Jacqui Helbert tells about her being fired by the NPR affiliate in Chattanooga.

Jacqui Helbert tells about her being fired by the NPR affiliate in Chattanooga. (File photo WUTC)

David Tulis and Jacqui Helbert explain what happened in her firing by UTC and WUTC, a government radio station.

The firing of reporter Jacqui Helbert at WTC is a picture of how a power-based market works in contrast to a real free market, with a dependent player easily bent by politics rather than by reward or punishment of customers.

By David Tulis / Noogaradio 1240 AM 101.1 FM

A bout of obsequy by the UTC brass forced it to fire Ms. Helbert for a minor slip as a journalist, not trumpeting herself among a group of students as an “official” reporter. WUTC, trembling, turned courageous by terminating Ms. Helbert. The anger of irritated legislators sent tremors within the power relationship down to the radio station, a mere client that cannot legitimately claim any journalistic independence, despite the claims of an NPR statement supporting Ms. Helbert.

WUTC is a money-losing operation that would collapse without at least F$500,000 a year in subsidies from the government, and two fund-raising sessions a year among listeners.

The story reminds the comrade Josef Stalin in the Soviet Union who stood at the podium basking in an uproar of applause before thousands of committee delegates. What follows is a snippet from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipeligo:

At the conclusion of the conference, a tribute to Comrade Stalin was called for. Of course, everyone stood up (just as everyone had leaped to his feet during the conference at every mention of his name). … For three minutes, four minutes, five minutes, the stormy applause, rising to an ovation, continued. But palms were getting sore and raised arms were already aching. And the older people were panting from exhaustion. It was becoming insufferably silly even to those who really adored Stalin.

However, who would dare to be the first to stop? … After all, NKVD men were standing in the hall applauding and watching to see who would quit first! And in the obscure, small hall, unknown to the leader, the applause went on – six, seven, eight minutes! They were done for! Their goose was cooked! They couldn’t stop now till they collapsed with heart attacks! At the rear of the hall, which was crowded, they could of course cheat a bit, clap less frequently, less vigorously, not so eagerly – but up there with the presidium where everyone could see them?

The director of the local paper factory, an independent and strong-minded man, stood with the presidium. Aware of all the falsity and all the impossibility of the situation, he still kept on applauding! Nine minutes! Ten! In anguish he watched the secretary of the District Party Committee, but the latter dared not stop. Insanity! To the last man! With make-believe enthusiasm on their faces, looking at each other with faint hope, the district leaders were just going to go on and on applauding till they fell where they stood, till they were carried out of the hall on stretchers! And even then those who were left would not falter…

Then, after eleven minutes, the director of the paper factory assumed a businesslike expression and sat down in his seat. And, oh, a miracle took place! Where had the universal, uninhibited, indescribable enthusiasm gone? To a man, everyone else stopped dead and sat down. They had been saved!

The squirrel had been smart enough to jump off his revolving wheel. That, however, was how they discovered who the independent people were. And that was how they went about eliminating them. That same night the factory director was arrested. They easily pasted ten years on him on the pretext of something quite different. But after he had signed Form 206, the final document of the interrogation, his interrogator reminded him:

“Don’t ever be the first to stop applauding.” (Quoted by John Zimmer)

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