Saturday, January 19, 2013

BAI Buddies Gang: Aiming lower still

Realizing that the so-called BlueBoard—a troll-infested playground that seems to serves as WBAI's kindergarten—is not everybody's cup of tea, so I occasionally bring a glimpse of it to this blog for your reasoned perusal. As the station prepares to make what some (including yours truly) believe will be a disastrous move to temporary, shared quarters, the question of its future looms bigger than ever. Many factors and generations of inept management teams that have brought the station to its present brink of oblivion, and the Pacifica Foundation itself is far from blameless, its awkward system of governance having about it a kamikaze quality that appears to be working against Lew Hill's dream. This system was allegedly an attempt to democratize Pacifica's governance, but it has had the opposite effect, opening doors to con artists and opportunists, not to mention delusional producers deprived of positive creativity. As the audience dwindles at an alarming rate, excuses abound from within WBAI and its mercenary inner circle. Grubby fingers are pointed at everything but themselves, but, while that worked longer than any reasonable observer might have expected, the jig now seems to be up. The stampede of listener-supporters fleeing to more intelligent spots on the dial, or just a good book, trampled down most remaining benefits of a doubt.

Under the "management" of Berthold Reimers, the internal polarization continues  and, indeed, thrives. Yes, we have long had the JUC and P&U factions battling it out at 120 Wall Street, on YouTube, and elsewhere, but the conflict is not limited to anyone's like or dislike of Bernard White, it isn't just the Mumia crowd against the MLK crowd (some cannot see the obvious delineation), people of color versus the pale, or hip[ hop versus Haydn. It's, basically, all about turf. The station that had its staff and volunteers united in a cause called WBAI (and all that it once stood for) has been reduced to a soap box for personal advancement and commercial pursuits. People of limited scope and no detectable artistic talent entered through the aforementioned open door, played the game, pandered to management, and settled in. The worthy eventually moved on and up, but the dross just stagnated and occupied slots that were meant to be stepping stones for New York's budding, ever evolving artistic, political and cultural leaders. They stayed and stayed, spewing their self-serving blather and pedestrian music to an audience that once had been intellectually demanding, but now morphed into something very different: a mix of paranoids, finger-poppers, hypochondriacs, racists, and loop dropouts. Stimulating this downgrade were the programs that began to dominate the station's schedule. Good people and good radio did not go away altogether, but so few quality offerings are left that they almost seem to be tokens retained to give some validity to the many false claims made by abusing producer/hosts during fundraising efforts.

"We are the voice of freedom, the only true free-speech station!" exclaim salaried stooges like Michael G. Haskins, Kathy Davis, and Robert Knight as they perform to keep their jobs. That brings us back to the dumbing down of schedule and audience, which has to stop if we are to have any real hope of intellectual and financial recovery. It brings us back to the polarization within. As I pointed out earlier, the line between the "good" guys and the "bad" guys is not as clear as it once was, for this is no longer merely an ideological fight for WBAI's direction, it is now a struggle for individual survival. That turf issue has been there for decades, but it is exacerbated by the gravity of the present situation, resulting in some strange and, undoubtedly, discomfiting alliances. Regardless of their factional differences, the inept and self-serving find common ground as they defend themselves against reality and an exit door that awakening may well unlock.
So much for my overture.  Recently, there have been some interesting exchanges on the BlueBoard regarding the programming and its role in the station's ongoing deterioration. The usual pandering is in place, evidenced by posts from insiders who feel that their squatting privileges are threatened, and by Frank LeFever, who has just been elected to serve on the LSB but somehow seems to believe that he is WBAI's savior. As far as I can tell, the man has been hanging around for years, rubbing shoulders with whoever has the key to the manager's office, but there is no evidence of his ever having accomplished anything for WBAI. Apropos the LSB—stars of many action videos on YouTube—they are having a new battle over their confusing rules. It is currently going on in the WBAI-LSB-PUBLIC forum with Carolyn Birden and Mitchel Cohen having at each other, Janet Coleman on the sideline, and Berthold Reimers jumping into the ring to assert that he is the Big Enchilata. Funny stuff, but not good for WBAI.

A frequent and loud voice on the BlueBoard is Jim Dingeman, who heads the CAB and has a long association with WBAI. Jim is clearly frustrated, for he sees and acknowledges the sorry mess that the station's programing has become. Jim also has a problem that I can well understand: he has been too closely associated with the front office. I have no doubts about his seeing the flaws in Reimers' management, but he treads very carefully when it comes to a true evaluation of performance, tending to be the apologist, although not nearly to the ludicrous extent we see in LeFever. Some LSB members complain over colleagues who try take board matters into their own hands—that accusation has been leveled at Mitchel Cohen, but the shoe fits LeFever perfectly. It all inspired Janet Coleman's well-founded caution:

"So long as individual Board members seek special audience to advance themselves and their personal opinions in the eyes of management, Houston, we have a problem."

Earlier this week, Jim—who frequently comes down hard, almost despairingly so, on the insane preservation of an inferior program schedule—posted the following:

Sidney Smith, who slips in and out of "handles" as he posts and broadcasts, responded to Jim Dingeman's post. Sidney and R. Paul Martin, who also serves as the BlueBoard's administrator, are among the few current WBAI hosts who are not afraid to speak out under their own name. Not surprisingly, both have a death valley time slot, Saturdays at 5AM, which they have to share on alternate weeks.

Here are their respective responses to this particular discussion. There is much more on the BlueBoard, but you have to look for it, and that is not an easy task over there.

It all boils down to a sub-standard, dumbed down program schedule and a managerial misfit who refuses to admit his considerable shortcomings and almost seems to be intimidated by the ensconched thugs who hog WBAI's air with unworthy, often embarrassing programs.

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