LETTER TO CBC RADIO
Many on CBC Radio have commented on the Ghomeshi squalor. Anna Maria Tremonti, your finest interviewer when she’s in top form, joined with three guests recently discussing whether these events represented a watershed for women.
The discussion proved pretty insipid, but there was truth in the notion of a watershed, not however the watershed discussed, that of a turn in male-female social relations, but one quite different.
CBC Radio, on all programs, has always paid lip service to female equality, just as it does so many progressive concepts. But the reality behind the words we now know is something quite different, and it wasn’t just Ghomeshi’s behavior which revealed it.
I cannot accept that other staff and CBC management were not aware of Ghomeshi’s reputation and office behavior for years. That kind of stink cannot be hidden. It reached even outsiders with one professor at Western reported as having advised students to avoid interning at Q. I certainly didn’t know the extent of things, but in Ghomeshi’s early broadcasting, I clearly heard stuff I would call “smarmy” in his references and emphases, something entirely alien to the sound of CBC, and I wrote CBC several times and ceased listening.
For his behavior to be tolerated so very long means only that CBC management deliberately chose ratings over ethics, making the network not a bit different to the ruthless enterprises most hosts on CBC would decry.
But there is a long thread to this theme. Toronto just had four years of a disgraceful man as Mayor. CBC typically, once the stories broke elsewhere, reported on his drunkenness and some other shameful behavior, but it always, always avoided the elephant in the room, his abuse of women. A while before he was elected, Ford had been arrested and taken away in handcuffs while his wife displayed a discolored face. She never pressed charges, as we can well imagine why. Other news sources reported that, not you.
The most shocking display of his abuse was his frenetic sudden “press conference” after making insane public comments earlier about “eating pussy” (his very words). He literally dragged his shy wife before the cameras after fetching her from home. She stood as she was directed, but took a couple of steps away and looked down, resembling a brow-beaten prisoner. Sometimes she looked up, and she fiddled with her ring finger, but did not perform the “dutiful wife smiles as her husband speaks“ routine. Her body language spoke volumes. No one on CBC Radio ever dealt with this public, virtually criminal behavior so far as I’m aware.
Ford also was reported by a woman Toronto politician as having touched her and spoken lewdly, and what did CBC Radio do with that? Or the several times he took prostitutes to his office, something we only learned from others.
Now, just a short time before writing this, CBC Radio news reported on controversy swirling around Justin Trudeau’s decisive act of suspending two MPs over sexual harassment of others. Controversy? Trudeau acted perfectly after one of the women involved herself came to him complaining. His was a high standard of behavior, the only one. Only the National Post and the NDP’s leader, both ever hopeful for a point to score against Trudeau, see controversy here.
I think it clear CBC has consistently failed for years to act – in its reporting, discussions, and in not conducting any investigative journalism around such matters – on the principles to which it gives endless lip service. That is the real watershed: the discovery that CBC’s conduct is hardly different from the gorillas it’s always decrying.