GIVEN THE CHOICE, I'd prefer the real Stalinism over the hippie version prevalent on the Northcoast, no better example of which was Monday night's Women's Voices talk program on KZYX, itself, along with KMUD and KPFA on the subject of the Bari Bombing, heavy on neo-Stalinist conversation controls. Most of the locally generated talk programming at KZYX is unlistenable not only because the hosts and hostesses are verbally handicapped, but because the subject matter is often irrelevant to the lives of most people. You might think that it would occur to station management that a solid hour of tongue-tied people bathing each other in superlatives is not good for the station. And one might also expect it would occur to management that opposing points of view on the air at the same time is good radio because it's interesting, not to mention the only known way of getting at the truth of things. But KZYX has long been an echo chamber, forever home base for the most tedious bores on the Northcoast.
AS AN AVID scholar of the ongoing Bari Bombing swindle, which is again in the news, and alerted that slo-mo radio was devoting an hour to it Monday night, natch, I tuned in Women's Voices hosted by Val Muchowski. Guests included Naomi Wagner and a woman named Mary Liz Thompson. Wagner is one of many local leisure class “activists” and soon confirmed that her occupation is indeed “activist” as anointed by none other than Judi Bari herself. Ms. Thompson, speaking in the muted snarl of an unhappy person, said she was a filmmaker. She and Darryl Cherney have teamed up to produce an hagiographic epic called ‘Who Bombed Judi Bari?’ There was no mention during the painfully inarticulate hour that an honest film by the same name appeared years ago, and the single specific fact that was mentioned by Muchowski, a retired teacher, Muchowski managed to get almost completely wrong. She said that Judi Bari had “belonged” to KZYX. Judi Bari forcefully took over the station one afternoon as an ostensible protest at the station's firing of Beth Bosk as a talk programmer. (An hilarious event previously described in these pages.) The upshot? Judi Bari took over Bosk's show.
I KNEW JUDI BARI. She's since become one of those figures lots of people claim to have known well but didn't. The old girl wrote for my paper. Before I made the fatal error of demanding that she tell the truth about what happened to her, she'd call almost every day to discuss this, that and the other thing. We were closely allied for about three years. But the instant I publicly said I thought it was time she fessed up, I was non-personed.
JUDI BARI was a person of large gifts, and a person who not only didn't suffer fools gladly, didn't suffer them at all, hence her utter contempt for most of her comrades, as always weighed down by that amorphous mass of disturbed persons who attach themselves to any dissenting movement, always to the movement's disadvantage if not death. Briefly, in the Redwood Summer period, Bari did manage to mobilize a brief counter force to the short-term profit-taking that saw distant corporations mowing down Northcoast forests, and the jobs that once went with them. The woods industry itself, as it then functioned on most of the Northcoast, was trapped between the big timber corporations and the Redwood Summer demonstrations. Bari, at least rhetorically, supported woods workers, but it was clear to her that people who don't have to get up until noon aren't going to have much in common with people who are up at five to go out to a hot, dirty, dangerous job that doesn't pay very well. People who do that kind of work, or any kind of real work, have to be organized from within. She knew that, and we often talked about it but, as she said, these are the people we have to work with. Such were her gifts, though, Redwood Summer also attracted large numbers of serious people, committed people. And lots of media.
BARI could be ruthless. You were either with her or you were not permitted to participate. Or denounced as an FBI agent. Or whatever other slur it took to get you out of the way. FBI agent was the big one. She called Cherney, the only fool she did suffer, and only suffered him because, especially after the bombing, she was stuck with him, an “idiot” so many times it could have been his middle name. She'd call me up. “Do you know what The Idiot did today?” I never had to ask which idiot.
IT'S CLEAR Bari knew who bombed her, and she was initially so worried that she would be implicated in the event she had her attorney, the late Susan B. Jordan, apply to the FBI for limited immunity from prosecution. The FBI said no because they considered Bari a suspect. But the FBI never followed up on its own supposition, never seriously investigated the bombing. Why they would deny immunity then do nothing themselves to implicate Bari remains unknown. And why neither they nor the Bari Gang has followed up on the known, published evidence indicates co-dependence — that it appears it is in the interests of the feds and the Bari camp not to solve the case.
I'M ASHAMED NOW to admit Bari had me going as one of the many believers in a wider conspiracy against her because I didn't know her husband or anything about him except what she told me, which was that he'd beat and raped her. Which I didn't believe because I couldn't imagine her enduring any kind of mistreatment, let alone sexual assault. I thought I was merely listening to another alienated ex-wife going on about how evil her ex-husband was. Judi Bari's ex-husband, then as now the biggest elephant in the smallest room ever, was scrupulously kept off stage. And still is.
IT BELATEDLY dawned on me I was being hustled. The light snapped on at a 1990 neighborhood picnic at String Creek east of Willits, to which I'd driven Bari from a home in Cazadero. Bari had been staying at a nurse's “safe” house high in the Cazadero hills after being released from a rehab hospital in Santa Rosa. She'd asked me to chauffer her because, she said, I was the only person she knew who could be depended on to show up on time. Punctuality being my sole virtue, I showed up on time. She was good company. Smart and funny, and utterly unlike so many of the drear hags of “the movement.” JB, as I called her, was moving to a cabin at remote String Creek perfectly situated for a committed assassin to finish her off. I said, “This place isn't safe. Someone could drive up right to your door and shoot you.” She said, with suspicious flippancy, “If they're going to get me, they're going to get me.” I didn't believe her fatalism. She was a person who wanted to live. And I doubly didn't believe it because her two little girls were often with her at the cabin, and JB was devoted to them way past risking their safety and welfare. I knew then she knew what had happened to her, that she knew she was out of danger, that there would be no more attempts on her life. From there, Steve Talbot produced an honest film called ‘Who Bombed Judi Bari?’ identifying Mike Sweeney, the ex, as the most likely suspect in the attack on his ex-wife, as Judi Bari herself had informed Talbot, then denounced Talbot for including Sweeney's long history of violent associations in his film.
OF COURSE in certain credulous circles, namely the millions of screwballs who believe 911 was an inside job, the Building 7 obsessives and on and on through the catalog of crackpot conspiracy-think, all you have to do is invoke the historically villainous FBI and/or corporations, and/or berserk males and/or Christian fundamentalists and, in this case, you'll eventually win $4.2 million in a successful libel suit against individual members of the Oakland Police Department and the FBI. Which is what happened. (Our supervisor, Dan Hamburg, is a Building 7 guy. Of course he thinks the FBI was complicit in the Bari Bombing, which it may well have been but not in the way that Building 7 intellectuals could understand.)
AND NOW we have a bogus new movie cynically called ‘Who Bombed Judi Bari?,’ but it's 22 years after the honest documentary under the same title. The phony new ‘Who Bombed Judi Bari?’ film appears at the same time as a timely winning lawsuit to get some bombing-related physical evidence back from the feds that the feds have failed to analyze all these years. Cherney and Company, I learned in the Chronicle, will select an “independent” lab to analyze this stuff. Prediction: None of this will go anywhere because it is in the mutual interests — financial on the Bari Cult side, professional on the FBI side — not to find who did it.
I'VE OFTEN TRIED to argue the skeptic's side of the case, and I think I've done pretty well where I've been allowed to present the obvious questions, but the great speakers-of-truth-to-power have gone all out to shut me down, so assiduous are they that reasonable people wonder what they're afraid of. One night at a Berkeley bookstore, one of the Bari-Cherney attorneys, Ben Rosenfeld, was hooted at and derided when he tried to refute the dissenting perspective. They seemed to have learned that night that it was a lot safer NEVER to debate the case in any kind of public forum before an impartial audience.
IT'S A HUGE IRONY that the Bari Gang won, of all things, a federal libel case based on the denial of their free speech. Of course it is the only speech they've ever been interested in defending.
THE BOMB? It’s clear that someone hid it.
The investigation? Some "activists" forbid it.
But to Darryl Cherney
And to his attorney
It’s better if no one really asks who did it.