The thing about the whole Jian Ghomeshi situation is that whatever way it swings, it will be a lose-lose situation.
I’ve been a passionate supporter of CBC Radio since third grade when I would listen to the Current and Ottawa Morning while waiting for my school bus to arrive; I started listening to Q sometime in high school and I’ve loved it since. I’ve cried listening to episodes, I’ve reflected, I’ve laughed. Jian was and is a very talented broadcaster.
I knew something was happening earlier in the week when Jesse Brown, podcaster for Canadaland (one of my favourite shows), tweeted that he had found something big about JIan, unrelated to Jian’s father’s passing. The episode previous (the Norman Spector one), Jesse begins by saying he was working on a massive story where the story’s stakeholders would be working to discredit him.
A few days later, the story explodes.
I say all this so you know my background, my context, for my interpretation of the entire situation. I noted that when the CBC Alerts twitter first broke the news of the end of CBC’s relationship with Jian, multiple Toronto journalists and media people tweeted their utter lack of surprise– Steve Murray, artist of Sex Criminals and for the National Post, tweeted that Jian “is a bad guy”. Someone posted the XOJane blogpost in the comments section of a story I was reading on Canada.com.
Two friends independently told me their stories of friends and relatives being taken advantage of and being treated badly by Jian Ghomeshi.
But this is before we had any information other than the few sparse sentences that CBC tweeted yesterday afternoon. After hiring “big gun” PR firm Navigator and making public his intent to sue, Jian posted his own story some hours later, writing about how his ex was framing him, and that two other women were independently out to tarnish his name. His side of the story is still an important piece of the entire pie, but it’s exactly this: it is one piece of the entire pie.
Jian writes that the CBC brass let him go not because there hadn’t been consent, but because his sexual behaviour in the bedroom was “unbecoming of a prominent host on the CBC”. Here lies the first half of the lose-lose situation: if our state broadcaster fired Jian Ghomeshi on the basis of his personal preferences and choices in the bedroom, then this would nothing short of devastating. What sort of institution has the CBC become to mandate what its employees are and are not allowed (as long as its consensual from all parties) to do in the comforts in their homes? If this is the case, it would be a betrayal on a national level, to all Canadians.
However, yesterday near midnight, Kevin Donovan of the Toronto Star and Jesse Brown released a joint story on their investigations (note: Jesse Brown is the “freelance writer” Jian mentions in his statement. Jesse also previously worked for the CBC). Brown and Donovan interviewed four young women, three of whom were “attacked on dates without consent”, and the other, a former employee of the CBC and Q, who was told by Jian that he wanted to “hate fuck” her.
Herein lies the other half of the lose-lose situation, a national betrayal of a different kind. Jian Ghomeshi has long been a patron of Canadian culture, of Canadian literature, music, film– he has been recognized as a prominent figure in the Canadian cultural landscape and has done much for its cause (he was set to MC the Giller Prize before the GIller tweeted yesterday that Ghomeshi was no longer going to present). If the Star’s allegations are true, it is absolutely necessary to condemn both Ghomeshi and what he has done, and this is just as devastating to Canadians to have had this important voice engage in such disgusting acts, to have caused so much pain.
It’s also unknown what these implications would mean for both for CBC and Canada culturally, but my sinking suspicion is that it would not be good. I am confident that we would be able to find other strong voices that love and support Canada to the same level as Ghomeshi’s (if not more), but I worry about its transition, about CBC’s current short-term financial and identity troubles. I don’t know what it would mean for the institution.
This is a complex and layered situation that speaks well for no one, and we haven’t yet heard all the sides of the story. We already know that this is a story with national implications, and because of this, we need to not jump to conclusions, remain understanding of sides of the story. There are four women who feel exploited and taken advantage of, a radio host who is marked for life regardless of guilt or innocence, a radio station in turmoil with a potential legal suit hanging over its head, and a country’s citizens that has lost a prominent voice in its culture.
In a situation like this, no one wins.