Across Canada, from coast to coast, the 17th letter of the alphabet has been making front-page headlines this past week – and not because of any controversial comments made on CBC’s popular cultural affairs radio show known simply as “Q.”
Rather, the saga that’s been percolating all week revolved around Q’s now dethroned host, Jian Ghomeshi.
It started off with a breaking news piece noting that Jian was taking some personal time off. At first glance perfectly reasonable, in light of the recent death of his father.
Then, on October 27th, after being fired by the CBC, he mounted a lengthy apologia claiming his innocence regarding all alleged sexual wrongdoing. He defended his apparently uber-kinky and sado-masochistic antics as being of a personal nature and acceptable and permissible under the guise of mutual ‘consent.’ Jian then went on the offensive, chalking up the whole mess to “a campaign of false allegations pursued by a jilted ex girlfriend…” and threatening to sue the CBC for $50 million and to get his job back.
Only that the one so-called ‘ex girlfriend’ then spread her wings… and set the stage for Act II. Suddenly more allegations came forth, first from four women, then another four – with perhaps more to come.
The news was spreading fast. Too fast, some would say. It spread like wildfire; social networks were rife with comments and petitions – initially, supportive of Jian, but then almost overnight, the tide turned against him. The media was all over it – the Toronto Star, Financial Post, Globe and Mail – even the CBC had its say. Some writers shared slightly more in-depth and thoughtful perspectives.
The outrage, the shaming, the expletives and name-calling began to appear online. They quickly gained traction. As a former CBC employee myself (and a survivor of sexual assault), I was horrified and – though indirectly – felt betrayed. Instinctively, I felt compelled to join the fray:
I believe the Supreme Court has spoken on some of these issues. If I’m not mistaken the SCC has maintained that one cannot ‘consent’ to sexual assault. Regardless of whether it occurs in a park, elevator, office or bedroom. And, by the way, Jian is barred from suing the CBC for ANY amount because he is (was) unionized; his only option is to file a grievance. Good luck to him.
Although they stand still as allegations only, the evidence and stories emerging from a growing legion of women across the country are sounding too similar and disturbing to put in abeyance (how many more women have to drudge up distinct and traumatic memories of “BigEarsTeddy”?). Jian’s defense is grower weaker by the day. Surely he must have been advised that, as an employee of the CBC, he is barred from suing his employer for any amount; and that his only recourse is to grieve his dismissal through his union. Any way you look at it, this saga does not bode well for the former Mr Q.
Last night, when I lay down to sleep, something was niggling at me. I had to acknowledge that media celebs who live in the spotlight are often thought to live a life of Riley, one that comes with its own charm and perks. But the risks of being found out, for minor indiscretions or worse – criminal behavior – are ever-present; and, in many ways, more fraught with the possibility of bearing the stigma of their wrongdoing for the rest of their lives.
I had to admit also that all this public mud-slinging and damning commentary on social media, a phenomenon that just a decade ago would have unfurled behind closed doors, perhaps had already gone too far. And if not yet, then it just might in a day or two. Notwithstanding the outcome of this mess, my guess is that Q’s days are over – or at least in limbo.
What will become of Jian is anybody’s guess. The jury is still out, and may be for a very long time if at all. But who among us has no shadows, which one of us lacks demons, harbors hidden regrets? This shaming and modern-day stoning-a-la-Twitter should come to an end. We should all exercise self-restraint because as hard as it might be to fathom, Jian too is in need of our prayers, compassion – and, ultimately, forgiveness. What a blessing that his late father, whom he idolized, died before this whole sordid affair came to light. Let’s hope also that he doesn’t lose the support of those who love him still…
And if that’s not enough to convince you to quell your rage, let’s not forget Robin Williams.