Roof] could have picked in that town, he picked the church that was celebrating its 193-year anniversary. That’s a church standing since slavery, with membership since slavery. One of the co-founders of the church was hung, murdered by the system, for supposedly organizing a slave revolt.
Martin Espada, poet: “How to Read Ezra Pound” / At the poets’ panel, / after an hour of poets / debating Ezra Pound, / Abe the Lincoln veteran, / remembering / the Spanish Civil War, / raised his hand and said: / “If I knew / that a fascist / was a great poet, / I’d shoot him / anyway.”
Adrienne Pine, anthropologist: To understand why not only the [Honduran] homicide rate, but also the rate of many other forms of violence is so high, is to understand the coup that happened in 2009, a coup that was carried out by military forces trained at the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia. … Every Honduran I know has been violently assaulted at one point or another — with a gun. It’s happened in front of me on several occasions. … A month ago I walked by a man who had been killed in a targeted assassination ten minutes earlier, and was lying there on the ground.
Laura Flanders, niece of Alexander Cockburn: [Cockburn] would cause you to stop and think, “Am I accepting drivel today that I would have rejected five years ago?”… “Yes,” because there’s been such an uninterrupted flow of it … Alexander was inspired by [his journalist father] Claud’s courage and extraordinary freshness of voice. Claud loved to tell the story of interviewing Al Capone for the London Times, only to have the story never appear in print — because the gangster’s views on American capitalism were so indistinguishable from Wall Street and the paper’s editorial page … [I]n 1973, shortly after the CIA backed coup in Chile, most of the press, the Washington Post, and the New York Times, wrote that it should be assumed that the US had played no role. Alexander wrote, “In the absence of evidence, it might seem journalistically more responsible to assume there was American involvement.” Given the coups in Guatemala and Guyana, “There seems little reason,” he wrote, “to wait for Kissinger’s memoirs or a Congressional hearing in 1984 to get the full story.”
Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, fired EPA whistleblower: Sacrifice zones are essentially primarily African American, Hispanic communities, and low-income white communities … Flint, Michigan, used to be an area where many African Americans moved to who were escaping from state-sponsored violence in the South, from the Ku Klux Klan, the White Knights, and all the organizations that were dedicated to killing black people in the early 1920s, 30s, 40s. … They went to Flint seeking economic value, jobs in the auto industry … Lead poisoning is irreversible. It’s an inter-generational poisoning. So the children of the fetuses who have been poisoned through their mother’s womb — their grandchildren will most likely be lead poisoned.
Robert Parry, investigative journalist: Dennis: Robert, it looks like the US has entered what you call “the second Cold War.” … Barack Obama is leading the charge. He is a Cold War warrior. Robert: … Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, led the charge in supporting the coup in Ukraine in early 2014. Dennis: Most people don’t know that occurred. Was there a coup? Robert: Of course there was. There was an armed uprising that involved some very far right neo-Nazi militias … Very quickly, despite the unconstitutional change of power, the United States and European Union recognized this as legitimate. … [It is a] Cuban missile crisis in reverse. This time we’re the ones pushing our military forces onto the Russian border, rather than the Russians putting missiles onto a place like Cuba.
The book’s interviews can be dipped into at random or devoured all at once. Anyone engaged by the world will find this book eye-opening, and a keeper.
Author’s Note: You can avoid Amazon and buy the book at a 20% discount through Lulu Press. Also available at Barnes & Noble.