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SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE  October 2006

SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE October 2006

Subject:

About WBAI radio, from Steve Brown (intro by Mitchel Cohen)

From:

Mitchel Cohen <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Science for the People Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 19 Oct 2006 02:16:59 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (391 lines)

Dear Greens and other friends of WBAI,

I am forwarding here a message from Steve Brown, who -- like me -- is 
running as an independent member for the WBAI (99.5 FM) Local Station 
Board. In general, I agree with Steve Brown's analysis. (I have some 
minor quibbles, and these are noted by my placement of asterisks 
there. In specific, I disagree with his endorsement of Paul DeRienzo 
-- I will not run on a line with Paul because of his stance during 
the "Christmas Coup" of 2000.)

I also observe that the crew that re-took the station from Utrice 
Leid and Betsy Wash -- the ones I and many others supported because 
of their demand for due process and fairness -- are hardly an 
improvement. In fact, as Steve Brown notes, Bernard White has 
resorted to the same tactics and even the same explicit 
rationalizations that Utrice Leid used in 2000. Too bad, for unlike 
Steve, I LIKE some of the new programs that have come on the airwaves 
in the past few years -- but Bernard White's firing of Robert Knight 
and Gary Null without a shred of due process were just wretched and 
authoritarian decisions worthy of those he replaced. And if Robert's 
attribution of WHY Bernard said he removed him from WakeUp Call is 
true -- according to Robert Knight, Bernard White said that Robert 
"played too much white music" --  .... wow!

So I'm forwarding Steve's email to this list, for you to consider in 
the upcoming WBAI Local Station Board elections. I have made some 
footnoted comments at the end.

- Mitchel Cohen


FROM STEVE BROWN:

Dear WBAI Supporter --

Many WBAI listeners have been puzzled by the warfare that they know 
is going on behind the scenes at WBAI. The battles may not always be 
directly visible to listeners, but echoes of distant cannon fire can 
sometimes be heard in the insults that programmers hurl at one 
another over the air, or in the curses (and sometimes punches) they 
exchange with one another in the station's hallways and studios.

Similar behavior is also on display at station governing board 
meetings, where members hiss and shout at one another, and sometimes 
come to blows, instead of focusing their energy and attention on 
rescuing the station from what may be the worst financial slump and 
audience desertion in modern WBAI history.

Why is this warfare going on at the station and on the board? Are the 
combattants so far apart in their beliefs?

The irony is that, in their "macro-political" agendas, and in the 
goals they share for the establishment of a more just and equitable 
society, virtually all of the station staff, all of the station board 
members, and all of the WBAI activist community are in almost total agreement.

The conflict arises from their "micro-agendas." These agendas are not 
political, but personal. They are about jobs, airtime, salaries, 
power, prestige, and control.

The program director of the station, Bernard White, has been on the 
right side -- and I mean the correct side -- of virtually every 
social and political issue of the last twenty-five years, and has 
spoken out about each of them with intelligence and passion. As a 
voice on WBAI's airwaves, he has been an inspiration to many, myself included.

As a program director, however, he represents one of the worst 
disasters in WBAI's history. (*)

But he will not admit this, let alone consider stepping down from his 
job. And when he is criticized, on a professional level, for his 
failure to do his job -- a failure characterized by nearly four years 
of evaporating listenership, declining revenues, and ever more 
corrosive staff morale -- he fights back. But he does not fight back 
on the same professional level on which he has been criticized, for 
what effective defense can he offer against charges that are so 
self-evidently irrefutable?

Therefore he defends himself -- not by answering the criticisms -- 
but by impugning the character and the motives of his critics. He 
calls them "racists." He claims that they criticize him because they 
"cannot stand to see a strong Black man in a position of power" (even 
though many of his severest critics are themselves African 
Americans). Ironically, the program director repeats almost verbatim 
the defense of Utrice Leid, who also called her critics "racists 
[motivated] ... only by their fear of seeing a strong Black women in 
a position of power."

Where does all this lead? The program director has many friends, and 
even more "beneficiaries," -- i.e., those upon whom he has bestowed 
WBAI's most precious commodity -- its airtime -- and from whom he can 
snatch that precious commodity in an instant. These friends have 
formed themselves into a faction that has named itself (or mis-named 
itself) "Justice & Unity." They have been the controlling majority on 
the board for the last 2 years.

The sole purpose of this faction has been to defend the program 
director at all costs -- to defend, not his record, but his job, and 
therefore his power to keep them in their own jobs at the station.

This means that those who criticize the program director must 
themselves be criticized -- read: attacked -- even more ferociously, 
by his friends and allies in the Justice & Unity faction, who are 
encouraged to use whatever weapons, no matter how low or how 
scurrilous, that promise to be most effective. Such as labeling one 
African American board member who disagreed with the program director 
a "house Nigger" and a "Niglet."(**) Or calling another dissenting 
board member "a f***ing Zionist pig".

The most problematic aspect of these ferocious, and racially 
imflammatory, attacks by the JUC on opponents of the program 
director, is that these attacks are launched almost "reflexively," 
and in total disregard of the merits of the crticisms leveled at the 
program director -- indeed, the greater the merit of the criticisms, 
the more ferocious and racially degrading the JUC attacks have been.

And now, during the election campaign, the JUC has taken those 
vicious attacks (at their best merely cynical spin, at their worst 
outright falsehoods), to most of the listenening community, through a 
series of "town-hall" type meetings in churches and other venues, 
where "trusted" WBAI radio voices slander their opponents with 
charges that they are "White supremacists [who] want to push African 
Americans out of the station" or conversely (if their opponents are 
Black), that they are "house Niggers" and "Niglet[s]" who have sold 
out to White supremacists and should be shunned by the African 
American community.

These same racialist charges have also been printed in WBAI's 
official e-newsletter, which is sent to every voter on WBAI's email 
list. They have also been headlined on WBAI's own website -- every 
day for the past 6 months -- which is visited by thousands of members 
each week. Yet the placement of such defamatory material in the 
newsletter and on the website is a flagrant violation of Pacifica's 
explicit campiagn rules (and have been so characterized by the 
election supervisor).

But -- so what? Even if the election supervisor eventually makes the 
JUC remove this material from the WBAI newsletter and website, it 
will have already done its intended damage. After being so 
prominently positioned on the website for 6 months, and having being 
seen by who-knows-how-many-thousands of voters, the JUC's false 
charges -- seemingly carrying the imprimatur of the station -- will 
have already succeeded in affecting the outcome of the election 
because they will have have misinformed and prejudiced so large a 
segment of the electorate.

In addition to circulating racial slanders at meetings and on the 
WBAI website, the JUC also circulates these slanders on its own TV 
show, which covers most of the station's listnening area [in 
Manhattan and Brooklyn -- MC]. On this show, every week, video and 
audio clips from LSB meetings are shown out of context, or worse, are 
spliced together in ways that have no basis in reality, and then 
"framed" with commentary that repeats, over and over, the lie that 
the JUC is fighting to save the soul of WBAI from a cabal of racists 
and White supremacists who are running against them for seats on the board.

Do all JUC members realize the mud that is being flung in their name 
by the few who actually run that faction? Yes and no. The necessity 
of participating in this low and unprincipled type of poltical attack 
has already caused (after the last election) two erstwhile JUC 
members, who felt they had been misled, bamboozled, and dirtied as a 
consequence of their association with JUC tactics, to resign and/or 
not run again for their board seats as JUC members. (I have this 
directly from one of those ex-JUC members.)

Although some JUC members throw themselves into their racialist 
slanders with apparent gusto, others are somewhat more reluctant, 
although not so reluctant as to actually step forward to denounce or 
disown those of their number who smear opposing candidates as "house 
Niggers," "Niglet[s]" and "f***ing Zionist pig[s]." What we have is, 
sadly, a case of good people abandoning their most deeply held 
adherence to the principles of truth, fairness, and justice solely in 
the interest of keeping the program director in his job. (***)

For example, a prominent attorney on the WBAI board, Michael Tarif 
Warren, had long been praised by the progressive community for his 
lifelong defense of the powerless and dedication to the rule of law. 
But now, as a member of the JUC, when presented with clear evidence 
of misappropriation of funds by a certain (JUC) friend of his in WBAI 
management, Warren bluntly turned his back on 40 years of principled 
adherence to the rule of law, and refused even to allow the evidence 
to be examined or presented to the national board for consideration, 
because, as he explained -- "I don't care what the evidence is, I am 
not going to help put another brother behind bars."

[Of course, there are other options available, but Warren would not 
even allow those to be considered. - MC]

Or consider longtime political activist Sara Flounders. Before joing 
the JUC, she had devoted her life to the struggle for peace and 
justice as a member of numerous progressive organizations. Yet after 
joining the JUC, her focus changed. At one board meeting, arriving 
late, after a vote had just been called on an important issue 
concerning the program director -- and on which an hour's debate of 
the pros and cons had already taken place, but of which she had not 
heard even a single word, and in fact did not even know what motion 
was on the floor -- she nevertheless took her seat, glanced around to 
see how other Justice & Unity protectors of the program director were 
voting, and raised her hand in agreement, in total ignorance of what 
she had just voted on.

Even more egregious is the behavior of board member Bob Lederer 
(running for re-election as a staff representative). Lederer has been 
abusing his positon as a board member by trying to force the station 
manager to ignore merit and seniority in order to quietly slip him 
onto the station payroll, even though other, more senior, staff 
members may have to be laid off for lack of funds. His attempt to put 
himself on the payroll may well succeed, because he is the leader of 
the JUC majority, which will vote as he orders them to. As for the 
station staff he is supposed to be respresenting as a board member, 
they will never know how he has betrayed them -- and betrayed the 
station's code of fair hiring practices -- because  the issue of his 
employment, since it concerns a "personnel matter," will be conducted 
in "executive session" -- i.e., will be closed to public view.

This is how the JUC faction has supposedly served and protected WBAI 
for the last two years -- two years which, by any measure of 
financial trauma and audience desertion, may be among the worst two 
years in WBAI's history. Virtually every action required for the 
welfare of the station has been blocked by this faction in its 
eagerness to protect the program director -- who keeps them on the 
air, as well as on the station payroll. When anyone dares call them 
on their betrayal of station interests, they strike back, viciously. 
This in turn provokes retaliation from the other side, provoking 
further attacks in defense. And so it goes, locking WBAI into a 
pernicious cycle of -- to borrow a phrase from Gore Vidal -- perpetual war.

The result is that the powerful are protected in their high-paying 
jobs (as high as $60-$70,000 a year) ... their flunkies and 
sycophants are coddled in their precious time slots on the air ... 
and the station is pushed even further towards bankruptcy and the 
rapid disappearance of its listenership.

So it is that the corruption of the good by the worst at WBAI 
proceeds at ever-increasing speed. This year alone, according to 
Arbitron, the station lost another 14% of its listeners (or as much 
as 30%, depending on how you interpret Arbitron). And membership 
itself has fallen to a historic low of 16,500 -- even though our 
50,000 Watt signal is one of the most powerful in the country, and 
able to reach more than 20 million listeners.

As if that were not bad emough, the steep decline in our membership 
has been matched by a corresponding decline in our average daily 
revenues, which have fallen by 40-45% during this year alone.

This rapid decline in revenue has, in turn, prompted an unhealthy 
reliance on a series of ever-more frantic attempts to compensate for 
our diminished revenues by means of longer and longer pledge drives 
-- now taking up 93 days a year, the equivalent of one minute out of 
every four minutes of air time -- in hopes of staunching the outflow 
of money that an incompetent program director continues to let slip 
through his fingers, as he attempts to hold on to a job he cannot 
perform, by enlisting his friends in a cause they should not serve.

It is unfortunate that the success of the program director in keeping 
his job has not been matched by the success of the station in keeping 
its listeners.

What is to be done?

Can a new board -- a board free of the program director's friends, 
protectors (and beneficiaries) -- help the station reclaim its lost 
audience and rebuild its crumbling finances? It would be worth 
finding out. That is why, as a voter, it may be in your best interest 
-- if your interest is in saving WBAI -- to examine carefully the 
statements of each candidate running for election to our governing 
board, and withhold your vote from all those who have sworn fealty to 
the mis-named Justice & Unity faction, whose sole purpose is to 
protect the program director -- even if it destroys the station.

There are now 9 seats up for election on the station governing board. 
As a member, you will soon receive a ballot from the station, 
registered to your name. I hope you will vote for the 9 (and only the 
9) candidates endorsed below . These candidates are also endorsed by 
ACE (the Alliance for Community Elections), whose recommendations you 
will soon receive in the mail.

Aside from these 9 candidates, virtually all the others are sworn 
adherents of the Justice & Unity faction -- the same faction that 
engineered the harassing and illegal firing of Robert Knight, Mike 
Feder, and Gary Null ... the same faction that has blocked the wishes 
of an overwhelming number of listeners to have "Democracy Now!" 
broadcast again, in the evenings, so more people can hear it ... the 
same faction that is at this very moment (as you read this) abusing 
its majority power on the board by attempting to force the station 
manager to disregard merit and seniority in order to place one of its 
leaders, Bob Lederer, on the station payroll, even as other staff 
members may have to be laid off for lack of funds ...  the same 
faction that, this very week, was indicted in a report sent to the 
national board for its deliberate refusal to fulfill virtually any of 
the duties required of it by Pacifica's bylaws ... the same faction 
-- well, you get the idea. And my typing hand is getting tired.

Please vote for these 9 candidates in the same ranking as listed 
below, in order to optimize your vote under the complicated Single 
Transferable Voting System (STV), which hardly anyone totally 
understands (including me). They endorsed candidates are:

1. Steve Brown
2. Carolyn Birden
3. Mitchel Cohen
4. Alex Steinberg
5. Carole Drake
6. Patricia Logan
7. Andrea Fishman
8. Paul DeRienzo
9. Blanca Diaz

Photos of the candidates, and the ways in which they can help WBAI, 
will arrive in your mailbox from the listener-supported Alliance for 
Community Elections (ACE). ACE's mailing will arrive at about the 
same time as your WBAI ballot. Watch for it.

And please, even if you don't vote as I would hope -- do vote. (In 
the last election, nearly 90% of those who received a ballot didn't 
vote. This allowed the Justice & Unity faction, which always votes in 
a tight, disciplined bloc, to gain control of the board with a 
relative handful of votes. Don't let that happen again.)

Regards,
Steve Brown

Stephen M Brown
<http://groups.yahoo.com/group/studioc/post?postID=0FX30tcwCA705TzmppuyCsboitigr3f2Hf2mOi9443OtRydTDzCpZDRKyJHwJC2c3116knNvTPQ3ZQ>[log in to unmask] 



[Mitchel writes: Those are the recommendations that Steve puts forth.
As to my own recommendations, I ask you to vote for candidates in the 
following order (the order matters in STV elections); these 
candidates will protect and improve WBAI:

#1 Mitchel Cohen
#2 Carolyn Birden
#3 Steve Brown
#4 Alex Steinberg
#5 Carole Drake
#6 Patricia Logan
#7 Americo Casiano
#8 Andrea Fishman
#9 Blanca Diaz
#10 Angelo Alicea
#11 Albert Solomon

******************************************
Mitchel's comments:

* I don't think that Bernard White as Program Director is "one of the 
worst disasters in WBAI history". There have been other, equally 
destructive "disasters". I STILL do not believe that Bernard is a bad 
person -- I loved his voice and thoughts as co-host of WakeUp Call, 
and learned a lot from him. As I noted in my opening remarks, it's 
Bernard's "imperious mien" -- his arbitrary firing of crucially 
important WBAI stalwarts like Robert Knight and Gary Null -- that are 
the main expressions of his attitude as program director. I think he 
was wrong, and now he's made matters much, much worse by entrenching 
himself with the JUC, their refusal to examine the theft of equipment 
and all sorts of material that's missing from the station, that's 
just gone too too far.

** Steve doesn't want to mention names, but I will. These 
attributions: "Niglet," etc., were used by a JUC member (and former 
candidate for the Board) who threw them publicly at Local Station 
Board member (and former Chair) Berthold Reimers.


*** I think this is only partly the reason why JUC members tolerate 
the extremely abusive and racialistic tactics of their leadership. 
Some members do not know the non-JUC members on the Board; they don't 
know that Patty Heffley and I were arrested together demanding 
freedom for Mumia at the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, that I worked 
for years for freedom for Haiti (and was even arrested with a small 
group that had taken over the Statue of Liberty demanding freedom for 
the Haitian detainees in Guantanamo), or anything else about our 
histories. They don't know that Steve Brown helped finance Medical 
Aid to Nicaragua when the Sandinistas were in power. They don't know 
that Alex Steinberg is a longtime socialist, or that Carolyn Birden 
has been extremely active for years in preventing Columbia University 
from taking over huge swaths of Harlem. They don't know that Pat 
Logan, who is blind (and which makes the following sentence even more 
incredible), has been to almost every antiwar and social justice 
protest in New York City for decades, putting herself in great risk 
so that others can be free. They've been told that we are out to get 
rid of the leftwing politics at WBAI ... HA HA HA! (In actuality, 
most of us think that there is very little leftwing politics 
discussed on the air and want to see more debate from within our 
movements, instead of the kow-towing to the Democratic/Working 
Families Party that dominates much of WBAI's political commentaries.) 
And because they trust their JUC leaders, they don't get to learn 
what the truth actually is ... until it's too late.

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