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Pro election WBAI LAB member statement 7-25-01

From: Frank Fitzgerald frank@g...
Date: Thu Jul 26, 2001 4:02 pm
Subject: WBAI LAB member Andy Norris statement on elections

A page or two in on the http://goodlight.net/wbai message board:


Andy Norris
LAB elections are not the only thing, but
Wed Jul 25 22:28:51 2001

Hats off to Lee (Kronick) for putting forth his position on this board. I have also been in email communication with Anita Dutt and to a much lesser extent, Paul Surovell, and I feel I should reciprocate Lee's gesture. Below is a synopsis of some of the reasons for my position, which is that an empowered LAB should be selected from the listeners by the listeners. I don't speak for anyone other than myself.

The reasons below (with some opposing arguments) are not listed in priority (the priority shifts)

1. Listeners support the idea of elections. I have yet to come across a significantly large group of listeners that object to it. Although, this remains to be further tested - there may well be major blocs of listeners who are not in favor of the idea for various valid reasons that include (these are items that need to be addressed in the elections debate): 1a: Repeated abuse of electoral systems by whites/elites/majorities, certainly in the US. 1b: Involvement in an electoral process is a luxury that oppressed/poor/disadvantaged cannot avail of - i.e. its perceived as a middle class luxury.

2. Consistency. It is inconsistent to expect the LAB to elect PNB members but at the same time to ignore the wishes of the listeners.

3. It can be done. KPFA has done it - and WBAI can do it even better. Reports from KPFA are positive on the results of their first elections, one year ago. KPFA folk are willing to assist and advise as necessary. They are now going into their second LAB election.

4. Involvement _and_ accountability of LAB members is more assured thru an electoral system. It requires public statements before they join the board. For good or ill people identify with the persons they selected and follow their actions more closely as a result. The greater exposure demands greater effort by LAB members. (I asked John Sheridan last week when he was here whether the KPFA LAB after the election was "better" than that before and the answer was an unequivocal yes -and he is not on the LAB!).

5. Safety: it is hard to "rig" an election. A take over of the current structure is easier. We don't have to look far, e.g. one explanation of the current disaster is takeover from above. For whatever well-intentioned reasons, MF Berry was installed in a position in which she could and did appoint people to the PNB totally disconnected from the pacifica community (the rest is history with many writers and different interpretations). People may argue that a LAB election could be rigged, but it is much easier to take advantage of the current system. What is to stop the LAB membership committee and the LAB from packing the LAB with nazis? (This absurd scenario has been offered in argument to me once, in complete seriousness). A nazi standing for LAB election? Now that would be interesting and certain to bring out a high turnout of true WBAI followers. I'd sooner trust 20,000 WBAI folk than a self-selected handful to do the right thing.

6. Strategic purpose. It is strategically important to demonstrate to (a) the increasingly isolated and discredited PNB majority (who are inevitably irrelevant but unfortunately very relevant right now) and (b) the Pacifica community at large (much more relevant but unfortunately not in control) that restructuring is not restricted to the PNB. It is not a matter of replacing one set of 15 or so people with another set. It will require vigilance at the level of each station and a commitment to an elected LAB is part of that renewal.

7. I cannot trust a self-selecting body, no matter how well intentioned. Particularly when dealing with something as crucial as WBAI and Pacifica.

BTW - I have been on the LAB for 3 and 1/2 yrs (in my second term). I've listened to WBAI since the late 1980's, and I am one of the 7 WBAI LAB plaintiffs in the "LAB" lawsuit. I am white, middle class, a university department chair, an immigrant (from Ireland), and live in a suburban NJ town 30 miles from NYC. I have always marveled at the fact that this town is virtually 100% white and has never had a mayor or council member that was not a Republican, and is no different than many others towns in suburbia. Coming from Ireland I thought only the southern states still displayed strict social and geographic segregation by race. But I've since learned that the US white population is content to live with what can only be described as an apartheid system that is arguably more efficient and certainly more enduring than South Africa's. It is these types of unspoken social contradictions that ensure that WBAI has many listeners and supporters far outside the confines of the 5 boros of NYC. In many ways, WBAI serves this community better than many others, because we are reliant on WBAI. It is the voice of sanity in a sea of media garbage, and the glue that keeps progressive groups going. At the same time, it is the needle in the buttocks of the complacent majority that occasionally wander to 99.5 FM. Keep it sharp!

Finally, Lee gave slightly incorrect stats on the current (7/25/01) LAB make-up:
There are 16 members, listed at www.wbailab.org comprising
8 White, 6 Black, 2 Hispanic
8 male, 8 female
Geographic mix: New Jersey 2, Rockland county 2, Westchester 1, NYC 11

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