The other problem with ‘Q'

The other problem with ‘Q’

Colby Cosh on why the fans of Q rushed, initially and shamefully, to defend Jian Ghomeshi



Is Jian Ghomeshi, as of this moment, the most comprehensively humiliated person in the history of Canada? It is hard to imagine another candidate. As the star of CBC’s Q—let’s just review the chain of events here—Ghomeshi started to get nervous about his reputation for behaving disrespectfully to women. He demanded a pre-emptive court-martial from his employer, hoping to establish that he didn’t have a problem.

He got fired when his dossier of visual materials somehow failed to demonstrate the groovy consensuality of his sadistic bedroom activities. He decided that losing his rag publicly on Facebook was an appropriate follow-up to this. And then he disappeared altogether, as nearly a dozen women, appalled by his protestations of innocence, came forward with converging stories of not-so-groovy never-signed-up-for assault.

Ghomeshi’s suicide bombing of his own reputation led some writers to praise him, in an odd combination of handwashing and valediction, as a great host and interviewer despite his sins. I am afraid this goes to show that the defensive instincts of the Torontonian legacy-media claque operate even in a time of shame and soul-searching. If Ghomeshi really had any talent, it is hard to explain why the only moment in his career that anybody seems to remember with any vividness is his awkward 2009 collision with a truculent, peeved Billy Bob Thornton.

Certainly that is the highlight, the shred of Jian Ghomeshi that will survive: one short segment of legendarily awful radio. Ghomeshi’s downfall gave the Thornton clip a second life in the U.S., where it popped up often. It was about the only reason any American, aside from public-radio trainspotters and a few unfortunate FCC regulators, might have heard of Jian Ghomeshi

Q is, in theory, an “arts magazine” show. It has made Ghomeshi a sort of national compère, juxtaposing CanLit grannies and media blowhards with grade-A pop-star guests and amassing visibility from being at the centre of it all. He hosted the Giller prize gala for years, and was involved in the Polaris Music Prize, despite a near-total lack of militant taste, visible passion or discernible learning. No one seems to have thought it odd, much less brain-scaldingly inappropriate, that the Cute One Out of Moxy Früvous had come to be sitting in judgment on the music of Feist and Ron Sexsmith and Joel Plaskett.

Q, being the big weekday arts show on Radio One, can never just be an arts show: It inevitably tends to become a party establishment, a Transport House or a Reform Club for the country’s tight-knit Anglo creatives. Who could deny this? For, after all, did Ghomeshi’s Q carry on feuds? Did it disapprove, ever, of anything certified by the prize-lavish Canadian establishment? Did Jian Ghomeshi ever admit that some book or record, or even some writer or performer, bored him? Surely he was no more capable of it than Typhoid Mary was of getting typhoid.

It is not the purpose of Q to express individuality, but to express power, the harmonious, sweetly liberal, eternally-in-opposition power of the arts community. The show is not just coincidentally redolent of self-satisfaction: It is designed to communicate self-satisfaction, in the medical sense of “communicate.” The fans of Q are those who venerate the spiritual power of the traditional arts, and they rushed, unwisely and shamefully, to defend Ghomeshi, suggesting at first that he had been the victim of a Conservative party conspiracy. This cannot be accounted for, except on the premise that Ghomeshi was the leader-guru of a cult. Don’t we all know how cult leaders generally end up treating women?

The Toronto Star’s Kevin Donovan reports that when he confronted Ghomeshi about abuse allegations in a recent chance meeting, Ghomeshi told him, “You need to watch yourself . . . People in this city need to understand that I have a long memory.” Any normal person—let’s say, someone who earned his living making or fixing something—would surely react to this threat by saying, “Uh, you’re some douche with a radio show. What are you gonna do, sing a crappy comedy folk song about me?”

Imagine a world so crowded, unhealthy, and inbred that Ghomeshi could feel confident in making such a threat. Imagine that he could, in fact, create a regime of sexual terror that famous, experienced women hesitated to defy. Imagine that, even now, people are lined up in the hundreds, hoping to enter that world, praying for a chance to cling to its fringes. If you can.


The other problem with ‘Q’

  1. This ranks among your best, though I’m pretty sure the Typhoid Mary analogy doesn’t actually work.

  2. It’s so easy for Colby Cash write this story ‘now’. Just like it’s easy to criticize listeners of Q to going to JGs defence when this broke ‘now’. Hindsight is 20-20 so don’t sound so smug. Even I, a woman, couldn’t believe what was happening. I’m not a ‘Q groupie’ either. I’m 54, loved the show, the guests, the essays, Elvira etc. I knew nothing about him. At all. Calling Canadian authors CanLit Grannies is awful. Miriam Toews? She’s all of what, 35? 40? Anyone who writes a column now – with everything we know – and craps all over anyone who defended him at the start, or the supporters of Canada’s ‘Art Show’ is as low as JG is turning out to be. Funny how zero people in the industry (journalists included) have opened their mouths BEFORE any of this was out; and probably knew a lot more than the Q listeners and Q, the show, you feel the need to bash. Talk about narcissistic. It has so much less impact when people like Colby Cash are jumping on this ‘l knew he was guilty’ verdict and he was ‘nothing before or after the Billy Bob interview’. That’s bullshit for starters. Q was the CBCs golden ticket, and Jian, the golden boy, and you know it. It’s just too easy to be critical now.’Now’ that there is enough evidence to put the guy away for a while. Shame on you Mr. Smug, Colby Cash.

    • CanLit Grannies – absolutely perfect. Most CBC arts shows are nothing but mutual backscratching. I gave up listening to CBC radio years ago: I couldn’t stand the suffocating “just us” mentality that permeates the programming. I suspect many complaining about present coverage are basically just venting their disappointment over losing their cuddly idol.
      CBC is intensely important to those who listen/watch, but essentially irrelevant to anyone else.

    • The obvious explanation for writing this story now is that it has currency given the Jian Ghomeshi affair. There have been plenty of pieces written that criticize CBC programming and its fans – the National Post used to have a regular column called “CBC Watch.” The fact that you don’t seem to have been aware of it tends to point to the insularity that Cosh highlights.

    • I loved the show.

      And that’s what your anger towards Colby is all about. Get over it. You were wronged. Betrayed even. It happens. It’s not Mr. Cosh’s fault, and it’s kind of his job to write about these things.

  3. As a someone who thinks of myself as a small “l” liberal and a CBC Radio fan, I stopped listening to Ghomeshi ages ago. He was a bit too smug and narcissistic for my liking. I would generally change the station when he came on. Guess my Spidey sense was right-on.

    • … he said ironically.

  4. Are you sure this column explains “why the fans of Q rushed, initially and shamefully, to defend Jian Ghomeshi”? I’m pretty sure one sentence could have done that:

    Because people tend to accept the words of people whose credibility they’ve been given no reason to doubt when they lack a contradictory narrative.

    The piece above would be better described as an incoherent baring of Cosh’s feelings of inferiority.

    • On the original story, (after which any further comments were banned) the G & M had about 500 comments blaming Ghomeshi’s firing on the “Harper-appointed CBC executive”, and how they were unfairly judging him for his sex life. It stands to reason that someone now writes a column to point out all the egg on their faces. You should be thanking Colby reminding you to peel it off.

      • Let me know if you want to disagree with anything I wrote.

        But regarding the egg on my face, please do tell.

    • He did explain it in one sentence.

      “I am afraid this goes to show that the defensive instincts of the Torontonian legacy-media claque operate even in a time of shame and soul-searching.”

      • Media Party!

        But yes, when there was no accuser and the only accusation was what was described by Ghomeshi himself, it was a time of “shame and soul-searching”.

        Now, pull the other one.

  5. Look up “innocent until proven guilty”, Colby. Until then go away with this crap about “shameful” behaviour.

    • The concept ‘innocent until proven guilty’ applies in the court of law. It does not preclude magazine columnists making public criticisms of obvious wrong-doing.

      • “If Ghomeshi really had any talent” – this might be the most wrongheaded reaction I’ve read, and like many I’ve read plenty (read: too much) on this topic already. This is the guy who got an entire generation listening to the CBC, myself included. He got fans for our national broadcaster across the globe. He got hour long interviews with Bjork and Leonard Cohen the likes of which I’d never heard (and since when did a good critic of the arts themselves need to be good artists? – rarely the twain do meet). Also, to be clear, his talent runs deeper than the ability to book mega-watt artists who tend to shun all media. Have a listen to any of the lovely and intelligent folks trying to take his place. Tom Power, Piya Chattopadhyay. They aren’t even close.

        He was always too smug for his own good, and as far as musicianship … I saw him once perform solo, post Moxy-Fruvous at a singer-songwriter night that included Ron Sexmith. To state the obvious Ghomeshi’s gifts did not lie in the singing-songwriting category. But the less than upstanding Canadian has an abundant set of gifts elsewhere. He may well be getting all he deserves, but let’s be fair, Q was masterful and Canada could do with more shows and hosts of that ilk.

        • Yes, Q’s production team (who were responsible for the bookings, the research, the interview questions, writing the show’s introductory monologue) sure were talented.

        • He knew how to read a script. He spent decades cultivating his uber-sensitive mannerisms and progressive credentials. His talent is in being a narcissist capable of pulling the wool over the eyes of others. His talent was in hiding his true character – that of a despicable little worm.

        • Ghomeshi was apparently paid just under $500,000 a year when his mediocre talent was worth a tenth of that. Without the conscripted taxes of people unimpressed by Ghomeshi, his admirers like you could never have rattled up the change to pay this very over-rated gabber and poseur the big bucks. His ego was larger than his talent and now the ego has been knocked down to match the talent.

  6. This is a mean-spirited jibe perhaps by a mean-spirited person, CC. Jian Ghomeshi was a superb interviewer. His interview a few years back with 2 former members of Westboro Baptist Church was a masterpiece in so many ways. Now we know JG has serious problems. He must pay whatever penalty there is to pay. But that doesn’t include humiliation and ridicule. Wente of G and M thought ostracism was right for him. Ostracism and ridicule are not the path to rehabilitation. And now to kick the man when he is down. Accuse him of having no talent! How….jejune, to use the word properly whereas Coyne can’t. What a miserable little club of self-satisfied journos we have in Canada. CC, you’re no JG. Now journos (are you still with me?) want to give Justin Trudeau the JG treatment. Strip down JT’s response to the new allegations and desperately seek ways to show he erred as grievously as JG did. JT won’t get a chance to fight an election. If there are despicable things done now by our government, our government will do despicable things to make sure he can’t fight and win an election. The government we are currently receiving is too ‘important’ to be lost to a guy like JT. Pathetic journalism in this country.

    • Ah, so you’re concerned Canada’s other favourite progressive might suffer the same fate? Is that why you defend Ghomeshi? Do you have any idea how amusing that is to some of us?

    • So what is Ghomeshi? A talking head? He doesn’t write his questions, he doesn’t do the research, he doesn’t get into the trends, etc, etc. Yet his circle attributed qualities to him that he doesn’t really possess. Didn’t anyone see through that? He walked around with all this artificial status and everyone let him get away with it and his inappropriate behaviour at the social scene he was a part of. He was propped up the production team. So his listeners were duped into believing that he was a great guy but suddenly he was being accused of being a creep. Did you really think that he was that great? You bought a product and then suddenly the real person was exposed.

  7. Jeez .. Cosh tripped over his cat and accidently hit the scanner
    on the radio flipping the dial from Charles Adler to Q while the
    cat was yowling in the background .. and this is what you get.

    • Your world is crashing down around you eh? Well it’s going to get worse before it gets better. Best grow a thicker skin.

  8. LMAO at the last 2 paragraphs of this piece. “Uh, you’re some douche with a radio show. What are you gonna do, sing a crappy comedy folk song about me?”.

    Well done.

    • That was the best part. The idea of the little beta-male Jian threatening anyone seems absurd. Among a crowd of normal guys at a neighbourhood pub, such a threat would have netted him an instant bitch-slap, with an offer of a more significant beating should he wish to continue the conversation outside. But among Toronto’s cultural elite, he was “intimidating”.

      • But then, amongst the oil-patch crowd, he’d have only to have made a face.

  9. “You need to watch yourself?!”

    What was Jian going to do Kevin Donovan? Send Big Ears Teddy after him!

  10. I’m of two minds on this column 1) I always thought Ghomeshi was a douche and LOVE a good ole pile-on as much as the next guy– though I always thought the guests on the show were interesting and listened when I could. 2) Cosh sounds like someone who’s mad he doesn’t live in Toronto so doesn’t get invited to the parties. And after reading Cosh for years I know he doesn’t give a flying f&%$# about that (and is quite happy to live in Edmonton to boot). But really, it’s possible to have liked the show and been happy for the CBCs success with it while finding it’s host creepy– hell, that’s how I feel about the National!

    Anyhow, bash the CBC and Margaret Atwood you rebel you blah blah blah… way to kind of miss the point.

  11. Throwing Q fans under the bus because of Jian’s assault history?? People sick of talking heads on Sun News or CNN or MTV or Muchmusic simply wanted a place to plug into the arts without having to be smashed over the head with cliched Q&A or commerical driven spots.
    I think it’s pretty rich also for this opinionated piece, that the very next page I turn in MacLeans is a puff Q&A piece from a one Conrad Black. Wonder what this auteur thinks of his very own ‘cult’ of MacLeans giving Black yet another platform to tell Canadians how lucky we should feel, let alone one to buy another of his books. Do tell us how worth time spent interviewing & featuring a Conrad Black is such a breath of fresh media coverage. I’ll take Q thank you very much with a new host in the chair.
    To somehow bundle fans of Q into this sex assault case is absurd, insulting, degrading, & beyond comprehension. We did not enable any ‘cult’ of action when all we’re looking for in this rat infested media era some coverage that isn’t SCREAMING IN OUR FACES or smashing us over the head with a commerical hammer.

  12. Your menstruation metaphor for his Facebook rant is really Freudian.

  13. This is sooo on the money. The downtown Toronto Liberal artsy cabal are such lemmings. CanLit Grannies says it all. They huddle around their CBC radio shows patting each other on the back and declaring how smart and with it they are. It is a known fact that the Liberal intelligentsia are so besotted with appearances that some notable icon just has to declare a trend and they all follow it with the devotion of bloodhounds. Likewise, attack one of their icons or their beloved CBC and they start frothing at the mouth. Now that we know the BBC has been harbouring pedophiles for decades, what else is the CBC hiding? Is Ghomeshi an outlier or is there a culture at the CBC that promotes this type of behaviour?