Thursday, April 25, 2013
Bamboozled and Bewildered are they
When I re-entered the WBAI arena in 2009, I soon found myself huffing and puffing, dismayed to see so many people abuse WBAI with impunity. I had seen the seeds sown many years earlier, but the resulting crop was far worse than I could have imagined. It had, as it turned out an ugly Monsanto quality about it, yet, it was a mixed crop, so I maintained hope and lifted that green curtain. It was by no means an original thing to do, but I sensed a hesitancy on the part of many who felt as I did about what could best be described as a dummying down of WBAI. When attempts to contact the station's management failed, I tried another approach and did my best to point out what I saw as flagrant violations of Lewis Hill's original concept and stressing the sheer folly of self-delusion.
It gave me some comfort to see that I was not expressing the feelings of a minority, but I soon discovered that few who saw what was going on were willing to speak up directly. Thus, the voices raised were mainly those of the abusers, opportunists who saw, but tried to obscure, the writing on the wall. Several of these people went on the defensive (anonymously, for the most part), but the shortcomings that for too many years had characterized their work at WBAI now carried over to what well could prove to be a not so gratifying climax. So they raised their flimsy shields, pointed a chosen finger at reality, and hurled epithets in the direction of any light that shone on their dark corners.
In the meantime, Berthold Reimers, the latest squirt of enabling glue, was busy dodging listeners, running up bills, and tucking them away like so much listener e-mail, so many ignored phone calls. This was one of WBAI management's secrets until a giggly Summer Reese blew in from the Coast and lifted the veil to reveal what gross negligence and exemplary mismanagement hath wrought. Ms. Reese, Pacifica’s latest Interim Executive Director, was affable, but if she perceived the extent of the station manager's destructive ineptitude, she chose not to act on it.
Revealing the extent and urgency of WBAI's financial problem was a bit of a bombshell to snug abusers. Suddenly, that writing on the wall became clearer, so much so that even the most delusional among them could now begin to make it out.
Out? The mere word had a chill to it, but it was a taste of reality they had managed to overlook for many decades. Action was called for and even the most fossilized now stirred. Reimers whimpered something about creating "BAI buddies," but creditors were not living in his dream world. They shouted something about "a half million dollars," and seemed in no mood to dilly-dally.
Reese's response was
As in WBAI Transmitter Fund.
There followed a flurry of anxious pitching, but it only staved off the wolves temporarily. "Never mind," the turf-protecting abusers sighed, when gullible listeners bought their hype and made pledges, "we can breathe again." So, they went back to their routines, wheeled out Ifé and her turntables (with help from Michael Gee-whiz Haskins) and hip hopped their way to temporary rented quarters at a college station. It was cramped, you had to climb a steep hill to get there, but it was Harlem—it was that imaginary "community" they so much wanted WBAI to represent.
Not everybody made that uptown trek. Oh, "Tom from the Bronx" was on the phone when they finally connected it, but he almost lived in the hood, anyway.
Something, however, was missing.....
While all this clawing for turf, backstabbing, and stomping on the grave of Pacifica founder Lewis Hill was escalating, the audience had quietly slipped away......bamboozled and bewildered.