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Canadian music and arts circles went into shock recently, when
Jian Ghomeshi, CBC radio host of the popular show, Q, was
first accused of having had non-consensual and abusive sex
with women.
The immediate reaction of several in the arts community was to
defend him or even dismiss it. But that changed, as more and
more women came forward. When CBC was shown a graphic
video of his practices, ironically by Ghomeshis own side, and
he still defended those practices (he thought there was nothing
wrong with his behavior, which shows how deep is his
problem), CBC fired him.
Now those same people, who had so reactively defended him,
have dropped him like a hot potato. After all, the icon and CBC
poster boy had a hip following and was available on 170
stations in the States. But now, perhaps, like one of those
school shooters, in hindsight, everyone now says, theyve
known for years he was a little weird.
But theres hypocrisy all around. For what is the culture that
allowed this predator to get away with it for, evidently, years?
The Canadian music and arts circle is very small and incestuous
and so is the CBC.
He had high ratings and always got the high-profile guests,
Canadian and international. He was known for his opening
essays (which it turned out he didnt write) and it appears his
whole image was more a creation by the organization for their
star personality. In a place, like Canada, it carried a lot of
power. Ghomeshi had the right coolness, the right
supposedly cutting-edge tastes, the right political-
correctness. He was, as well, hosting literary events like the
prestigious Giller Book awards and giving out music prizes like
The Polarius.
An atmosphere was created around him and nobody would
dare say the Emperor had no clothes. Until when a brave
woman finally came forward and said she had been forced and
punched, several more said they had been abused too and
there are likely more to come. He used his power and hipness
to exploit women, even, perhaps, an Ottawas Carleton
University journalism intern. Unfortunately, this is not
uncommon in the powerful business of our media-obsessed
current society. David Letterman had a history of exploiting
interns and had to publically apologize. Several BBC
broadcasters, some even with childrens shows, have been
accused of abuse.
Monica Lewinsky had said in a Vanity Fair article that even
feminists had defended Bill Clinton, but she continues to be
vilified and she points out the hypocrisy of that. Liberals were
willing to look the other way, because they agreed with
Clintons liberal policies. And they will do so again in the up-
coming U.S. election in 2016, with the likelihood of Hillary
Clinton running. Lewinsky has recently said, it had been
consensual, but it was still a male in a high position of power
(perhaps the most powerful-President of the U.S.) and a young
woman intern. Bill Clinton had a long, long history of being a
exploiter of women, but again, its dismissed by the hip crowd.
Ghomeshi did the same thing and had in Canadian society and
media and liberal circles, that same kind of power, to which, so
many turned a blind eye.
As I wrote in my first reaction to it just briefly on Facebook, I
never liked the guy, for admittedly, so much of the political
correctness and hip adoration around him. My close friends,
with whom I dont always agree, felt the same. I couldnt really
describe why back then (and of course, we had no idea just
how dark he was). I found his opening essays pseudo-profound
and his shallow humbleness grating, but I was in the minority
I always wondered who decided what was trendy in pop music
and culture. It seemed to be determined by a tiny group of
critics and broadcasters, who parroted each other, in whom
was to be promoted, and those artists were often part of the
same cliques. This was international in the music business, but
in Canada and Toronto too, they would jump on the latest
bandwagon from England or the U.S., not wanting to appear
not up-to-date. If you wanted to progress in your career, you
followed. And Ghomeshi did so dutifully and his profile
I also mentioned in that original Facebook posting how I was in
line at an Ottawas Writers Fest, 2 years ago, and got into a
disagreement (friendly) with the woman behind me, over
Ghomeshi. The irony is that several months later I ended up in a
line-up for tickets for Paul McCartneys 1
concert in Ottawa at
5:30 a.m. for four hours (something Id never done before) and
whos right behind me but that same woman! She looked
familiar and she thought I did too. When we realized, we both
laughed, and she even let me kindly borrow her small stool for
a while. We did manage to get tickets to the fastest-selling
concert in Ottawas history, although many behind us didnt.
McCartney rocked still at 71 years of age. Id seen him before
in 89 in Montreal. I had been interviewed on CBC radio about
why The Beatles were still so popular earlier that weekend. I
wonder what that lady thinks of Ghomeshi now, as so many
As for Ghomeshi, he clearly needs help. Interestingly, he had
earlier released an autobiography about trying to fit in, with
Iranian immigrant parents, in a suburb of Toronto. I dont want
to psychoanalyse him, but his idol as a teenager had been David
Bowie, himself a master of constantly changing his persona
with each musical product. Ghomeshi had learned, evidently,
to play a role, and got so good at it and got accepted by
Canadas cool crowd even. But his narcissism caught up with
him finally and hes blown it. Unlike supreme politician, Bill
Clinton, its unlikely hell be able to rebrand his image, and have
people fall for his charms again. Not even a public apology and
offer to go to celebrity rehab, will protect him. And he may well
face criminal charges, as more victims come forward.
But it wouldnt have happened so powerfully if there hadnt
been such god-like media Canadian adoration, and an
incestuous, elitist music and politically-correct arts world
around him. Theres lots of Hypocrisy All Around and that
should be examined too, as well as shunning Ghomeshi.
Toronto Star, Nov., 2014: Toronto Police Investigating Ghomeshi
A third woman is now being interviewed by the Toronto police sex-crimes unit as the criminal
investigation into allegations of physical and sexual assault against fired CBC star Jian
Ghomeshi expands.
Police are also investigating videos Ghomeshi showed his CBC bosses Oct. 23 containing
graphic evidence that Jian had caused physical injury to a woman.
Ghomeshi whose whereabouts are unknown has not yet been interviewed, police said
Meanwhile, other women who allege they were attacked by Ghomeshi continue to come
forward. The Star has now heard of incidents dating back to his time as member of the band
Moxy Frvous, and more allegations from his time as host of Play on CBC television and from
his time as host of Q.
Huffington Post, Oct. 31, 2014: A lot of People Knew
In media and music circles, rumors have circulated for years about Ghomeshi. I've heard them.
People I know and work with have heard them. People I know have been on dates with him. So
yes, it was an open secret that there was something fishy about Mr. Ghomeshi. But I think, as
is so often the case, many dismissed it as just another case of a powerful man with a taste for
younger women.
Clearly many knew things were much more sinister than that. While most people I know have
expressed surprise about the violence, it's evident from the reaction on social media and in blog
posts like "Do You Know About Jian" that many people knew much, much more. When the
story first broke, most Canadians expressed disbelief and dismay while many in music and
media exchanged knowing looks.
This is really becoming a huge part of the story now as we move beyond the "did he or didn't
he" part of the story and on to the "how the hell did we let this happen?" part. Because a lot
of people in media and music are asking themselves that question right now and talking with
their partners and co-workers about it. This story is truly triggering some soul-searching
about how and why we dismiss the signs of abuse -- "Oh, sure he's a bit creepy but he's great
as his job." "Oh, these women wouldn't be with him if they didn't think they could get
something from him." "Oh, it's not worth making a fuss about this. It's probably nothing and it's
not worth losing your job over." The list goes on and on and on. If something good is going to
come from this, it's that it's going to force our industry, and others, to really start to address
the cultural and structural prejudices that could allow something like this to happen