Of course, both motives are anathema to the original mission given Pacifica by founder Lewis Hill; both repel the respect and support WBAI once had, and neither could survive six months without the shameless marketing of questionable products and services aired with agonizing frequency through hour-long, circle jerks of infomercials. Whether a host/producer keeps his airtime relies less on broadcasting skill and substance than on his/her adherence to the station's increasingly in-doctrinaire talking points. A few years back, a handful of opportunists set the stage for a new WBAI, one that placed the interest of its staff over that of the listeners. As new GMs and PDs took the reins, the objective vacillated somewhat, but the intellect was on a steady downward course and black discussion turned to black rhetoric. Like Kenyan airport art and dashikis made in China, WBAI was not the real thing... not the real anything.
With the arrival of Mario Murillo (i.e. the man who came to dinner), hope was once again ignited, but his agenda soon became clear as he picked up on the festering racism and went to town with it. Lightweights like Haskins and Kathy Davis were jubilant—the station at which they had spent so much time churning out crap, was coming down to their level and they felt a sense of belonging. This was "community radio," and the community was black. Well, there were those Latinos... they had not always gotten along with the American blacks, but the opportunists needed them, so they dubbed them "brown" and kneaded a Crayola ball of Hex codes 000000 and B4674D (with a dash of A5694F thrown in) to come up with the generic "black and brown" population to target. What they did not consider in their equation was the fact that complexion and intellect are not one and the same, so they ended up with an audience that sure enough was dark of hue, but ignorant, too. In other words, the listeners these bozos chased away were people of all colors—including their own.
If you listened to last weekend's Reparations circus, you know what I am talking about. What you heard was yet another attempt to accomplish what a Jamaican named Marcus Garvey failed to about a hundred years ago. He made a big show out of it, complete with 19th century costumes, parades, and an old, barely seaworthy tub that was to return black Americans to the continent of their ancestors. The KKK loved the idea and even had a meeting with Garvey in Atlanta, but there was about the whole thing a veneer of flimflam.
That's also the aura given off by this latest attempt, which was done in partnership with WBAI. We heard Jesse Jackson—an early opportunist and current has-been—give a passionate but shallow keynote speech that fairly dripped with hypocrisy. Daddy's words about black pride has a hollow ring when one thinks of how he has conducted himself and that greed ported his son from the U.S. Congress to a jail term. The Reparation show featured several other speakers, some of whom were disciples of the late John Henrik Clark, who rewrote black history to suit his own fantasies and become "legendary" among people in need of idols. On WBAI's side of the microphone, we heard Dred Scott Keyes and Bernard White, two not so upstanding characters, the latter having cost the station a great deal of money when he initiated a frivolous lawsuit.
With the sorry condition of WBAI and the Reparation farce in mind, I found it refreshing when Malachy McCourt last week reacted against Amy Goodman's deification of Maya Angelou and gave sincere praise to a lady who has done more to make us all proud than all those opportunists put together. See if you agree: