Questions I'm asking when a violent sexual abuser is given a platform by the NYRB

If you're going to read Jian Ghomeshi's piece in the New York Review of Books, you should also read a piece by at least one of his 24 victims. I suggest this one, by Kathryn Borel, from 2014. It's a personal account, like Ghomeshi's, and it's only half the length.

And here's some additional ideas to consider:

What justification did the NYRB give for providing this platform to Ghomeshi?

This interview with the editor, Ian Buruma, is brutal through and through, but here's an excerpt that summarizes things pretty well.

"The exact nature of [Ghomeshi's] behaviour—how much consent was involved—I have no idea, nor is it really my concern. My concern is what happens to somebody who has not been found guilty in any criminal sense but who perhaps deserves social opprobrium, but how long should that last, what form it should take, etc."

And he wanted Ghomeshi to write about it because

" is an angle on an issue that is clearly very important and that I felt had not been exposed very much."

Except the NYRB does A LOT to give men a platform. They only publish 23.3% women. Which the editor justifies by saying

"I don’t believe in quotas. I believe in having things that are of the greatest interest."

This makes me think of something a friend recently posted - are these mens' opinions and cultural contributions so irreplaceable? We can't find women, or even other men creators, who are as insightful, or who offer such fresh perspectives, as these men who have sexually harassed and assaulted people? And if we can't find anyone who doesn't have a clean slate, doesn't that prove with even more urgency what a crisis, what an epidemic, we have on our hands??

Oh and if the NYRB had asked a woman to write this piece, in example Kathryn Borel, to explain how she thinks Ghomeshi's "social opprobrium" should go? She probably would have said

"We need real accountability, and real introspection. If not, more monsters will be created, and more people will be hurt."

(cause that's a direct quote).

Ghomeshi's NYRB essay is a pity party for himself. Is it bringing more nuance to the table? Does it actually propose "how long he should be held accountable", and "what form that should take"? No, just that it's already been so hard, and he's suffered enough, in his opinion.

This article does actually bring a fresh perspective on accountability and justice, and from a man! (so don't worry, men in general still have a platform, just hopefully not the specific one who committed violent acts of sexual assault)

And does the platform the NYRB provides overtly undermine the #metoo movement (which Ian Buruma claims to support)?

Well, all I can say is the editor's interests in publishing Ghomeshi's piece cite many of the same reasons #metoo deniers fear the movement, as far as I've observed. They're worried about "how long is too long" and if the "movement has taken punishment too far". They're worried women can't distinguish between sexual harassment, assault, and rape (they can). They're worried about men's roles, and men's voices.

The NYRB's next issue is called "The Fall of Men", validating every #metoo denier’s deepest fears that the movement is out to take down all men indiscriminately, and set a lifelong embargo on their valuable cultural contributions and humanity.

Framing Ghomeshi’s pity-piece in the context of “The Fall of Men” is totally sensationalist and plays to the fears of those most ignorant to the #metoo movement. The NYRB is actively contributing to fear mongering against #metoo, and seeking to profit from it.

In my opinion, and, I believe, in the majority opinion of those who support it, the #metoo movement is about addressing the crisis of sexual harassment, assault, and rape women endure on a daily basis. The issue of #metoo is exactly about the importance and definition of consent.

You know why it feels like you haven't heard a take like Ghomeshi's recently? Because it doesn't address any of the relevant issues relating to #metoo. And when the editor who published his work says things like:

"The exact nature of his behaviour—how much consent was involved—I have no idea, nor is it really my concern."

That really says it all. Ghomeshi's take isn't fresh. It's what he's been saying since he was first accused, and it's what men have been saying on repeat throughout the #metoo movement.

The reason this piece was commissioned is because consent isn't really Ian Buruma's concern. But if he's so concerned with the "nuance" the #metoo movement apparently fails to achieve, maybe Buruma should also concern himself with the nuances of the allegations against Ghomeshi, instead of treating the issue as black and white, and deeming those allegations unimportant because Ghomeshi was legally acquitted, and thus, in the eyes of Buruma, unequivocally innocent, and deserving of a platform.


Finally, a couple more links:

  • Here’s some fact-checking from Jesse Brown to refute Ghomeshi’s downplaying of the accusations against him.

  • This is an article from Ruth Spencer, a woman who dated Ghomeshi for 5 months, shortly before he was fired.

  • And this is a podcast episode from a really incredible podcast, Ear Hustle. The podcast recounts experiences of the inmates in San Quentin Correctional Facility, and the episode is about restorative justice. It’s in the context of sex trafficking, so the situations are more extreme, but themes of accountability, apology, and forgiveness ring true.