Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Tuesday meetings

Tuesday, July 2nd could be interesting.

The so-called JUCs are having a "community" (i.e. "black and brown") meeting 
in a Harlem church from 6 to 9 PM. This group comprises mostly people of color who have splashed, 
and now wish to immerse WBAI into an artificial solution of Africana, hip-hop, and 
street-corner rhetoric. Their heroes include some of the most notorious front-office 
failures in recent years, some of whom are scheduled to speak.

That same night, and almost at the same time (6:30 to 9:30) another WBAI faction will 
meet at a downtown location. These people seem
content to continue floating in a lighter, albeit equally toxic vintage solution, but they
also number among them some who simply have been caught in the middle.

The purpose of both meetings is to “solve” the current crisis. The JUC (Justice and Unity Coalition) has a political agenda that it strongly feels ought to be WBAI’s mission. The other group is meeting (informally, they say) to comply with a demand from Pacifica’s National Board that the station’s Local Station Board and staff present them with “a written plan for the survival of WBAI for the next two or three years.”  The meeting announcement points out that “it’s time to get cracking.”  Actually, it was high time for that several years ago.

Neither faction is to be commended by anyone whose concern for WBAI and Pacifica's 
welfare is genuine. Although some individuals are well-intentioned, both groups are by their very existence detrimental to WBAI and, remarkably, just now waking up to reality. Their decades-long soporific experiences at WBAI did not blind them to the decay that surrounded them, but
guilt was not a factor, for each side had tons of blame to heap upon the other. And then there was Mother 
Pacifica, where slightly different but equally ignoble motives brought out the worst 
in people. Everybody had a personal agenda, fueled by ego, greed and the kind of
desperation that sets in when the end of the road is in sight and there are no other paths to take.

Most simply closed their eyes and ears, stuck their head in the sand, and hoped it 
would all go away. Somehow, it always had, and when yet another clerk was sent 
in to untangle the twisted remnants of past mismanagement, a sigh of relief was 
heard and Morpheus beckoned again, successfully. To wonder what kind of super
naiveté has overcome all these people, one has but to tune in 99.5, listen to the shallow program offerings, and consider the huge and ongoing debt WBAI finds itself in today. Few outsiders listen to the station anymore, and 
those who do are not likely to sense the severity of the current financial crisis. It's
mostly blather as usual, and one might even catch a commercial plug for events 
and products that bear as little relevance to WBAI as a numerology scam, homeless 
guardian angels, and drops of "cancer curing" tap water. There was a flurry of fundraising activity a couple of months back, but as soon as the immediate needs were met or temporarily warded off, WBAI’s management and staff went back to sleep.

So what will they talk about at these concurrent Tuesday night meetings? Who will go 
uptown? Who will go downtown? Will there be a reoccurrence of Hitler salutes? Will those baseball bats 
come out again? Will Frank LeFever distribute fliers promoting programs that stagnated 
years ago? And where, one wonders, will Berthold Reimers' spirit flit about? Which movie will a demoralized WBAI crew take in on Tuesday night? How will they handle the dichotomy?

The reality is, of course, that they are all losers. The fall of WBAI is the result of joint 
efforts that go back many years. At WBAI, the contaminated seeds were sown in the late Sixties, but I think the most serious blow, the point of no return, was reached 
with the emergence of the so-called "new" Pacifica. It was, indeed, new, diluted and rudderless—a vacuum into which scheming incompetents were sucked like dirt. We 
owe our thanks to a few good people who were slow to lose hope, but one has to wonder if the end should not have come sooner—before Pacifica and its satellites 
became a shattered dream and models of mismanagement and hypocrisy.

Some of the good people have already fled—the rest would do well to skip these 
useless meetings and stay on the side of WBAI. Lift a glass to the memory of Lew 
Hill and the pioneer broadcasters and listeners who helped him realize a dream.

When the book is written, as it surely will be, the closing chapter will lend to this 
amazing story a Rip Van Winkle wrinkle Washington Irving could not have imagined. 
To be sure, this is a tragedy, but an oddly farcical one—the stuff low-budget summer movies 
are made of.  —Chris Albertson

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