The Ghomeshi Situation
The Ghomeshi Situation
If you live in Canada, you’ll probably be aware of the current scandal surrounding the former CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi. Being an expat, my main source of info has come from Facebook conversations and the articles that have been linked to as part of those, but I think I’ve got a pretty god grip on it.
At this point, as is generally the case in these days of Internet journalism, the story, at least so far as it has progressed, has been heavily covered from most angles, to the point of saturation. As such, I don’t know if I’ll have anything novel or interesting to say here, other than clarifying my stance on an unusually messy situation and perhaps pointing a way forward.
Unlike what generally happens when an assault victim comes forward to name their assailant, and the situation proceeds organically from there, Ghomeshi was able to get in the first crack at framing the narrative that would unfold by way of a detailed Facebook post. I, like a great many other people, naively took him at his word – he wove a story redirecting the emphasis of the situation: his recent firing, the stirrings of articles to be published and a nascent smear campaign by a so-called “jilted ex,” to paint himself as the victim, a victim of conservative social values on the part of his employer – and thus I publicly, via Facebook, defended him.
There was some slight hope on my part that the “jilted ex” angle, which ought to have sent alarm bells ringing at the time, was truthful. Anyone who has read any of my other posts will know that I self-describe as a Feminist, and yet, I try to be equal-opportunity when it comes to expecting shitty behaviour from people. Obviously, given the tenor of the piece, I should have known better, but it would have been nice, for once, if the crying actually did signal a wolf, rather than being the standard smokescreen.
It very quickly came out that Ghomeshi had retained the services of a “crisis communications firm” called Navigator. While I cannot say for certain, in retrospect, it seems pretty clear that Ghomeshi’s Facebook post was a product of the firm’s particular abilities.
Furthermore, since last week, not only have more women come forward with allegations, but more and more are doing so in full light of the public, putting their name on the record. The turning point, for me, came when there were four distinct anonymous accusations. Regrettably, we live in a world where it is entirely understandable that any victim of sexual assault would find it difficult to come forward, but particularly women, and particularly now, with a severe backlash against women’s improving equality playing out both online (ie, gamergate) and the real world (eg, invasive and unconstitutional laws regarding abortion and contraceptives in the States). Even if not one woman came forward to accuse in public nor to testify in court, my position would have been straight-forward. I don’t know how this will all play out, nor whether justice will ever by properly served, and neither am I the one to mete it out. However, what I can say is, I regret my earlier naïve position. I regret whatever small amount of damage it may have caused. I’ll not delete the post, as I think it would do a disservice to the Truth, but I’ll learn from it and not be so hasty in the future.
Aside from the personal stakes involved, on a more broad cultural level, I hope that some good can come of this. I read, and reposted, an article last night which detailed similar situations in the world of CanLit – abuse of power, stalking, threatening emails, the works. The article didn’t name names, but at least it signals a desire to confront what has been for too long the accepted norm. Whatever sort of justice the abused women win in this particular instance, the fact that they have come forward, and in so high-profile a case, seems to have gotten others thinking about their own situation, which can only be for the good.
There have been a great many rumblings about the “court of public opinion” associated with the Ghomeshi situation, as his remaining defenders scrabble for ground in their increasingly tenuous position. Unfortunately for all of us, the Justice system, as it stands now, is demonstrably poor at handling these sorts of cases, and will remain so for the foreseeable future. If this case does kick off an in-depth look into how our society and the various cultural enclaves operate, which I do hope for, it should be said that we should proceed with caution. The last thing that we should want is a witch-hunt. I’m not saying that we should ignore, or treat with suspicion, the claims of victims – despite what some would say, the number of false rape accusations is diminishingly small – but rather that we proceed on a case by case basis, maturely, with an eye to getting the fullest conception of the situation possible. To do otherwise will only help our detractors and enemies.