Thursday, August 13, 2020
My Firing at KNKX
It is time for me to speak about my firing from KNKX and I will reveal much that is not known publicly about the station, its leadership, and the events that have occurred. This is a particularly sad task for me, considering that I played an important role in saving the station a few years ago and have worked hard for its success.
This is a long post, so let me give you a quick overview of the key points I will cover:
1. The leaders of KNKX justified my firing based upon my August 5th blog post that criticized violent individuals in downtown Seattle, criticized the City Council, supported Chief Best, and noted some similarities to what happened in Germany in the 1930s. 2. The leaders of KNKX terminated me the next day without speaking to me before they made the decision. They also did not discuss the matter with the KNKX Advisory Council. 3. KNKX put out a statement that was factually untrue and easily can be proven false. 4. Activist groups have been trying to get me dismissed from KNKX for over a year because they are unhappy with my science-based to climate change. 5. KNKX did not oppose my advocacy when I supported progressive viewpoints, but was uncomfortable with my moderate stances. 6. KNKX management is beholden to and attempts to please left-leaning activist donors. 7. That NPR is full of examples of calling Republicans and police Nazis and brownshirts, but if someone suggests the violent left have evinced Fascist behavior, that is reason for termination.
Last week I wrote a blog post–Seattle, A City in Fear Can Be Restored–criticizing violent individuals who have brought repeated destruction to downtown Seattle and attacked and injured numerous people (including reporters and dozens of police officers). I also criticized the irresponsible and reckless actions of members of the Seattle City Council, who allowed the violence to continue, tried to cripple and defund the Seattle Police Department, and who have persecuted Chief Carmen Best.
The next day I received a call from KNKX station manager Joey Cohn and program manager Matt Martinez, saying that I was being ejected from the station because of my blog post. They were not open to discussion on the matter; I was off the air and my weather segment, one of the most popular segments on the station, was discontinued immediately.
Their reason for my expulsion, provided in a statement released by the station, was both false and misleading. For example, it stated that my blog “draws distorted, offensive parallels between protesters and Nazi Brownshirts”
This is totally false. I NEVER suggested that peaceful protestors are like brownshirts, I was ONLY talking about violent individuals.
Just to be completely clear I am a strong supporter of peaceful protests and assemblies. It is an essential aspect of our democracy and protected in the U.S. Constitution. Peaceful protests have played a critical role in many positive social movements, such as woman suffrage, ending the Vietnam war, and in promoting civil rights. I have participated in peaceful protests myself. But violence—destroying business and hurting people—is a different story. It is not only illegal, and destructive, but it undermines civil society and democracy, and usually hurts the least advantaged among us the most. That is what I was speaking out against.
I made it clear to both Joey Cohn and Matt Martinez on the call that my remarks were limited to violent individuals and they still chose to send out the deceptive statement. For the leadership of a major media group to do so is extraordinarily concerning and disappointing.
Ironically, the first sentence of their statement proclaims that the station has an “aim to present an array of voices that reflect our region.” Clearly, they did not think my voice against violence was one of the “array of voices” that should be presented.
Furthermore, their statement suggested my blog was “inaccurate” and “misleading”—but never backs that up with any evidence. There is no evidence. My blog was both accurate and highly reasoned, and I challenge them to provide a single example to the contrary.
My sources inside KNKX tell me that station management went into panic mode after a number of activist folks emailed to complain about my blog. They were desperate to get out a statement immediately that kicked me off the station in order to get the online mob off their back. Putting out a deceptive, hurtful statement was OK if it did the job.
Backstory and Influence of Activists/Contributors
But as in any controversy, there is a backstory, and now I am going to reveal some of it to you, since public radio is, well, public.
A collection of activist folks has been gunning for me for a long time and have energetically tried to get me kicked off KNKX. The reason: the discussions of climate and climate change in my blog. No, we are NOT talking about what I said on air, where I stick to weather and the content was controlled completely by the station. They objected to what I said in my outside blog about climate change.
Now I have probably written more papers and done more research on Northwest weather and climate than any other individual. I know the literature. I attend the seminars. I wrote on book on NW weather and climate. I have spent a lifetime learning about it. But a bunch of climate activists, such as groups like 350.org decided they knew better. They were particularly unhappy when I exposed some of the hype and exaggeration promulgated by the activist crowd (e.g., that climate change is a short-term existential threat to mankind). There were also some wealthy, activist KNKX donors that were unhappy with my blog. These climate activists demanded that I talk about “existential climate threats” on KNKX and stop my climate fact checking on my blog. I was a threat to them: knowledgeable, credible, and with access to the media. And they wanted that to end.
Well, all this came to a head this year, when Seattle350.org put out a petition with the aim of getting me removed from KNKX (see below).
I offered to come to a 350.org meeting to talk about the science with them, but they refused. I asked them to specify what I got wrong, they could not. But the station management was afraid of the 350.org mob and their KNKX donor sympathizes and decided to spend a great deal of money in getting me “evaluated.” Unbelievable.
In March 2020, Joey Cohn and Matt Martinez hired the recently retired national NPR ombudsperson, Elizabeth Jensen, to do the evaluation. And then they also arranged for an evaluation of my science. Contrary to any good sense, they found a local aerosol expert who was an active member of 350.org to do the science evaluation. I complained that this was grossly unfair, but Joey and Matt were unmoved.
Well, the good news is that their report showed that my science was accurate and that my segment with Bellamy was totally appropriate (read the report here: https://www.knkx.org/post/knkx-public-editor-report-science-politics-and-weather-cliff-mass) In short, a total waste of KNKX listener contributions.
But the fact that station management spent a large amount of money (from donations, of course) and personnel time on placating uninformed activists was a very bad sign….one that was going to reveal itself when I posted on August 5th about Seattle and violence.
This was not the only incident of this kind that illustrates a serious bias at KNKX. Two years ago I wrote some blog posts criticizing I-1631, which called for a carbon tax that would be distributed to activist groups especially. I felt it was terribly regressive and hurt low-income groups preferentially. Some of the activist KNKX contributors were unhappy about this and complained to the station (some even wanted me ejected right there). Of importance, I was a strong supporter of I-732, which was a revenue-neutral carbon tax defeated two years earlier. Joey Cohn took me out to lunch and had a “talk” with me. He told me some of the contributors were upset and required that I talk to him before I publicly supported an initiative again. I asked him why he was not concerned about and never mentioned my support of I-732 (which was approved by some in the activist community). He smiled at me. The answer was clear: as long as I supported “progressive” initiatives things were fine. Went I publicly opposed something the progressives liked, I needed to rethink my advocacy.
All of this revealed to me an Achilles heel of public radio. Stations depend on contributions, and rich, activist contributors have enormous power on station management. They get appointed to station management boards. They have access to station management. Joey Cohn and Matt Martinez feel encumbered to please and mollify them. And that has a serious, and deleterious impact on what one hears on the radio station.
Joey Cohn and Matt Martinez threw away the foundational values of KNKX. Why? Because the station was saved to protect diversity of viewpoints in the region and they acted to reduce the exposure of their listeners to a different viewpoint that was different from their activist donors.
Hypocrisy The key aspect of my blog post that KNKX management claim to be upset about is my paragraphs providing a reasoned and careful comparison between what happened in 1930s Germany and in present-day Seattle. They claimed my blog post “draws distorted, offensive parallels” to what happened in Nazi Germany. I have expanded on my reasoning below, which I will let each of you evaluate on your own.
But don’t trust me. I have had a number of other individuals, both Jewish and non-Jewish, tell me the same thing (see example below)—what has happened in Seattle has many parallels in the 1930s. I talked to a local Rabbi that concurred, and I spoke to a leader in a local Jewish advocacy group who told me that the blog was not offensive or problematic. I would be happy to connect KNKX leadership with these local Jewish leaders.
The great irony here and the sign of total hypocrisy on the part of KNKX management is that NPR is constantly providing folks a platform to call Trump, police, or Republicans fascists, Nazis or brownshirts. You want proof? Here is an NPR story in which Rick Steves calls Trump a fascist.
Or this one:
I could provide a dozen more. There are comparisons with fascists all the time on NPR, but references are almost always about Trump administration officials or police. But when I noted actions reminiscent of 1930s done by those supported on the left, I am given the boot from the station. Even with detailed documentation of my contentions and the support of others in the Jewish community.
There is a word for this. Hypocrisy.
Brownshirts and Kristallnacht
Now that you understand a bit about the serious issues at KNKX (and there are more that I could have included), let’s get to the brownshirt/Kristallnacht issue. As made clear above, my concerns were NOT about peaceful protestors but violent types. But a number of the activists deliberately misrepresented what was clear in the blog, and they accused me of calling peaceful protestors Nazis. This is absolutely false. Some even called me an anti-Semite, which is kind of ridiculous since I am Jewish.
Ironically, a number of the social activists attacking Seattle police were very liberal in their use of brownshirts and Nazis. But a Jewish individual whose family suffered in Europe could not do so. Unbelievable.
So why did they home in on my reference to brownshirts and the like? Because they were desperate to attack a blog post that they knew undercut their viewpoints, particularly about police violence in Seattle against “peaceful” righteous protestors. Pretty cynical stuff.
In my blog, I noted some similarities of what happened here in Seattle and in Nazi Germany. I did not say it was the same in magnitude or degree. But that there were common elements that were chilling….and particularly so to a Jewish individual. Consider:
1. On Kristallnacht, violent individuals (brownshirts and others) had a target (Jewish businesses and homes) to which they caused huge damage, injuries, and loss of life. They were out to intimidate. The violence was not done by the government, which looked the other way as it happened. Many windows were broken and extensive glass was on the ground (that is why it was called Kristallnacht, night of broken glass).
In Seattle, there were also massive amounts of broken windows, violent individuals were pillaging and damaging targeted groups they felt were unrighteous (e.g., Amazon, Chase, Starbuck). Some Jewish business were clearly targeted (e.g., Uncle Ikes, Samuel Jewelers)
Jewish businesses like Uncle Ikes were deliberately targeting during the Seattle riots
2. Hurtful graffiti was applied in Kristallnacht, as it was in Seattle. Some of the Seattle graffiti was anti-Israel.
3. The brownshirts got the nod or indifference by the German government. In Seattle, a number of government officials and representatives downplayed the violence, suggesting it was a” summer of love”, or actively attacked the police when they tried to restore order. One city councilmember dressed her infant child in an antifa outfit.
Jewish Americans have a deep memory of what has happened during the past centuries. When thuggish violent groups target those they don’t agree with, with the government not intervening to stop the violence, vulnerable groups (like the Jewish community) tend to get hurt. We feel highly vulnerable. Jewish Americans understand the value of American democracy, which protects and celebrates different viewpoints and traditions. The antifa “brownshirts” are the antithesis of democratic values and respect for differing viewpoints. That is a critical point.
Chief Carmen Best
Carmen Best is the latest moderate who cared deeply about this city and been pushed out. In both of our cases, the activist left saw us in their way, representing values of tolerance, moderation, and thoughtful examination of the facts. They wanted us gone and, quite honestly, they have been quite successful in the short term, in my case because of the weak management of KNKX. It is not an accident that the blog that got me fired from KNKX was the one in which I criticized the City Council and strongly supported
So What Should You Do?
KNKX is in trouble and what happened to me is clear example of the power of special interest groups on a public radio station. Importantly, KNKX management did not care about KNKX listeners when they made their politically motivated decision. They cut one of the most popular segments on the station without even talking to the KNKX advisory council or polling KNKX listeners—a sharp contrast to their close attention to listeners thoughts during the first years. Management of public radio station must reflect the interested and values of the public, not a limited group of activists. In fact, the comments on their web site ran strongly against the firing. And I have gotten roughly 450 emails from listeners who were outraged with how KNKX handled the situation.
If you agree with me, please contact KNKX (see emails of management below) and ask that they reconsider their approach. And if you are a contributor to KNKX, you might withhold your contribution until the station takes a different course. Email Seattle City Council members about your concerns about their actions regarding Chief Best and the Seattle Police Department.
Finally, let me note that starting this Friday at 9 AM, I will provide an up-to-date forecast and weather analysis that you can view on my blog for those who enjoyed my KNKX segment. I have an even better weather podcast in the works. Stay tuned!
Station Manager: Joey Cohn, firstname.lastname@example.org Program Director: Matt Martinez, email@example.com Chair of KNKX Board, Claire Grace, send to info.knkx.org