From: WBAI Fightback <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Wed, Jul 28, 2021 at 11:28 PM
To: Lydia Brazon <email@example.com>, Berthold Reimers <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Arthur <email@example.com>, Arthur Schwartz <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Pacifica National Board <PNB@pacifica.org>, Linda Perry Barr <email@example.com>
We, the undersigned, protest the week-long suspension of Mimi Rosenberg’s program “Equal Rights and Justice” and the attempted suspension of “Building Bridges” with Ken Nash and Mimi Rosenberg (since corrected) and demand that the still-in-place suspension of “Equal Rights and Justice” for July 29, be rescinded immediately and that make-up-time be awarded for airtime lost.
We further protest that suspensions were handed down with only one day’s notice and before management’s policy-warning on the ‘offending’ issue had even been announced and that a paid staff worker, who also made a statement naming Gary Null was treated differently than an unpaid- staff worker who did the same. We see this as evidence of the dire and immediate need for the implementation of a fair and consistently applied set of rules that is developed with producer-input for the workers at WBAI–as well as a mechanism for producer grievances and appeals.
These suspensions were announced after two producers spoke out on their programs about egregiously racist statements being regularly broadcast on the Gary Null show, and, in the process, called out Gary Null by name. WBAI has many producers who are passionate activists and advocates for the subjects of the programs they produce; they are people who care very much about their subjects and actively advocate for them. WBAI claims to be proud of airing such hosts and compares our programming favorably with the more detached style of the hosts of corporate-sponsored radio stations, such as NPR. Yet, when the principles these producers spend their lives defending are violated, WBAI management expects them to gag themselves by not responding on their programs. Management cannot have it both ways.
Station Manager Berthold Reimers said in his statement on this matter, that a producer may debate ideas on WBAI that other producers have aired and that they deem offensive–but the name of the offending producer must never be mentioned. However, this is not always possible–nor desirable–especially when the offending producer deals not in “ideas” but in inuendo and (racist) “dog whistles”!
To take but one example: in Johanna Fernandez’ brilliant deconstruction, on her July 14 show, of one portion of Gary Null’s racist rant, she played audio of Null comparing the Black Lives Matter movement to “Sherman’s March to the Sea, that left nothing in its wake.” She pointed out that by using this comparison, Null was invoking a phrase which “carries 150 years of propaganda used by the old slavocracy of the South”, i.e. a “dog whistle”. Such racist phrasing cannot be separated from the current ideological Civil War going on in this country involving attacks on the teaching of accurate history about slavery and Jim Crow in U.S. schools–as well as the ominous resurgence of Jim Crow-type laws as states pass anti-Black voting rights restrictions. It was necessary to quote Null exactly, and even play the audio of his statement in order to make the point. It would have been impossible to make this specific critique without quoting (and therefore naming) the producer responsible for the offending material.
Similarly, the actual context of the program for which Mimi Rosenberg was suspended must be taken into account. It put forth “education/critical race theory” as the context for the critique, which was titled: “Racism is Routine, Not Aberrational: rewriting & righting the myths of American exceptionalism by teaching of critical race theory.” Surely, although the name of Gary Null–who is a public figure putting out public statements and therefore subject to public rebuttal–was mentioned, the entire program, which featured renowned activist Dr. Sam Anderson, was an educational and political statement and not a “personal attack” or ‘”dirty laundry”.
We therefore protest the conflation by Management of “personal attacks” (language used by Management to describe producers naming other producers on the air) with political critiques, which are an entirely different matter. This outmoded policy must be rethought with latitude allowed for the seriousness of the issue in question being taken into account; in this case the promotion of racism on WBAI’s airwaves.
In sum, we demand:
- The reinstatement of “Equal Rights and Justice” for July 29th, with make-up time allotted if the suspension is carried through.
- Immediate attention to creating a consistent and communally-arrived-at set of guidelines regarding punitive suspensions, “progressive discipline” and a producers’ grievance and appeal mechanism that can be applied to the above.
- An oversight mechanism/commission to ensure that the aggressive right-wing racist (and sexist) propaganda machinery of the right wing now surging in the U.S., does not insinuate itself onto our precious airwaves–and, should it do so, that there are ample means of expression allowed to producers acting out of concern for the public good–which may include the naming of names of other producers, if that is necessary to make important points, as long as the critiques are political in nature. There are to be no ‘punishments’ of producers who act out of conscience in this way.
We look forward to a prompt response from WBAI management.
(If you wish to add your name to this statement, please contact WBAI Fightback at the above email address.)
Signing for the WBAI Fightback Working group:
Marilyn Vogt Downey
Eleanor Elizabeth Forman
Stahimili Paulette Mapp
L. G. Munroe
Ajamu Sankofa, JD