Something Very Sad Has Happened at CBC

Resources for victims of domestic violence can be found here.

(UPDATE #3 (10/29/14): **TRIGGER WARNINGS**, This following links contains either written or audio descriptions of violence which may be triggering to survivors. An anonymous woman claims abuse at the hands of Ghomeshi, citing the incidents as just over a decade ago, on the CBC radio program As It Happens. And the first woman to come forward publicly did so shortly thereafter, actress Lucy DeCoutere, to the Toronto Star).

(UPDATE #2 (10/28/14) Even more relevant to my world is this reflection on the furor and what it says about the power of radio from Paula Simons at the Edmonton Journal).

(UPDATE (10/28/14): Since I posted this, there have been a couple of excellent stories on the various angles of this situation. Brenda Cossman offers an excellent legal analysis for The Globe and Mail. Soraya Nadia McDonald writes for The Washington Post about the suspicions from many in the kink community of Ghomeshi’s public statement).

It’s no secret that due to my job description, history with the station and genuine affinity for it and its content, I usually find myself listening to Album 88 during my morning commute. But there are sometimes exceptions to the rule. Being a big sports fan, I may occasionally check out the local sports stations for my favorite teams. Or I’ll check in with college radio stations from my past.

And I’ll sometimes check in on my hometown and nation by accessing the Sydney feed of CBC radio. Which means that I occasionally find myself listening to the national radio show Q.

By any reasonable standard, Q is an excellent public radio program featuring a wide range of guests on a wide range of subjects and some of that credit, at least, must go to its now-former host, Jian Ghomeshi. You might love his smooth delivery, ability to make interviewees feel at ease (well, most interviewees…) and ask questions beyond the usual drivel of “tell me about your latest album/movie and is it the greatest thing you’ve ever done?” On the other hand, you might find him to be a “typical public radio host,” in the perjorative sense of the word, who’s too much in love with the sound of his voice. This is something that was rather expertly parodied several times on This Hour Has 22 Minutes (the 50 Shades references hit closer to home now, don’t they?). It’s fitting that his last Q “essay” introduction came on the heels of the tragic events on Parliament Hill in Ottawa last week. If you like Ghomeshi, it serves as a great parable for a gravitas well-earned. If you hate him, it serves a great parable for self-appointed pomposity.

It’s hard to recap what led to Jian’s departure/dismissal from the show this weekend, and no one web source provides a tidy timeline. But this is CBC’s version of events, this is Jian’s version of events and this is the version of events from the one publication that claims to have been investigating sexual abuse allegations against Ghomeshi for a long while.

The public relations war has already begun (when we’re dealing with a $55 million lawsuit, how can a PR war not happen?). Ghomeshi has hired a high profile firm to defend him. He (and they) are employing a multi-pronged reduction of offensiveness approach: bolstering (reminding everyone of his work as a “good (CBC) solider”), minimization (“we’re not talking about assault, we’re talking about consensual BDSM”) and attacking the accuser (insinuating this is the “campaign” of “jilted ex-lover”).

Of course, the Twitterverse is weighing in along with all other forms of social media (especially the multiple comments sections). And I find myself incredibly saddened by the situation, which provides no sunny interpretation, and the public response so far.

On the one hand, I feel as though there is a lot of presumption of guilt from critics who don’t have a lot of the facts of the case in front of them. Going back to last year, when a xojane contributor made thinly veiled allegations presumed to be about Ghomeshi, there has been a rush from some to immediately castigate the radio host for something only whispered about and not proven beyond the faintest of “he said, she said” terms. It is entirely possible that Ghomeshi, as he is suggesting, simply has a right to a private sex life, that includes kinks and fetishes the public may dislike, without it affecting his job. It’s not an inconceivable blackmail scenario and many who get riled by the telling of a story without first evaluating its truth value are likely to be riled up.

But on the other hand,

The rhetoric of those rushing to have the host reinstated also rings painfully hollow with me. It seems that his defenders have taken his statement of “I was fired because CBC was embarrassed by what this blackmail attempt will reveal about me” at face value. It’s interesting that his defenders talk of being innocent until proven guilty: Ghomeshi isn’t the defendant in the lawsuit, CBC is. Until proven otherwise, the trite principle actually suggests we must assume CBC had a perfectly good reason for letting Ghomeshi go.

There is a level of star-crossed worship at play here. In one of the many facets of “adult life mimics high school life,” I’ve often found that those inclined to find themselves in the arts community will deride celebrity-worship, particularly of athletes. This is very au courant because mounting testimonials and evidence suggests that if you’re watching the NFL (which I freely admit I do), you’re likely watching a lot of wife-beaters in action– which is a horrible reality to contemplate.

Being someone who was as likely to be found at the game as he was at the local indy show was always something of an awkward situation for me…and still is.  The suggestion of many “anti-jock” types was that the popular kids and meathead jocks were the sexist bastards of the universe, unjustly glorified for “just being able to put a ______ in a _____ on a (insert playing surface),” elevated to the status of gods and thus far more susceptible to perpetuating rape culture.

However, there’s an observable discomfort when people we assume to be intellectually, culturally or socially “refined” or “superior” in some way face similar allegations. It’s why cultural critics (moderate, right-wing or otherwise) often call out the (perceived, at least) left for too hastily defending auteurs like Woody Allen and Roman Polanski despite their crimes. Huffington Post contributor Justin Beach hits to the heart of this in a fine op-ed piece: many people are rushing to Ghomeshi’s defense simply because he seems too good a cultural archetype to be guilty of this sort of behavior.

But this doesn’t hold up to any reasonable scrutiny. Gamergate and alt-lit disputes, for example, demonstrate that any culture that leads to adulation can foster rape culture and that adulation need not be on a mass scale. Furthermore, the castigation of accusers before details can be gathered can have a chilling effect. If it comes out that CBC fired or dismissed Jian not because they thought he was guilty of a crime, but because they found having a morning radio host that was into BDSM distasteful? That’s on CBC, not anyone who’s accused Ghomeshi of assault, harrassment or sexual misconduct.

Any statements or public reaction that discourage victims of sexual assault from coming forward are beyond the pale of disheartening, they’re sinister- whether unconsciously or otherwise. If Ghomeshi is the victim of a disaffected ex, that’s a terrible thing for him. But let’s not kid ourselves, victims of sexual assault and domestic abuse suffer slings and arrows that $55 million lawsuits cannot deflect.

So, it might be best not to conclusively rule on anything other than to say that we’re definitely faced with a coin flip that is terrible either way.

On the more trivial side, either a public figure many of us admired was much less than we thought he was or we were deprived of an excellent radio host for no tangibly good reason. On the less trivial side, either the state (the CBC in this case) has placed itself in the bedrooms of the nation or Jian Ghomeshi got away with deplorable things due in no small part to a culture that turned the other way from his behaviour. And least trivial of all, either a select number of people have suffered battery and/or abuse or they have diminished these very serious types of crimes with false allegations.

Either way, something very sad has happened at the CBC.

3 thoughts on “Something Very Sad Has Happened at CBC

  1. Reblogged this on fenugreek and commented:
    #jianghomeshi

    On the more trivial side, either a public figure many of us admired was much less than we thought he was or we were deprived of an excellent radio host for no tangibly good reason. On the less trivial side, either the state (the CBC in this case) has placed itself in the bedrooms of the nation or Jian Ghomeshi got away with deplorable things due in no small part to a culture that turned the other way from his behaviour. And least trivial of all, either a select number of people have suffered battery and/or abuse or they have diminished these very serious types of crimes with false allegations.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s