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Constituency model talk
[ the following was posted on the discussion board at: http://goodlight.net/wbai
A request for a copy of Mimi Rosenberg's proposal(s) has not been fruitful - ed.]
Mimi gave a presentation on her ideas on the constituency model that were very interesting to listen to...they were a further elaboration of her position on this issue for the past many months. One of the points she raised as did others is how the group sitting there at the Winston center did not represent or reflect the composition of the wider WBAI listening audience.
I agree. They do not. What were in attendance there were 50 plus people, many of them highly motivated and informed as to the arcane subtleties who choose to be at that meeting. It was not an audience that reflects the arbitron stats I have seen of the WBAI audience.. But why you might ask?
I would suggest that before people get up and berate an audience for not being the propoer rainbow percentage of the arbitron stats they should question their own lack of action on air and twhat has been going on about these issues for the past few weeks on WBAI.
The first show on the by-laws issues led Bernard and company to take action against Habte, who in a vitriloic exchange with Dred Scott Keyes recently I was able to get to the bottom of what his perception of Habte is( a COLLABORATOR). Hence, the pre-emption of his time was a retaliation for grievances held against him prior and during the Coup period. The show last week he MCed was intersting but with 10 guests difficult to manage. Hopefully the INPB members have regained editorial control of that slot.
But 10-12 on a Friday night just does not cut it....there is a need to have full blown weekly shows hours in length explaining and debating the issues concerning the by-laws with seriousPR efforts to get folks out to the by-laws town hall and weekly meetings themselves. Berating a audience by people who actually have influence to implement at least a albeit one-sided version of these issues is hypocritical and disingenuous to say the least.
The INPB should cut the crap and begin exercising TO THE AIRWAVES discussions of these critical issues through all the signal areas as soon as possible....If the drama and importance of these issues were built up on the mass comunication device that people have access to, the radio waves, the numbers and diversity of the crowd would definitely expand.
But the current berating of the audience for not being representative is total bullshit from those who frankly would like to keep this process exclusive and elitist.
In fact, the innards of the admittedly intersting ideas of her proposed TF of Inclusion could be interpreted as essentially a further attempt to solidify loose strands of local left affiliations already shared by some in the fire and banned clique as a FORMAL instutional power grabbing..In fact, I would call it disguised left putschism , pure and simple.
Again as in the mission driven model the very act of engaging and seriously motivating tens of thousands of listeners is thwarted because a conscious attempt is being made here in NYC to minimize and trivialize the discussion of these issues by simply putting them into one time slot, a low arbitron traffic Friday spot...and whenever people talk about fairly doing teachin on these subjects on the air we are accused of trying to get air time.
I perosnally want these issues fairly and openly debated on -air with a balanced airing of all sides of these questions so that people can understand the seriousness of what is going on...I am not intersted in a Potasmkin village manipulation of these issues.
If peope were taking these isssues to THE AIR, preempting significant prime time slots for their discussion, doing it fairly and across the board, then the audience at the various meetings would indeed change. Also, they should be held throughout the boroughs and across the signal area.
The new media forms of communication are great but I am bemused that the very issues of diversity and ethnic disparity that anyone acquanited with the digital divide questions has not popped up...Yes, by all means have the talks cahched in MP 3 files but it is worth keeping in mind that the very folks that some of the most verbose who want the disenfranchised and working class empowered as subscribers DO NOT HAVE ACCESS TO THE WEB..but more than likely have access to a radio(most Americans have 3-5 radios per household)...even the poorest have that means of communication.
So unless these debates are being more intensely placed on the air for all to listen and make up their minds further
berating of small crowd of self-chosen motivated people who are conscious of these issues is just self-serving
My notes from Mimi's talk..others can fill in CONSTITUENCY MODEL
Mimi introduced her constituency model this way…others who were there or herself can fill in what I might have exckuded. Different groups that have a well recognized activist history can basically select and appoint members from their organizations in set aside seats for them set up in a newly configured LAB. This is to protect against right wing takeover attempts or a repeat of what happened for the past ten years. What criteria for the selection of these groups and who decides?
A memmebr should be anybody who subcribes to WBAI..the contributors in the past who contributed money Mimi equated with poll taxes in the segregationist south as an analogy that denies the participation of the disenfranchised, communities of dis-empowered people of color and the working class.
The new station should have outreach to these groups in its programming…reaching out to them in different ways every hour with programming speaking to issues that represent the interests of the disempowered. She also began her presentation with a proviso that she viewed this as a theoretical and conceptual framework…to be concretized by the setting up of a Task Force of Inclusion that she and Anthony McKall called for to be voted upon that night..Sher felt the current body of subscribers is a narrow body that replicated itself through its contributions to WBAI which she equated as a barrier like a poll tax that prevented unserved listener constituencies from being members.
She argued that the Pacifica mission is not a document written in stone.instead should be contemporized…it should include a anti-colonialist,anti-capitalist,racist and sexist language in its reconstruction as part of creating a new set of governance paradigms.
She argued about the need for form to follow function politically..their should be a shift of power in Pacifica to the porr and oppressed…we should make it the highest priority to attract them as members. Tshe refered abstractly to how a numerical majority is fixed and permanent with no checks and balances on its whims and caprices. A smaller faction is subject to its interpretation oi power. A winner take all model does not bargain with the interests of minorities. She then made concrete her objections by specifying that the KPFA model diluded the presentation of minority interests and perpetuated the current majority.
Equal status in partifcipation shoud be given to members of the group…there must be meaningful minority participation beyond the periodic ritual of elections that empower a permanent majority. There should be accfess to the voting process in a new Pacifica at local union halls…all impediments to participation should be removed… She felt the idea of payment for listener subscribers was a poll tax that excludes seniors , disabled and the poor…hence a Task force should be convened The restructuring process should be designed to break down inequality…for example masses of Africa-Americans should be empowered..
She argued that people in the room were in a state of denial on issues of race and racism.
New immigrant communities should be empowered. Special interest groups in these communities that are progressive would be asked to appoinbt reps to a new LAB at WBAI She also referred to the spokesperson model of decision making from the anti-globalization movement as a possible model.
The spokes council model( Brooke from DAN was in the houseZ) was elaborated on briefly with a discussion of getting black,,gay and other groups as part of a spokes model…based on ideological stance and mutual self-interest. She suggested a bicameral model or structure as another possibility with people from oppressed groups getting 2 votes instead of one if they are a person of color.
She referred to the PNB TAKE OVER…the checks and balances were not in place People were not minding the store locally and there was little interest in the governance model from the producers and staff at WBAI …The old PNB was an example of not politics in command but reputation in command. MFB did not have a clear and firm identity in the left, rather a neo-liberal ethos.. She ended by stressing how the body present at the meeting was not representative of the listenership and that we needed a different structure to make that so.
Some more comments regarding the Constituency model:
[ from the discussion board at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/NewPacifica
I agree with many of Mimi's observations. But not with her conclusions. More below interspersed.
--- In NewPacifica@y..., jim Dingeman wrote:
If the fox guards the henhouse who guards the fox?
Let's not forget that Mary Frances Berry had an "activist history."
This I couldn't agree with more. But if you in fact have real
programing that does a righteous job of engaging the oppressed, the
problem of the involvement of oppressed people solves itself. In the
absence of such a programming direction, nothing you rig will get
The real barrier is the lack of programming for oppressed groups, at
least that is the reality at all the other stations.
Again I largely agree. Not about the Mission not being written in
stone, but in that it is inevitable that the Mission has to be
interpreted. That the form of governance should follow the content of
that interpretation is a simple matter of integrity.
This is correct. The KPFA model guarantees formal diversity, but
since programming decisions are made elsewhere and since the
programing at KPFA does not reflect the maekup of the community by
class and race, its a Catch 22. The members of oppressed groups on
the LAB do not represent listeners from their communities. The LAB
can do nothing to effect programming changes. Their power is illusory.
She is right about the poll tax.
Ugh. The consensus model is a go along to get along form of
dictatorship in which an in group holds sway over all those who fear
their power, and so give their "consent." It also tends to reduce the
level of debate.
Well, here's the rub. We are setting up a system of governance. We
don't know who will control that governance in 50 years any more than
Lew Hill did. Mimi's model is also a model of reputation in command.
It assumes a reputation on the part of future participants whose
allegiances are unknowable. What accountablility to she endeavor to
establish for the constituencies. The OLD model of governance was, in
effect a constituency model, as well.
This is probably also true.
Stephen Brown wrote:
MEMBERSHIP FEES - A "POLL TAX" ON THE POOR?
Many listeners would like to see some demonstration of "commitment" to the local Pacifica station - i.e., either paying a membership fee, or performing volunteer work - before anyone is allowed to vote in local station elections, or become a member of Pacifica.
Although this view (it happens to be my view) is not shared by everyone, it is neither an unreasonable view, nor a disreputable one - let alone an "evil" one. Yet those who hold this view were recently denounced for - according to Mimi Rosenberg - trying to impose a "poll tax" on the poor.
This is FOX-TV style rhetoric. Trying to smear opponents with the loaded historical baggage that clings to a term such as "poll tax" is inflammatory, manipulative, and dishonest - no better than Utrice Leid's tactic of labeling anyone who disagreed with her as "racist".
Must we to stoop to this kind of thing?
Especially since use of the term "poll tax" is not only disingenuous - it is also incorrect. It simply does not work as an analogy to racist U.S. election practices. Here is why.
In U.S. political elections, being a citizen makes you, ipso facto, ALREADY a member of the voting electorate, and thereby entitled to vote for the governance structure of your city, state or country. Under such conditions, a poll tax certainly does unfairly (and illegally) prevent poor people from exercising their right to a benefit that their citizenship entitles them to -- i.e., the right to vote FREE OF CHARGE.
But this analogy breaks down when applied to Pacifica. That is because all Pacifica listeners are not, ipso facto, already members of a certain incorporated entity, named Pacifica, which was formed by certain private individuals who contributed their money, time and talent (and were later joined by others who contributed their money, time and talent) for the purpose of providing a BENEFIT to all listeners FREE OF CHARGE.
The question is - what "benefit"?
This is what confuses Mimi. The "benefit" that Pacifica provides to all listeners free of charge (whether they are members or not) is its programming - not the right to vote for that programming, or indeed anything else relating to Pacifica governance.
A "poll tax" would exist at Pacifica only if it required people to pay (or volunteer) as a PRE-REQUISITE for listening. But Pacifica does not do this. Anyone with a radio is free to listen -- without a "commnittment".
If a good analogy is needed, I would say Pacifica is more like a free hospital (a PRIVATELY FUNDED free hospital), than a city or country. For example, let us say that I and some friends decided to build such a free hospital with our own money, and dedicated it to giving free medical care to unwed mothers, AIDS victims, and cancer sufferers. The "benefit" to the patients is the free medical care they receive - NOT the right to come into the hospital and decide what color the walls should be, who should be on staff, and what illnesses the hospital should treat.
The patient's only right - after free medical care - is the right to go somewhere else for treatment. Just as the right of a non-paying, non-supporting Pacifica listener is the right to stop listening - not the right to have the same voice in station affairs as those who do contribute time, money or talent to support it.
Whatever happens, Pacifica will continue to champion the rights of the voiceless, the persecuted, the disenfranchised, the helpless, and the economically deprived - even if they refuse to help and support Pacifica in return. But if Pacifica has to fight its battles without the help of those who refuse to support it, then Pacifica should also be able to govern itself without the opinions or interference of those same people.
That seems not only fair, but eminently sensible, and protects Pacifica from being controlled or manipulated - or taken over - by those who demonstrably do not care enough for what Pacifica stands for to pitch in and help support it.
Listening may be a benefit one can receive for nothing -- but voting is a privilege one should have to earn.
Therefore, asking for a commitment to Pacifica before being allowed to vote in its elections is not a "poll tax". Nor is it elitist or exclusionary. It is merely an act of common sense and self-preservation - and an acknowledgment that those who do support Pacifica are indeed more valuable to its preservation than those who do not.
That seems right to me. I trust that it will also seem right to most Pacifica supporters, and will consequently be embodied in the new foundation bylaws.
P.S. One last word on what it means to be a volunteer supporter.
I believe each person should support Pacifica in the way that makes the most sense, and is the most feasible. Money is not, and should not, be the only way. There has been talk, for example, of enfranchising prisoner-listeners, who do not have lots of money, nor obviously the time or freedom to pop down to their local station and answer phones. However, even prisoners can do volunteer work - by talking about Pacifica to other prisoners, or passing out leaflets where permitted, or even by phoning their local Pacifica station to report on conditions "inside" (we have several Pacifica programs that actively solicit this kind of input). Even mothers homebound with small children can still talk about Pacifica to friends, leave a pile of leaflets in the lobby - even phone neighbors to arrange WBAI "Tupperware" parties in their apartments for the recruitment new members and volunteers. After all - is filling out and mailing a Pacifica ballot for an election any easier for a homebound mother than handing out Pacifica flyers to her friends, or slipping those flyers into the mailbox slots of her neighbors?
I don't think so.
Therefore, if non-paying, non-volunteer listeners won't do ANYTHING to support Pacifica, then I don't care how poor or burdened or stressed-out they may be. Sure, let them keep on listening free of charge. If they are voiceless, underrepresented, harassed, or discriminated against - we will still continue to fight for them. We just won't friggin let them vote in our elections until they show they are willing to put their shoulders to the wheel (in whatever way they can) with the rest of us.
Who says that's too much to ask?
Stephen M. Brown
From: Pamela Somers
This was the argument that Mimi used in her presentation - that some people are so over-burdened and stressed that they could not afford to give a dollar or even an hour of their time to WBAI. But if that's true, then why wouldn't they also be too overburdened and stressed to take an interest in elections and send in a ballot? Or is it her proposal that some benevolent representative of their "group" - whichever group they happen to be categorized in by somone (who?) - would be the one who is voting "for them"?
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