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.

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Mansplaining Men to Men

The news of yet another mass shooting in the United States, this time in California, and the rantings of the misogynist demon accused of committing the crime, revived a debate on Twitter between those who make broad and defensible generalizations about men, and those who don’t like being lumped in with the vicious fuckers who commit countless acts rape, spousal abuse, sexual assault, emotional assault, physical violence, stalking, harassment, and murder, to name just a few of crimes visited upon women every minute of every day.

This collision of the frequently abused and the easily offended has created the phrase, “not all men”.

Here’s an example…

Woman: “I don’t have to protect myself from rape, men have to stop raping.”

Man: “Hey, not all men rape. I’ve never committed rape in my life.”

Woman: “The vast majority of rapes are committed by men. Men need to deal with that shit.”

Man: “Making generalizations doesn’t exactly help your credibility. #NotAllMen”

If you’re a guy who’s never raped, killed, assaulted, demeaned, or in any other way abused or violated a woman, the subject of any generalization about the violence men visit upon women is not you. Do you love and respect the women in your life? Good you you, bucko. Just keep on keeping on, it’s not about you.

And you don’t have an obligation to defend males, either in small groups (Canadian Men!, Toronto Men!) or large ones (All Men, Everywhere!). As we just discussed, you, me and all the other men who don’t commit atrocities against women now know that women aren’t talking about us. The men who are being referenced are evil shit-eating motherfuckers who neither deserve, nor would appreciate the spirited defence you were about to kick off with that “not all men” line.

With so many vile men out there, it’s understandable that women might choose to speak in generalities rather than taking the time to identify the innumerable strata of men, which range from pretty good to fucking awful, with all degrees of despicable found in between.

But we don’t have to worry about that; we members of the “not about us” club can join in a modest, but not over-long bit of self-congratulation for our general decency toward women. (And “General decency” is about as far as we should go with the self-congratulating. Unless you’ve never talked down to, or discounted the opinion of a female co-worker, or presumed familiarity where it didn’t exist? Instead of taking offence, why not take stock.)

We men run the entire world, make most of the rules and change them regularly to suit our tastes. Even day labourers without a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of have integral advantages over most, if not all women. Men do not need reinforcement, gender takes care of that for us.

As Superman’s nephew said, “With great power comes great responsibility”. So just because you aren’t the topic of this conversation doesn’t mean you can sit on your ass and allow the women you supposedly love and cherish be abused; and statistically some or all of the women close to you will suffer some abuse in their lifetimes. A sickeningly high number of rapes and other assaults go unreported because the woman who’s been assaulted doesn’t think she’ll be believed. If you want to stay on the good side of this thing, you gotta earn that shit.

Finally, if you find yourself taking potshots at people for making generalizations about men when, seemingly, those same people resist generalizations about themselves, just go back to the top and re-read this whole thing. You haven’t got it yet. Give it time, though. You’ll get there, sport.

Edited: May 25th, 2014…when you write in the middle of the night, typos will happen.

The #voteTO Candidate Power Rankings – May 5, 2014

In what should be a regular feature on the site, but probably won’t because I’m awful at updating consistently, here are this week’s Toronto Municipal Election Candidate Power Rankings…

MAJOR PLAYERS
Serious Candidate: David Soknacki (Policy Serious), Olivia Chow (Front-runner Serious)
Joke Candidates: Karen Stintz, John Tory
Not In On The Joke Candidate: Sarah Thomson
Rob Ford: Rob Ford
Alternate Rob Ford: Doug Ford, Don Andrews

HONOURABLE MENTIONS
Deserves More Attention: Morgan Baskin
Deserves Less Attention: Ari Goldkind
Most Twitter Accounts: Kevin Clarke

 

Letter to Q, re: Rape Culture Debate

There are, I think, two things to consider when choosing to air something like today’s Q panel regarding rape culture: first, are we addressing an important issue, or talking around it? Second, will the contrasting ideas that might be presented move the conversation forward? In my view, your debate failed on both counts. Debating the existence of rape culture is a lazy way of being seen to talk about something important without actually having to address its ugly causes and tragic results.

Sexual assault does exist on college campuses, sexual assaults continue to go overwhelmingly unreported, and we, as a culture, freely joke about prison rape, as though it’s somehow justified and thus, less heinous. This is indicative of a culture takes rape seriously only in principle (“Rape is bad!”) but not in practice (“You shouldn’t have dressed like that.”). A show, such as yours, that claims to present progressive content, as any arts program must, should have the good sense to avoid discussing the existence of something they is regularly and tragically proven to exist.

Women aren’t sexually assaulted because they walk through parking lots and men aren’t blameless because they get drunk; rather these are symptoms of a culture that consistent fails to act to protect victims and punish rapists. A national broadcaster should strongly consider the implications of handing over its broad forum to regressive ideas about the cause and prevention of rape, ideas like those presented on your program today by Heather MacDonald.

Your debate failed to directly address an issue of great social importance, and Jian, in his role as moderator, failed to guide the debate away from dangerous generalizations (“If rape culture existed, parents wouldn’t put their kids in school!”) and back toward a meaningful discussion that advanced our understanding of our culture’s shameful disregard for the victims of rape.

However well intentioned you might have been in presenting this piece, the end result was a disservice to women and a discredit to the show.

Yours,

Joshua Hind
Toronto

Build it, jerks!

Thursday’s Globe and Mail will bring another in a recent trend of thin arguments in favour of reasonably debatable development projects, written by Marcus Gee.

In his latest, Gee, who has recently used his column to attack critics of the Bathurst St. Walmart project and the island airport expansion, has turned his sights on anyone who dares ask irritatingly detailed questions about the Mirvish/Gehry project, a set of 3 super-massive towers, complete with a truly Gehry-esque crumple of newspaper at the bottom, proposed for the northeast corner of King and John. The project, which would include an art gallery/tax write-off (something dutifully noted by anyone writing in favour of the project), would, in it’s currently proposed form, require the demolition of a number of heritage buildings, as well as the Princess of Wales Theatre.

Writing with exactly the right level of exasperation, Gee bemoans Toronto’s small-mindedness and nitpicking, the sum of which he describes as “pettifogging”. (One suspects he wrote the entire column just to have a chance to use the word pettifogging, thinking it might make him sound Conrad Black-ish.) Not only does Gee think the City of Toronto is making life too hard for Messrs Mirvish and Gehry, he also tries to convince us that the specific concerns with the project, as raised by Toronto’s planning staff, are frivolous.

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Letter to the Public Editor (Updated)

To: Kathy English, Public Editor, Toronto Star
From: Joshua Hind
Date: 2013-Jul-05

RE: Toronto Star story, “Toronto car crash at Bay and Lake Shore raises questions about road safety”, originally printed 2013-Jul-04, online version edited 2013-Jul-05

Ms. English,

I write today to call into question the reporting of the Toronto Star and writer Andrew Livingston in the story entitled, “Toronto car crash at Bay and Lake Shore raises questions about road safety”. The story in question not only fails to present the facts about the collision in any great detail, it also gives the reader the false impression that the pedestrians involved in the accident either share the blame for the collision, or were perhaps the cause of it.

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The Last Action Items

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Today I broadcast my last Action Items segment on my last edition of the Friday Morning After. On this week’s segment, we look at today’s meeting between the Prime Minister and native leaders that may or may not happen. We give some perspective to the Attawapiskat audit and we go back in time to cap off the Action Items with a Greatest Hit.

Can we talk?? M-312 and the debate on debating.

http://www.joshuahind.com/Audio/ActionItemsPodcast_20121005.mp3

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A large, and largely annoyed group of national columnists can’t fathom why it’s so difficult to have what they’d classify as a “civil debate” on the issue of abortion rights. Why won’t so-called “radical feminists” sit down and talk about an issue on which there’s such clear division in the country? The reasoning escapes them.

In an attempt to perform a public service to national columnists everywhere, I explain why the abortion debate isn’t really a debate at all. In fact, it’s more like negotiating the terms of women’s surrender.

Quickly, on the Princess of Wales closing…

My mind is really a jumble of thoughts about the announcement of the closing of the Princess of Wales Theatre and it’s replacement by a triplet of jumbo-sized Frank Gehry condo towers. I will attempt to boil down a couple of the thoughts here, for your enjoyment.

First, let me say that I really couldn’t care what was replacing the theatre. The fact that it’s condos is largely irrelevant. Being an ardent defender of condos has become nearly as hip as being a detractor them and I’d rather not have anything to do with any of that. It could be a shopping mall, or an aquarium, or a Home Depot. The net affect on the Toronto theatre business would be the same. It’s one less theatre, not matter how you cut it.

Now, what about David Mirvish’s contention that the city has more theatre’s than it needs?

At this moment in the history of Toronto’s theatre industry, with the addition of several qualifications, he’s not necessarily wrong.

  1. He is correct that the city currently has more theatres of that size than it can fill. The failure of Dancap at the Toronto Centre for the Performing Arts in North York (and later when he moved his show to the Four Seasons Centre) helps demonstrate that Toronto is having a hard time filling large theatres with audiences for larger shows.
  2. However, when you get the right show, like War Horse or Rock of Ages, you don’t have a problem at all. So, is the problem that there are too many theatres, or that Mirvish isn’t as good at picking the shows anymore?
  3. Also, if there are more seats in the downtown area than companies to fill them, the blame for that has to rest in part with David Mirvish himself, who’s spent the last 15 years buying up or forcing out anyone who might compete with him.

With Mirvish’s acquisition of the Pantages (aka Canon Theatre, aka The Mirvish Theatre), he now owns every major theatre in the downtown area, with the exception of the Elgin and Wintergarden, which are owned by the Province of Ontario through the Ontario Heritage Trust. Two of those theatres, (the Pantages and the Panasonic) he won in a protracted legal battle with Aubrey Dan.

I’m certainly I’m not alone in contending that Dancap’s loss of those downtown theatres contributed to the ultimate demise of his company. And it follows that the demise of the only remaining major competition to the Mirvish bought-in theatre empire contributed to the alleged excess of theatre space which David bemoned in The Star’s piece on his proposed redevelopment.

But let’s go back to the original statement, that Toronto has an excess of theatre space.

Toronto does NOT have an excess of theatre space. Just because there are couple of big barns sitting empty does not in any way equate an overall excess of space. Toronto, for example, has a dearth of good medium-sized spaces, in the 200-500 seat range, which is arguably the best sized space for Toronto’s market. All you need to do is look at the Young Centre, where Soulpepper is using a 200 seat and 400 seat theatre very effectively to know that good pieces presented in the right sized space can equal success for an independent company. The only downside is that in Soulpepper’s case they’ve done it so well they use the spaces too thoroughly and there’s no room for anyone else.

For independent companies, that leaves Harbourfront and maybe the Berkeley. The former being well equipped and busy. The latter being less well equipped and expensive.

The absence of spaces in that range means that Toronto has a limited ability to promote good companies within its own community. A great production at Tarragon, for example, is likely to live and die in that space because there’s no where bigger for it to go, should it find critical and audience success. Toronto lacks a clear Off-Off > Off > Broadway path and that not only limits how far a good small company can go, but also ensure that our larger spaces will only ever be occupied by bought-in American theatre. We have the scrappy independent companies, we have the big barns, and there’s precious little in between.

So, if David Mirvish were announcing today that he was replacing the Princess of Wales with another Young Centre-style complex, that would be cause for excitement. As it stands, we’re simply left with less. Less of something we aren’t using so much at the moment, but less nonetheless.

Oh…and what’s so great about getting the latest in a long line of late-90’s Gehry deconstructivism? Why don’t we just build a drive-in theatre next door, if outdated trends are what really define the city?

Election Roundtable on the Aug. 3rd FMA

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On Aug. 1, Premier Jean Charest ended months of speculation and called an election for Sept. 4, 2012. If we were to say things like, “this election will prove to be incredibly contentious”, or “Jean Charest has a real fight on his hands”, well…we’d sound like every other crappy radio station in the province. In an effort to be different, I, the relatively new resident of Quebec (who’s voting in his first Quebec provincial election) will make some wildly irrational statements and our esteemed panel will call me names.

Undertaking this harrowing task is our Justice League of Independent Journalists:

  • Justin Ling, a veteran of the Friday Morning After and the record-holder for most f-words used in a single show, is a freelance writer who frequently appears in Xtra and OpenFile Montreal;
  • Adam Kovac is also a freelance writer who was part of the one of the best student strike/media-related Twitter wars I’ve ever seen. He also writes for Link Newspaper, Shtetl Magazine and OpenFile Montreal;
  • And Christopher Curtis has been described by…someone…as the Hunter S Thompson of Montreal journalists. He is also freelance and writes for the Gazette, OpenFile Montreal and Link Newspaper.
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