WBAI—The Coup on Wall Street
Information is the raw material for new ideas; if you get misinformation, you get some pretty fu---d-up ideas.
--Eldridge Cleaver, former Minister of Information, Black Panther Party
With late-night lock changes, and a phalanx of security guards prowling the halls, the coup of WBAI-FM, the flagship station of the Pacifica Network, has begun.
Popular veterans of the listener-supported station, like program manager Bernard White and WBAI union shop steward Sharan Harper (both producers of the morning Wake-Up Call show), received letters of termination at their homes several hours before their shifts were to begin. WBAI general manager, Valerie Van Isler, who, like White, was a twenty-year vet of the station, was similarly fired by Pacifica, ostensibly for failing to accept a position at network headquarters in Washington, DC.
While these firings were attempts to remove, and thereby install, management personnel, it was also an opening salvo in a pitched battle designed to silence radical dissent, and open the airwaves to the corporatization of WBAI.
If you want WBAI to become a nice, sweet, safe alternative, like NPR, then do nothing. It will happen. If, however, you want to continue to hear about the struggles of the peoples of the world for liberty, for life, for dignity, as in East Timor; or of the noble life and death struggle of the Zapatistas in the mountains of Mexico; or of cases like the slaughter of African immigrant Amadou Diallo; or of the continuing human rights violations occurring every day in the nation's burgeoning prison-industrial complex, then you must fight for it, as you would fight for your very life, or anything dear to you.
The great Frederick Douglass perhaps put it best when he said, "Without struggle there is no progress." If the various communities of New York and northern New Jersey don't struggle for their vision of WBAI-FM, it will be gone. It's as simple as that.
What's happening at BAI was attempted a year ago at KPFA-FM in San Francisco. The people of the Bay Area rallied in unprecedented strength--over 10,000 folks at one protest--and backed the Pacifica board down. Listeners to BAI must do no less!
In theory at least, the airwaves belong to the people. For the last forty years, the staff and local management of WBAI have tried to make that theory in America a reality.
If you are thrilled by the no-holds-barred radio reporting of Democracy Now!'s Amy Goodman, who is constantly threatened and harassed by the Pacifica board for her radical reporting, then fight for her. For in fighting for her, you fight for the finest traditions of WBAI, and against the corporationists who want to turn a national resource into just another commodity.
To keep it raw; to keep it real, you've got to fight for it.
© MAJ 2001