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 Ghomeshi’s 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 also available on 170 stations in the States. But now, perhaps, like one of those school shooters, in hindsight, everyone now says, they’ve known for years he was “a little weird”.
But there’s 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 didn’t 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 Ottawa’s 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 children’s 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 Clinton’s 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 an exploiter of women, but again, it’s 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 don’t always agree, felt the same. I couldn’t 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 then.
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 ascended.
I also mentioned in that original Facebook posting how I was in line at an Ottawa’s Writer’s 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 McCartney’s 1st concert in Ottawa at 5:30 a.m. for four hours (something I’d never done before) and who’s 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 Ottawa’s history, although many behind us didn’t. McCartney rocked still at ’71 years of age. I’d 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 would think of Ghomeshi now, as so many others.
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 don’t 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 Canada’s cool crowd even. But his narcissism caught up with him finally and he’s blown it. Unlike supreme politician, Bill Clinton, it’s unlikely he’ll 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 wouldn’t have happened so powerfully if there hadn’t been such god-like media Canadian adoration, and an incestuous, elitist music and politically-correct arts world around him.
So there’s lots of Hypocrisy All Around and that should be examined too, as well as shunning Ghomeshi.