CA: I don't think there ever was a "golden age" for WBAI, but there certainly was time when a level of professionalism and program quality was maintained. It was a time that saw the station attract the attention of extraordinary people, some who had made it to the top of their profession and others who seemed bound to get there.
MC: Yes, I hope you're not thinking of Judith Miller (NY Times liar-in-chief, who got her start at WBAI). She sure rose to the top, didn't she?
The station attracts some extraordinary people today, as well. And, I agree, too many unreined egos. One reason I like Tony Bates is that he is not intimidated by them.
CA: I don't know what period you refer to when you say that "nobody got paid," adding that it was probably "more fun" and that people "participated rather than worked." I can tell you that when I was there, we had a salaried staff of 20-25 people, and I think we often had fun. I suppose that our switchboard operator, mailroom person, janitor, and bookkeeper probably saw it as "work," but even some of them were at WBAI because they believed in what we were doing, and wished to be a part of it. There were disagreements, a spat here and there, temper eruptions, etc., but there was also an overpowering spirit and pride.
MC: OK, I stand corrected. The total actual salaries + benefits of paid staff and management at WBAI today come to $1,542,261 or 45% of the total expenses.
What did they come to back when?
CA: The press called regularly to find out how we were doing, and they were quite generous when it came to giving us promotion. Our programming was not aimed at any particular ethnic group (as it is today), age group, or ideology, but there was one commonality of interest: intellect. Whether our programs focused on renaissance music rock, they had to be more than plain entertainment—the presenter usually was someone who had above average knowledge of the subject. Earlier today, I posted some clippings on my WBAI blog, including a review of a R&B program presented by Charles Hobson—the reviewer pointed out that this was not the kind of music one expected to hear on WBAI, but that it was treated intelligently and has a certain educational value. That's what we did. Today, WBAI has an awful lot of mundane disc jockey fare of the kind one can hear all over the dial.
MC: I agree in general, but some of the stuff is first-rate.
CA: Similar examples can be pointed out in other areas of interest. Our film reviewer, Andrew Sarris, was one of the most highly respected critics around,
CA: our Music Director was John Corigliano, who went on to achieve high honors and great respect. The list is long and impressive.
What does that list look like when we consider the current WBAI? Current host/producers are—with a few exceptions—a pathetic group of tenured, stagnated wannabes who have no conception at all of what Lew Hill started when KPFA first went on the air, nor do they seem to care.
MC: Yes, some are like that. Times have changed since Lew Hill's day, and I'm not sure that his conception -- given today's technology, in which most young people don't listen to radio at all -- should continue to be carved in stone.
CA: We have rehashed news thrown together by an egomaniacal ambulance chaser who wants the listeners to share his delusions,
CA: we have a numerologist/astrologer who blathers away and solicits private business,
CA: a couple of hosts who blindly believe the conspiracy loonies they interview,
CA: and several pseudo spiritualists and health dabblers who feign authority as they interview quacks like Trudeau and really come to the fore with their quackery during the increasingly frequent and fraudulent fund drives.
CA: These people include staffers like Tony Bates and Kathy Davis, who shamelessly pitch to give ill people false hope with phony "cures" and sell them products at prices that are multiples of those offered on web sites.
CA: They will lie and tell listeners that these things can only be has through WBAI—in fact, they will say anything that comes to their larcenous minds if they think it might result in a sale.
CA: The really telling and sad fact is that these pitches are made to preserve the pitcher's air time—there is hardly ever any mention of what it is that made Pacifica so significant. Yes, they will sometimes resort to a hysterical, Glenn Beck-type of pitch for "free speech", but it is only an emergency play used when the phones stop ringing.
CA: Recently, Bates has started a routine of rebroadcasting fund-raising pitches, without making the listener aware of that fact, and with phones ringing—not always legitimately, I am told—on recording.
CA: Mitchel, I know that you have voiced strong opposition to some of these fund-raising practices (although you share Bates' belief in the 9-11 conspiracies),
CA: but that is less commendable when you—as Local Board Chairman—do little or nothing more than complain. Where is the action? Where is the outrage manifested in deeds?
So why should I, or any listener volunteer, even bother?
CA: People of genuine integrity speak up as loudly and forcefully as they can and—if that has no effect—resign.
CA: Finally, let me mention Berthold Reimers, the nominal General Manager of WBAI. This is a man in hiding, a man who goes out of his way to not communicate.
CA: He should be airing a weekly report to current and prospective listener-supporters.
CA: They boast of having raised a million dollars recently. I know that there are not many listeners left, but those who continue to support WBAI are owed an accounting.
CA: Where is the money?
MC: It's accounted for .... and not enough.
CA: Why is inexpensive equipment routinely breaking down?
MC: Maybe because it's "inexpensive", as you say!
CA: Mitchel, it seems to me that your knowledge of WBAI's past and current state is deplorably limited.
CA: Forget about an alleged "golden age" and concentrate on what is happening and needs to be done TODAY!
MC: Agreed. That's what I'm doing. But I need help!
One correction, for now:
At 09:34 AM 4/19/2012, Chris Albertson wrote:
You mention that you had a blow-out with Tony Bates re his taking an anti-Israeli stance during a fund-raising pitch.
My argument with Tony was not over his position on Israel per se -- I don't think he actually took a position on Israel. It was over statements he made while pitching "Core of Corruption" DVD as a premium, in which he failed to mention that Israel had warned the U.S. government about the pending attacks that occurred on 9/11, while at the same time implying that the presence of Israeli spies in the U.S. had something to do with the attacks.
Whatever one thinks of Israel -- and, as I wrote, I am sharply critical of Israel's policies and even existence as a "Jewish state" -- Tony Bates' failure to present the whole story, which tends to exonerate Israel from the claims being made both by Tony and by the film he was pitching -- was dishonest, and I told him so.
Here's my letter (verbatim) to Tony Bates at the time (including the history outline at the end):
I just heard, for the first time, your pitch with Jeff Brady for the 5-DVD set, "Core of Corruption".
As a 9-11 Truther myself, I take issue with several main facets of your presentation:
1) You say that it is not available on the internet. Even a cursory google search shows that "Core of Corruption" has been available for over a year on the internet.
It's available from the producer for $13 apiece (retail). It's cheaper elsewhere. (WBAI offers it for a $75 contribution.)
The ethics of this practice are troubling. Why not say, "Order from WBAI to help spread the word, and we appreciate your contribution. You can also order directly from the producer for much less, at ....." By this practice, WBAI is banking on the ignorance of the listener and reinforces that ignorance about what is available.
Frankly, I doubt that the disclaimer would discourage many people from ordering through WBAI -- the honesty might even thrill people and inspire them to donate more! But regardless, I abhor the practice of intentionally not informing listeners about the availability of premiums elsewhere.2) You ask, How did Israel get pre-knowledge of 9-11?
You report that Israel was spying ON THE U.S. but offer no proof at all.
What Israel says it is doing is spying on Moslem extremists in the U.S., in much the same way that the Cuban 5 spied on right-wing Cuban extremists in the U.S. (The Cubans are ridiculously in prison for decades in the U.S.) -- you fail to report that, and wonder outright why Israel is spying on "us", its ally. Then you and Jeff Brady focus on the alleged fact that 60 Israelis were arrested in the aftermath [to 9/11], and you state that many of them worked for the Mossad or Israeli intelligence, as if what they were doing here is plotting 9/11 and not spying on Moslem extremists.
It is important to understand that MANY countries had actually WARNED the Bush administration of this pending attack, and that Israel was among them.(!!!) So whether or not Israel was responsible in whole or in part for the attacks, the fact that Israel WARNED the U.S. government beforehand about the pending attacks should at least have been mentioned. Fore-knowledge is not the same thing as complicity, especially when they used those intelligence reports to notify the U.S. about what they'd picked up.I write this because the fascists use the incomplete scenario that you've culled to go after "Jews"; incomplete reports help feed that climate, even though you were very clearly focusing on Israel per se as a political entity, not on Judaism. But, as I said, incomplete reports -- decontextualized reports -- feed the fascist climate.
Why did you not say that Israel warned the U.S. before 9-11 of the pending attacks? What kind of a news report or honest opinion piece would leave that out? Not doing so allows to stand the unproved assumption that "Israel did it", without presenting any honest proof.