Social Media and the Ghomeshi Controversy


Hailee Barber (1L)

The controversy surrounding the CBC’s decision to end its relationship with Jian Ghomeshi has raised important discussions related to a number of current societal issues; one that interests me is the way that social media, in the form of Ghomeshi’s Facebook post, continues to impact the public’s response as the controversy unfolds.

Regardless of the circumstances that led to Ghomeshi’s Facebook post, it rubbed me the wrong way. If Ghomeshi felt that he had been wrongfully dismissed, I can understand him wanting to preserve his reputation and have his voice heard. However, what he did went beyond having his voice heard. He chose to share intimate details of a past sexual relationship. He did so by negatively portraying his sexual partner, while painting himself as a victim whose 50 Shades of Grey relationship had been twisted by a “jilted ex-lover” into a smear campaign.

The Facebook post struck me as manipulative, and made me question the motive behind Ghomeshi’s choice of medium. A Facebook post’s audience consists of “friends” or, in Ghomeshi’s case, followers who had “liked” his page. Ghomeshi’s decision to address that particular audience seemed, to me, to suggest a deliberate attempt to gain support from people inclined to believe it without question: those who would take his words and proceed to “like”, “share”, and leave comments that supported him before a more critical audience could step in.

I was surprised that friends weren’t as skeptical about Ghomeshi’s response as I was. Although the people I talked to didn’t side with Ghomeshi, they seemed more inclined to critique the motives of the women who’ve come forward, and the way they’ve portrayed their stories, than to critique Ghomeshi in the same way.

In part, this is because the viral nature of Ghomeshi’s comments regarding the unidentified “jilted ex-lover” have supported our societal inclination to question the women in this case more than Ghomeshi himself. Was Ghomeshi aware of the potential effect of his words when he posted them? I’d be hard-pressed to allow Ghomeshi the benefit of ignorance in this case. So how is it that people feel compelled to question the women based on Ghomeshi’s portrayal of his situation, without feeling similarly compelled to question the portrayal itself?

Social media provides us with so many benefits, but we have to recognize that it’s an easily manipulated and manipulative medium. I would hope that, as consumers of social media, we can all start being more inclined to consider the role that the medium of communication plays in stories like Ghomeshi’s. Although I don’t think this will eliminate the role that social media plays in perpetuating negative societal prejudices and inclinations, awareness can help us recognize the ways in which a Facebook post might be influencing our responses to issues around us.