Opinions

It’s not a question of guilt; it’s a question of identity

Photo by Tina Wallace

Jian Ghomeshi was my first-ever interview. Last year, I interviewed him for a profile piece for the Fulcrum. He was emceeing an event at the National Art Gallery, and near the end of the night I approached him about taking a couple of minutes to give me a few quotes. I’ll always be grateful to the man who, seeing a student journalist in jeans at a black tie event, gave up 20 minutes of his time from what was obviously a very busy night.

For a long time fan-boy of Ghomeshi’s radio program Q, the interview was a dream come true. I had spent years listening to Q, and was delighted when the show became more popular and critically acclaimed. Because of this, the show eventually became one of the most reputable radio programs in North America.

Such a large part of why I loved the show, and why I think it earned such widespread success, had to do with Ghomeshi. He researched the work of every guest on the show, and demonstrated a thoughtfulness, restraint, and compassion that served as a reflection of who I wanted to be.

Read More: Jian Ghomeshi: renaissance man

The most noteworthy example of this came in 2009, when Ghomeshi went head-to-head with actor Billy Bob Thornton during a heated interview, eventually triumphing over Thornton’s bravado and rudeness with class and intelligence. When singer Michael Bublé appeared on Q later that year, he articulated how many of us felt after watching Ghomeshi’s handling of the encounter: “You made me proud to be Canadian.”

Everything about being a fan of his work was personal. He was one of us. We trusted him. If the information that has come to light since the CBC’s dismissal of Ghomeshi on Oct. 26 has done nothing else, it has eroded this trust.

In his now infamous Facebook post, he defends himself against allegations of sexual violence that he allegedly committed against multiple women on the grounds that one’s private life should not have any bearing on one’s professional life.

“I’ve been fired from the CBC because of the risk of my private sex life being made public as a result of a campaign of false allegations pursued by a jilted ex-girlfriend and a freelance writer,” he wrote.

He claims he has “done nothing wrong.”

Outside of the fact that the increasingly disturbing allegations of sexual violence filed against Ghomeshi seem to contradict this statement, the Q radio host seems to fundamentally misunderstand his listeners’ relationship with his work.

This relationship was emotional in nature, and it blurred the lines between who he was as a person and who he was professionally on Q. After all, what other radio show do you know of that begins each episode with a personal essay?

Our relationship with Ghomeshi was even more personal than our connection to a favourite film director, author, or any other well-respected figure in the arts and culture community, because the radio host never hid behind works of fiction to define who he was. Now that this relationship has been irreparably compromised, Ghomeshi’s firing from CBC seems unavoidable. After all, the CBC has its own identity to consider.

As a public broadcaster, the news organization is not only accountable for its internal affairs, but also for representing all Canadians through their choice of programming. Because Ghomeshi and his show no longer represent pervasive Canadian interests and values, the decision to let him go is more than justified.

We may never know the truth about the extent of Ghomeshi’s actions, but at this point the facts are irrelevant; we can no longer identify with him.

For better or worse, we are all guilty of projecting ourselves onto certain celebrities, and for many Canadians that sense of self is no longer represented by Jian Ghomeshi.

While Ghomeshi’s firing from the CBC is unfortunate, especially since it will most likely result in the loss of the best arts and culture program we have in this country, it was absolutely necessary.