Back in 2002, on the very first anniversary of the 9-11 attacks, KPFA 94.1-FM radio in Berkeley launched Guns and Butter, a locally produced, regionally broadcast weekly show that is possibly progressive radio's most subversive. The program features muckraking intelligentsia from the fringe looking in and those from the geopolitical eye of the storm looking out. It's The X-Files for real--minus any little green men.
Guns and Butter's impeccably produced interviews showcase hard-nosed investigators digging deep, revealing unsanctioned truths about the power elite, along with legal experts making the case for corporate criminal prosecutions and administration impeachments. Shows have highlighted urban squatters, human rights advocates and crusading sinners turned saints, to name but a few.
The phrase "guns and butter," says host Bonnie Faulkner, often pops up in the business section of newspapers. "Lyndon Johnson was running a 'guns and butter' war in Vietnam. He was both conducting a military war, but also a war on poverty."
Guns and Butter the show gives voice to whistleblowers, disenchanted military insiders and former high-level spooks, and to radical economists, pit-bull researchers and geopolitical wunderkinds. The program is all about money, powerful establishment baddies, plots, schemes and Cassandras. Subject matter ranges from the dangers threatening our democracy to connections between capitalism and environmental destruction; from revelations of unprecedented graft, greed, banal cabals and gruesome conspiracies to buried histories, assassinations, false flag warfare and the apocalyptic tendencies of Americans intent to chug-a-lug whatever Kool-Aid their masters pour them.
In short, Guns and Butter attempts to bring to light what the world's elite strive to keep hidden in the shadows. The program pointedly covers issues that career-cowed mainstream and even most nonmainstream broadcast media people flat-out can't or simply refuse to touch. And it all started off, innocently enough, as a show about economics.
In April of 2001, North Bay resident Bonnie Faulkner entered the KPFA news-training program as an unpaid volunteer field news reporter. KPFA is the original flagship of the five-station Pacifica Radio Network, and the only "public" broadcaster in the nation with a heavyweight 59,000-watt signal located on the commercial side of the dial.
Faulkner was a field reporter for the news department when 9-11 struck. KPFA went to special programming, and Faulkner ended up with airtime.
Faulkner's activist interests began in her student days at UC Irvine, during the Vietnam War. Sometime after moving to Sonoma County, she became a community volunteer for Project Censored, the internationally esteemed media-tracking program housed at Sonoma State University and spearheaded by sociology professor Peter Philips.
Faulkner's introduction to radio broadcasting came about when, while still a Project Censored volunteer, grant money for a monthly public affairs radio program became available. She pitched in to help launch the show For the Record, featuring local radio host Pat Thurston. Faulkner's first taste of radio work was as a segment producer for that show. This led to taking media classes at SRJC with Ed LaFrance, where she met Yarrow Mahko, who would eventually become Faulkner's co-producer of Guns and Butter.
While most shows consist of pre-recorded interviews or the occasional lecture, "the format focuses on analysis, deep politics," Faulkner stresses, adding, "the underlying analysis of complex issues"
While the show has gained a devoted following, today--some six years and more than 150 programs since its launch--it's still being produced entirely out of the producers' own pocketbooks. "It's a labor of love," Faulkner says, though with the help of additional volunteers it's not hard to imagine the show gaining a nationwide audience, and perhaps even managing to pay a few bills for the producers' efforts.
Guns and Butter takes us where few shows dare, not with sensational awe, but with crystal clear, impeccably produced programs, charging the intellect and, as rock's most famous ode to reasoned paranoia and the show's own theme song insists, "Something's happening here. What it is ain't exactly clear."
'Guns and Butter' is broadcast Wednesdays at 1pm. The show's six-year anniversary and the fourth annual '9-11 Film Festival' coincide with Bonnie Faulkner as host on Thursday, Sept. 11, at Oakland's Grand Lake Theater. 3200 Grand Ave., Oakland. Noon to 11pm. 510.452.3556.