Robert Corsini, The political activist who sparked a range war between Hustler and the radical feminists, finally speaks out.
It was me. I'm the one who started it. HUSTLER's latest war against "Femi-Nazis" began as a result of my work to secure Larry Flynt's endorsement for Not In Our Name's "More Than a Million." To coincide with last summer's Republican National Convention (RNC), the group spearheaded a massive march in New York City. I committed this heinous crime, and yet no one bothered to ask me about my side of the story. Until now.
Although I continue my activist work with Not In Our Name (NION), I speak for myself and not the organization. Last summer I was working my ass off (and opening my wallet) as a volunteer peace activist, full-time television producer, husband and father. I am the rare breed of professional willing to commit time and money to the peace movement. Unfortunately, I have often been scrutinized and distrusted because I don't fit the mold of an activist: I'm in my mid-40s, and some say I look like a cop.
Over the past two years, I have remained devoted to the mission of the NION project. Created in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, the national organization is committed to reversing the trend of American militarism abroad and abuses of civil liberties at home.
One of the many lessons I've learned in my brief tenure as an activist is that major media are dedicated to marginalizing dissent. Despite the millions of Americans agitated enough to march in the streets, the media do everything in their power to ignore and diminish our points of view on the war and our criticism of the administration.
Even still, my efforts were focused on getting the word out to the media and seeking endorsements for the RNC protests. Being based in Los Angeles-"left-wing Hollywood"-one would think that dozens of endorsements would fly into my voice-mail box. The reality is that people here like to say they're lefties by donating to causes or supporting star-studded benefits. But real democracy takes place in the streets, and that often frightens those with money. Massive demonstrations are unruly, unpredictable and "dirty." To secure endorsements for the planned rallies in New York City, I sought out people involved in a broad range of Progressive causes-from MoveOn.org to environmentalists like Jean-Michel Cousteau.
Among the many Progressives on my list was Larry Flynt. I knew that he would create controversy within the community that supports NION, but I thought, Why not? Flynt's got money and notoriety. Plus he's a publisher and one of those rare Progressives with a Bentley and a casino. So what if he publishes "smut"? We needed help.
When I first broached the idea during a national NION conference call, it was met with silence. After explaining the rationale behind my proposition and extrapolation on Flynt's track record in publishing what nobody else would, I received a reluctant nod to proceed. And I did.
My first call to HUSTLER Editorial Director Bruce David elicited immediate and unequivocal support for our cause, refreshingly unlike the polite "Sorry, there's nothing we can do" responses I'd received from other media companies. Within hours, David posted on LarryFlynt.com the NION call for "More Than a Million to NYC" and a clear endorsement of our letter-writing campaign to Mayor Bloomberg to grant permits for a Central Park rally. Finally, LarryFlynt.com established a link to NION's national Web site. From my point of view, it was a clear public-relations coup.
The next day I sent out a NION list-serve message announcing Flynt's endorsement. Out of the thousands of messages sent, I received only one response, and that came from KPFK Pacifica news producer Aura Bogado. Enraged and offended, she demanded that her name be immediately removed from the list-serve. I was shocked by the severity of her vitriol. Having been a listener-supporter of KPFK [a Progressive radio station in L.A.] for 20 years, I greatly respect her and everyone else at the station for their journalism.
I politely responded to Bogado and explained the reasoning behind the Flynt endorsement. I forwarded this message to two other national NION organizers, two KPFK producers and to Bruce David at HUSTLER. Although I failed to follow the organizational protocol (first discussing her response with other NION organizers), my na´ve thought was that Bogado simply needed to hear how we came to the decision and that perhaps it could be discussed among fellow Progressives with no further issue. How wrong I was.
The only "progressive" thing about the ensuing e-mail exchange was its descent into hyperemotional overreaction. HUSTLER's calling Bogado a "Stalinist man-hater" was just as inappropriate as her calling Flynt a "misogynist pig."
The range war that I unwittingly sparked is not only a sad statement about Progressive politics, but also speaks volumes about how the extreme Right has consolidated so much power in America. The neocons have taken over while the left-leaners have been slapping each other around trying to redefine themselves through narrow, myopic and outdated ideologies. There is no viable, unifying Progressive vision for the future.
After reviewing HUSTLER's response to the feminist threat, I have to say respectfully that it has been a misdirected and extreme assault. Although HUSTLER is justified in defending itself against anachronistic feminist attacks, targeting individuals such as Bogado with an incessant barrage is counterproductive and sophomoric. However, on the other side, considering how HUSTLER delivers the truth behind the threat to our soldiers and democracy, Bogado is equally guilty of ego-driven myopia.
Whether its stories on depleted uranium or the deceptions behind the Iraqi war or Bush family ties to the Saudi royal family, Flynt (unlike Pacifica) has the ability to get this material right into the hands of those who most need to hear it-our soldiers in the field. Bogado needs to wake up and understand a bigger picture and embrace commonalities of points of view rather than differences.
Ultimately, the future of American politics must be about engagement, discourse and unity among a broad spectrum of thinkers and activists. For some, drawing the extremes from Pacifica Radio on one end to HUSTLER on the other is unthinkable. But given the threat of consolidated radical right-wing power in the U.S. today, it's absolutely necessary. We need to build bridges, not walls, and we must lock our arms and march together to defend tolerance, diversity and democracy. Otherwise we're toast.
With all due respect to Robert Corsini, the "descent into hyperemotional overreaction" started with Aura Bogado. And her attacks were not limited to a few nasty e-mails; approximately a week after the initial attack on Larry Flynt and HUSTLER, Bogado enlisted KPFK radio host Sonali Kolhatkar to continue the onslaught.
During the hour-long broadcast of her show, Uprising, Kolhatkar, Bogado and militant feminist guest Diana Russell (who has repeatedly expressed regret that Flynt's would-be assassin didn't succeed) used the station's signal to smear Larry Flynt and the magazine's editors, singling out Mark Cromer and Bruce David by name.
Kolhatkar and the supposedly Progressive station's management ignored David's request for an opportunity to respond on the air.
"I'm the father of twin boys, age 14, who live and attend school within broadcast range of the station," says David. "So you can understand why I am concerned about being characterized on the radio as someone who incites rape and wife abuse."
For that reason and others, David-under the direction of this magazine's publisher-is determined to continue his examination of the militant feminist movement and the Pacifica Radio network.