David and Goliath

Updated: 2014-10-26 @ 10:43PM -0400

At this point, whether or not anyone believes Jian Ghomeshi’s story is irrelevant. We haven’t seen anything resembling evidence of his misdeeds, or proof that he’s innocent of them. We don’t even have a clear statement from the CBC telling us why he was fired, nor any reason to believe one is forthcoming. All we do have is a couple of vague press releases and Ghomeshi’s own statement. Having taken stock of our limited resources, it’s a little early to hold him up as a victim or to brand him a criminal sex offender.

All we have is Ghomeshi’s statement, and considering the context of the allegations — a relationship gone bad, an alleged smear campaign — that’s a poor position on which to base an opinion. So, while we really shouldn’t bother evaluating the content of a hastily prepared yet exceptionally well structured plea for sympathy, we can certainly evaluate mechanics are work here, specifically the structural and cultural imbalances that heavily favour the well-loved, male, celebrity radio host.

First off, Ghomeshi has a massive platform from which to spread his message, which in this case is that he is the victim of smear campaign predicated on this affinity for kinky sex. As a hugely successful star of the CBC, it’s also relatively easy to presume that he also has some cash on hand, which he’s already used to hire Navigator, the country’s premier PR firm for public people who’ve found themselves in a mess of trouble. Less than 12 hours into this and Ghomeshi is already “out in front of this thing”.

The other party in this affair, who we only know exists thus far because Ghomeshi says so, won’t have those resources. It appears she might be working with Jesse Brown, host of the CANADALAND podcast, to find other women who share her story and bring their allegations to light, but, again, we only know that because Ghomeshi says so. That Jesse Brown has alluded to having some dirt is mostly meaningless. He’s holding his cards close, as you’d expect. If Ghomeshi says something false about this former lover, he can have his people manage it. If Brown gets this wrong, he’s fucked. And even if he gets it right, a guy who crowd-funds his paycheque (Disclosure: I’m a patron of the CANADALAND show) will have a hard time standing up to the PR blitzkrieg that awaits him.

There is no implied guilt for Ghomeshi just because he’s got the juice to have the pros handle his end of this affair, but it’s nonetheless important to understand the imbalance now, before the shit really hits the fan. Presenting Ghomeshi as sinner or a saint is premature; presenting him as a person with a much broader channel for presenting his side of the story is, in my view, fair and accurate.

It’s also unwise to take sides early in a broken relationship. Even if you hear both sides, neither will be the whole truth since people tend to leave out the parts that reflect poorly on themselves. You need a lot of context to know why a relationship failed and unless you were a part of it, you’ll probably never understand, even if you know all the facts.

What I can and will do in any case of alleged or implied abuse is wait to hear from the woman, and if she indeed makes an allegation, I’ll believe her. That creates a reverse onus, where the accused has to prove his innocence, but since 97% of sexual assault allegations turn out to be true, it’s a safe position to take. A staggering number of women are assaulted every year and a sorrowfully low number of them report, mostly because they’re sure, with good reason, they won’t be believed. The only way to change that is to recognize that assault happens, that it’s more common that we want to admit, that anyone can be a perpetrator, and that we have a duty to hear out any and all accusers.

That said, I’ll repeat that there are, as yet, no accusers in this case. All we know is that a popular guy lost his job, hired a PR firm, released a statement and started a firestorm of misinterpretations, allegations, recriminations and, amazingly, conclusions. That’s it. Anything else, including the aforementioned statement, is best viewed through the lens of reasonable doubt.

This isn’t about a popular radio show or your feelings about him. It’s about ensuring that all sides are heard and that celebrity isn’t allowed to trump the truth.

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