i wanted to write about this, but i’m not sure how i want to write about this so bear with me…
i’mma write this for a non-canadian audience and assume most everyone reading it didn’t have a clue of who jian ghomeshi was before last sunday. or maybe they still don’t…
i know of him because a dear friend from canada once suggested someone i was dating looked “just like jian ghomeshi” and everyone at the table was like what who huh?! so she explained who jian ghomeshi was and, because this was before smart phones were a thing in the group of people i run with, we all went home and googled him and have, ever since, known who jian ghomeshi is.
jian ghomeshi dabbled in music in the early 90s and has been a broadcaster, primarily in radio and TV, in canada since the early oughts. he’s 47 years old. originally from london. in 2012, he wrote a book entitled 1982.
last sunday, he was fired from CBC. a CBC spokesperson said:”information came to our attention recently that in CBC’s judgment precludes us from continuing our relationship with Jian.” gawker’s Jian Ghomeshi: A Guide For Puzzled Americans is useful.
so, while there’s been no trial and ghomeshi hasn’t copped to any wrongdoing, by a standard of YES MEANS YES– which is the way the world should always work- it increasingly sounds like he’s not in the right here. dan savage’s analysis on that is interesting.
but i want to make a rather giant sidestep from the main story of ghomeshi’s alleged abuse of (at present) eight women (eight stories that are APPALLING [make that 9]) and look at two rather random historical precedents for the two issues at the margins of this story which have intrigued me.
my mother was 24 when elvis died.
my mother’s memory of hearing that dr. nick had given elvis a CA-RAZY pill prescription was that everybody knew dr. nick would give you any drugs you wanted.
my mother who was the straightest straight edge ever. and yet she knew that dr. nick was the one you went to.
as a kid i always heard this was when she was in high school, when she knew this. like, in the parking lot at the high school kids were talking about going to dr. nick for drugs. only just now did i realize she was 24 when he died and call her to see if i’d made this whole story up, and she said no, i did not, though she had probably been in college at the time.
in memphis in the 1970s, she said, it seemed like everyone knew someone who knew elvis. and so you’d hear how dr. nick gave out prescriptions for the diet pills the family doc wouldn’t give you and elvis used him too and that was the word on the street. elvis presley’s doctor would give college kids prescriptions for diet pills (ie. what we would now call amphetamines).
i always thought if we knew, my mother said, then the media people knew too.
if a straight-edge college kid knew, surely the press did.
keep bearing with me… it’s all going to come together. but, first, one more sidestep…
the media knew about jfk’s philandering.
many of jfk’s friends seem to have legitimately not realized the full extent of it. they knew he stepped out, yeah, but they didn’t know it was pathological. didn’t know how many 18, 19, 20 year old girls there were, how many women, day after day.
there was also the question of private lives, meaning: there were, at the time, things the press wouldn’t report about public figures, especially not the president.
pierre salinger, jfk’s press secretary, recounted a story of being asked point blank by a reporter about the president’s affairs. “I gave him a 1960s answer, not a 1990s answer: ‘Look, he’s the president of the United States. He’s got to work 14 to 16 hours a day. He’s got to run foreign and domestic policy. If he’s got time for mistresses after all that, what the hell difference does it make?’ The reporter laughed and walked out. That was the end of the story. For sure, I couldn’t get away with that in the ’90s.”
but there were whispers for YEARS.
in the run-up to the inauguration, TIME magazine- bastion of demure truths- admitted that the kennedy marriage had been “far from serene.” which is both epic understatement and a pretty epic piece of gossip for a weekly newsmagazine in january 1961.
by 1963, things were getting dangerous. in january, phil graham, in the midst of a manic episode, blurted out information about the president’s mistress at a convention of newspaper publishers in phoenix. it’s debatable whether the secret would’ve stayed secret into the 1964 election, but jfk was murdered and it wasn’t exposed/confirmed to the world at large until judith campbell exner’s press conference in 1975.
though still: throughout all that time, there were rumors. the movie magazines i’m reading from 1968, 1969, 1970, already they’re saying jackie’s marriage to jack wasn’t as wonderful as she wants us to believe. (this is also somehow always her fault.)
you’ll note everything i’m laying down here is american. we’re talking in a strictly american context when we talk about elvis in memphis and jfk in the white house, but these two anecdotes- of college kids in memphis knowing elvis’s doctor would give you the diet pills and the press corp in dc knowing jfk had a harem- point to the two things that i have been particularly intrigued by with the conversation around the jian ghomeshi scandal…
(which, i should point out, is not a sex scandal. the problem here is not that he cheated on someone. the problem is that he is accused of sexually abusing a number of women with whom he was intimate without their consent. the problem is sexual assault.)
which are (1) ghomeshi’s prior reputation, locally, as a predator and (2) the media’s restraint in reporting on that prior to the report of these allegations.
btw, this is a GIANT story in canada. a bit hard to get a sense of that elsewhere, but it is. (the daily beast has a rather obnoxious and tone-deaf take on the story as a “very canadian sex scandal” here, which makes the daily mail‘s article sound almost zen.)
there’ve been no articles on the gossip sites i read. on laineygossip, which is based in canada (hmmmmm…) or celebitchy, though the comments on yesterday’s emily ratajkowski post were hijacked with this…
the daily beast likened him to a combo of jimmy fallon and jon stewart, and he was also seen as something of an activist. in toronto, he was a local star, someone who would feature your choir on his show if he liked your stuff.
and yet, much like how everyone in memphis knew someone who knew elvis, so it seems everyone in toronto knows someone or has herself either been harassed by ghomeshi or exchanged facebook or twitter direct messages with him at some point.
from this xo.jane post widely believed to be about ghomeshi:
“In talking to my friends Crystal and Melissa, I found out that Keith has tried his same creepy-ass moves out on many other girls. He once lured a friend of theirs into a hotel room to “watch a movie,” and tried to sleep with her once she sat on the bed. She, too, had thought him harmless and gay beforehand.”
i always thought if we knew, my mother said, then the media people knew too.
the media people knew.
and the notion that the media have collaborated in covering up someone’s “true” (ie. dangerous) nature, that’s disillusioning.
(i’m reminded of an interview i did with kitty kelley where she talked about the difficulty of her publicity tour for her oprah book… no one wanted to interview her because kelley’s book- as are all her books- was “unauthorized” and they feared incurring the wrath of oprah.)
the xojane post was in june 2013.
per the ny times, the toronto star had been working on their story since may but “Its publication had been withheld, he [the editor] said, because none of the women had filed complaints with the police and there was no way to prove or disprove their accusations.” it was, in the end, what the editor calls ghomeshi’s “extraordinary statement” that precipitated publication. the “extraordinary statement” being ghomeshi’s facebook post where he basically pled fifty shades of gray.
that’s a challenge of this story. you saw it earlier when i felt the need to clarify that this is not a sex scandal- it’s about sexual assault. it’s so easy to conflate the two. to make this a story about jian ghomeshi liking kinky sex. he tried to make that pivot himself through the original facebook post, essentially saying, i like kinky sex and that’s what i’m being punished for! um… no. that the sex was kinky isn’t the issue. at issue is whether or not the women consented.
if fifty shades of gray normalized kinky sex and jian ghomeshi pleads fifty shades of gray then jian ghomeshi is suggesting that his behavior was normal- wild and hardcore, yes, but acceptable in the sense of not being criminal. which, in turn, suggests that this is acceptable:
She alleges that in the stairwell, Ghomeshi slammed her against a cement wall and she dropped her belongings. When she knelt to pick them up, he choked her from behind and struck her across the head.
when clearly it is not.
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