Some Observations on History Repeating Itself

by Myla Feson
August 19, 2001

Yesterday, I followed the WBAI/goodlight message board and listened to Clayton Riley take listener calls. Riley was abusive to callers with whom he disagreed. On the Irish show that followed Riley's program, the programmers began by saying that there were Irishmen in the UN peace keeping force in Timor and then launched into reading the East Timor Action Network (ETAN) letter decrying the smear against Amy and the denials that the 1991 massacre had actually occurred - they went on to speak of Amy's courage -they made very strong statements in her support; they spoke of how she had spoken out in support of a censored Irish journalist and other important coverage of Irish issues that went out to a national radio audience. They opened the phone lines to listeners - they said "these are your phone lines - you pay telemarketers for them" the show was wonderful.

The hosts did not interrupt listeners who called in. At the end of the show, they said that they could be heard every Saturday on WBAI and that they hoped they would be back next week.

This morning I read about David Rothenberg in the following post from the goodlight board:

David Rothenberg's Analysis August 19, 2001

David Rothenberg today did an on-air analysis citing the similarities in the rise of the Third Reich with what has happened at WBAI since the Christmas Coup, including setting up a scapegoat and Leid's power hungry demands for slavish loyalty with no criticism allowed. He also commented on the security system the likes of which he said he hadn't seen since he visited Sing Sing. He also announced that he has been "summoned by the powers that be" for a meeting later this week and doesn't expect to be on air much longer.

Below is a transcript of his comparative analysis. Audio version is on-line at


It's just about 10 o'clock on WBAI FM in New York, 99.5 listener-sponsored radio. I'm David Rothenberg.

From time to time I've cited William Shirer's book, "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich," as one of the most influential and important books in my lifetime of reading. When I read it I was well familiar with the horror stories, the endless atrocities committed by the Nazis, but I wanted to understand all of the aspects which permitted Hitler's rise to power - the historic precedents, the political, the religious, psychological and economic climate which saw a people allowing a tyrant to take on the world to satisfy some peculiar sick need. And of course we have seen traces of that in other parts of the world at other times, some successful, others sputtering out in its infancy.

During the Guiliani years, in all of the Guiliani years I've often cited Shirer's book, only to be the recipient of sharp criticism mostly saying that I besmirched the memory of holocaust victims by such glib comparisons. I certainly didn't compare Guiliani's reign in New York with the Final Solutions of Hitler, but if we're to learn anything from the rise of Hitler, as Shirer outlines in his book, it's to recognize the traits that exist when a tyrant takes over a country, or a city, or a corporation, or a non-profit organization.

What did I learn from "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich?"

One, nearly every government or corporate enterprise has a shadow ruling body: industrialists, or boards of directors, who work behind the scenes. Who are the continuing power brokers. Who want government to run smoothly, maintaining a sense of democracy but always protecting the privileged and the powerful and the controllers of the purse strings. They could be manufacturers or real estate empire kings, or a board of directors.

When there's a crisis, economic or a sense that control is being lost, there's a political edge that emerges. Power brokers seek out a strong personality to take control and put things back into shape. Usually with a blank check, unless or until it gets out of hand. Sometimes it goes way beyond what the industrialists need. That's when bloodshed often happens.

There's always a law and order personality in the crowd, someone with deep psychological, sometimes pathological, needs to be fulfilled to take charge and to be all-powerful. History has recorded such individuals and their rapid rise and their inevitable falls.

If you follow the blueprint of "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" you discover that the rising tyrant needs a number of things in place, all inter-related and to be acted upon together. That would be, one, a scapegoat or scapegoats. Two, a military or security control, justified because of the alleged threats of the scapegoats. Three, elimination of charismatic opposition, holders of a democratic process.

All of this is with the silent approval of the power brokers, the economic controllers. We don't have to paint the picture that Hitler and the Krupp empire drew, but look at Guiliani's administration. The scapegoats were defined in a number of ways. It was clearly perceived to be young, Black males. They were the police targets. No nay-sayers were permitted in the Guiliani administration, and it did not and has not represented the diversity of this city. And the blockading off of City Hall reflected a bunker mentality.

But our checks and balances, often through the courts, people suing Guiliani, a reasonably free press and due process put a rein on much of Guiliani's terror. But his inclinations were clear. It is why he has frightened me.

His fall from grace came when decent people responded to the incredible cases of Louima, Diallo, and the Dorsimond cases. And then his honor's (Mayor Guiliani) personal peccadilloes, the hypocrisy, the conflict with his moral posturing.

And then we come to the takeover of this station. A small blip in the political scheme of things, but a voice that was heard with much interest by the Democratic Party during the elections when "too much" time was spent justifying third party realities. Pacifica and WBAI, specifically WBAI, could be held responsible for marginal voters going for Nader, throwing the election to Bush.

With the former chair of the board closely tied to the outgoing presidential administration and still the puller-of- strings at Pacifica, serving two masters at the same time, or maybe serving one master at the expense of the other. Three weeks after the Supreme Court ruled that George Bush would be president, some drastic changes took place at this little station in the middle of the FM dial.

A scapegoat was found: she the interviewer of Bill Clinton on Election Day; she who had Ralph Nader as her partner during the Republican convention. The charismatic people's voices were dismissed without warning. Fired. Locked out. And the security system went into place.

And the sole criteria for being part of the decision-making is loyalty to the chief. Talents long abandoned or overlooked rose to the top, just like Rudolph Hess in the Hitler years during the Third Reich. For the sole measure of visibility or audibility was loyalty and joining in the scapegoating.

I have attempted to abide by the gag rule imposed on us, but when I hear continual slander about my colleagues I feel that the gag rule is tantamount to remaining silent during the rise of the Third Reich. Amy Goodman has been verbally and now physically abused at this station. Bernard White's name and professional skills have been assaulted by persons who, quite candidly, can't hold a candle to his talents.

The interim manager of this station is irrationally obsessed by Amy Goodman. Amy's reportorial skills, her large following and the accolades she's received. Abuse of Amy is the sole criteria for a place at the table at WBAI now, and slavish obedience is what is expected. And I find all of that intolerable.

It's all very confused, and never-defined motives are revealed as power relished for itself. But always forgotten, for those who don't know their history, is that every rise of a Third Reich is followed by a fall.

Stay tuned. Pay close attention.

Editor's note: With the way in which US electoral policy is constructed, the winner takes all; therefore, Ralph Nader could not have prevented Gore from winning. Indeed, Gore did receive more many  more votes than Bush did.


TRUE DEMOCRACY     Winter 2002     Copyright © 2002 by News Sourse, Inc.