In the past week Jian Ghomeshi’s reputation has taken a ninety degree nosedive, both in popularity and credibility. A social media accusation that quickly gained momentum has essentially ruined his career permanently. It seems like everyday there is a new story of a woman who was sexually assaulted, abused, or harassed by him. This begs the question, why now? Why, if there were so many women, especially prominent women like Lucy DeCoutere, and Reva Seth who were abused by him did it take an anonymous Twitter campaign to have everything come crashing down.
Up until now, Jian Ghomeshi was the kind of celebrity that you could picture yourself hanging out with. Ghomeshi, over the course of his career has cultivated a relatability that extends from his television persona as the host of Q on CBC to his very personal Facebook page. Ghomeshi, prior to his 9+ accusation of sexual assault, let 100,000 people into his life everyday from his professional successes to his personal turmoil. Because of this, we got to know him, we grew to trust him as a competent representative of Canadian multiculturalism. We watched his show, followed him on Twitter, and decided that he was what we valued in our thriving metropolis of Toronto.
Ghomeshi’s persona illustrates the power that properly utilized social media can have on the outcome of a story, and how it can get that story on the front page. When this story first broke out Ghomeshi was initially very vocal about the abuse allegations, posting a lengthy Facebook post about his sexual preferences and claiming that he would never intentionally hurt a woman. Many were swayed by his story because he had the floor, nobody was listening to the women who he had abused, until @bigearsteddy came forward this past April.
Sexual abuse victims most often do not report their abuse. They feel as though they will not be believed, or the attack will be blamed on the victim. Anonymity, especially in sexual abuse cases, as well as strength in numbers are crucial to an abuser being caught. The problem is that it has to start with someone. Because Twitter allows for accounts under Pdeudonyms, @bigearsteddy was able to have her voice heard without the personal backlash typically associated with abuse victims. The feed quickly went viral, and more women began coming forward both on social media and to the press. Sources of the Toronto Star, including some of his alleged victims, say Ghomeshi was always extremely focused on his social media presence, frequently checking Twitter and Facebook to see if he is mentioned”.
According to Reva Seth, one of Ghomeshi’s alleged victims, social media is a tool that both aids in giving victims a voice and shuts them down. She stated in an interview with the Huffington Post that “most women don’t publicly or even privately share similar experiences [for fear of]: judgment, online trolls, the questioning of all your other choices”. This is exemplified at the beginning of this campaign, when commenters who sided with Ghomeshi took to calling his unidentified “ex-girlfriend” derogatory slurs.
Recently, the Ghomeshi situation has escalated and he was dropped by Navigator, a public relations firm based in Toronto hired to handle his case. According to The Star “Navigator is a firm known for helping high-profile individuals and companies perform damage control at difficult times. Navigator issued a statement Thursday saying “the circumstances of our engagement have changed and we are no longer able to continue.” Officials say they have a policy preventing them from discussing current or former clients”.
While Ghomeshi’s Twitter following is depleting, Sidnie Georgina of @bigearsteddy is rapidly gaining momentum, as are the allegations against Ghomeshi. If the social media outcry keeps going the way it is, it’s safe to say Ghomeshi’s reputation has taken a big hit.
Update (Nov. 26): Jian Ghomeshi was arrested by Toronto police and charged with sex crimes on the morning of November 26, 2014. He’s been charged with four counts of sexual assault and one count of overcome resistance – choking. In the meantime, his $55M lawsuit against CBC being withdrawn, in favour of the latter.
Update (April 15): Jian Ghomeshi report from independent investigator hired by CBC is due this upcoming Thursday. Janice Rubin, a Toronto employment lawyer with expertise in the field of workplace harassment, was chosen in the fall of 2014 to lead an independent probe into the scandal that erupted around Ghomeshi as women came forward with sexual assault. The report will include a summary of individual complaints and concerns, and recommendations on how CBC should handle them.
Update (April 16): CBC independent inquiry concluded today that CBC management mishandled Jian Ghomeshi. During a conference call with reporters on April 16, CBC president Hubert Lacroix and Heather Conway, executive vice-president of English Services, apologized to employees and to Canadians in general. “We can do better,” they said. It was also announced that two senior managers — radio executive Chris Boyce and human resources executive Todd Spencer — had been let go from the corporation.
Update (May 12): The Crown dropped 2 sex assault charges against Jian Ghomeshi, leaving the former CBC Radio host to stand trial on five charges of sex assault and one charge of choking).
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