Brock Turner and North America’s Anti-Rape Culture

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BY: JAMES DI FIORE

It takes a lot to get almost everyone in our society on the same page. As a collective, North Americans argue about just about everything. Social media has become our gladiator arena where we live in a state of perpetual verbal combat, launching vicious attacks against one another, often just for the sake of attacking.

Politics, crime, social issues — virtually every last societal facet has been and will continue to be endlessly debated by a public still trying to find a communications toe hold on this thing called the Internet.

But sometimes a story can put us all back on the same page. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen, as it did this week when Brock Allen Turner received just six months in prison for raping an unconscious woman behind a dumpster. The public’s reaction was both swift and universal — this was a heinous crime and the six-month sentence is an affront to both decency and justice.

But one silver lining, so far as there can even be a silver lining in a rape case, is that all of us in the gladiator arena put down our swords, united in our shared contempt.

We were not entertained.

A man everyone agreed was guilty of raping a young woman received a sentence that everyone agreed was a travesty of justice and insulting to the victim and society alike. We all agree the judge is incompetent. We all agree Turner’s father is an asshole and the obvious first domino in his son’s attitude towards women. We all agree on everything. In particular, we all agree the justice system needs an overhaul so it can produce judges who don’t hit rapists with kid gloves.

Now, before I switch gears, let me preface this by saying I really hate that I have to preface this. But I do. Trigger warning: I’m about to make sense.

There are people reading this who are dogmatic about the terminology associated with gender issues. At the top of this list is the term only a nihilist could love. It’s a term soaked in self-deprecation, satirizing society’s moral minority and attributing their crimes and attitudes to the rest of us. It’s called Rape Culture, and it is a condescending way of delivering an otherwise worthwhile message; sexual deviancy and sexual assault are especially heinous.

Men who commit these crimes are often given light sentences, a testament to how our criminal justice system can let down survivors. Paltry sentences, along with the similarly short sentences for crimes against children, are two of the darkest corners of our legal system as I can think of. Both groups of criminals are almost always habitual offenders, the short sentences acting as behavioural enablers, ultimately providing criminals with more opportunities to perpetrate violence against innocent victims.

And the public overwhelmingly agrees that all of these realities are inexcusable. We all agree something needs to be done to stiffen the punitive aspect of these crimes. We all agree rapists are evil. Saying there is a huge problem within the justice system is one thing, but our actual culture – meaning us, the people – is not a culture that enables rapists. The justice system is separate from the people.

The label ‘rape culture’ unfairly stigmatizes society. It levies not just a reaction to sexual violence, but also a collective responsibility for the violence, accusing us of contributing to the victimization of rape survivors. Even when we are marching together, as we did when we heard about Turner’s six-month sentence, we are still lectured about how rape culture permeates throughout society. It wasn’t the judge who sentenced Turner, it was rape culture.

Despite the universal condemnation for all the injustices in this story, we are goddamn well swimming in rape culture. We are absofuckinglutely drowning in the shit.

Only, that’s not true at all. In fact, the opposite is true. I have good news everyone — we are up to our balls in anti-rape culture. That’s right, while we all recognize the need to continuously improve all aspects of our flawed society, we can take solace in the empirical data that shows us two stark yet equally important realities.

First, roughly 6 per cent of men commit sexual crimes. While that is obviously much too high, it is also tangible evidence that the evil men who commit horrible acts of sexual violence is a small minority of men. Again, 6 per cent is still too high, but knowing that 94 per cent of men are not actively hurting women should be a relief if we are worried that our male family members and friends might be part of the problem.

Furthermore, and this is another silver lining in an otherwise god awful subject, sexual violence has plummeted over the past 23 years. If we were ever engulfed in rape culture, we have certainly evolved into a culture of anti-rape, proven both statistically and through our collective common sense.

Rape is a disgusting act that should be vilified and punished in the strongest terms possible. Be proud to know you live in a society that understands this, and while the gender warriors drown you in a hyperbolic narrative that demonizes an entire gender, just remember that rape culture is what they have used to brand their mission.

Rape culture isn’t a factual reality. It’s marketing. Almost all of us know right from wrong. We don’t need a hero cookie, but perhaps now is a good time to stop drinking the rape culture Kool-Aid.

Trudeau Government: The Honeymoon Is Over

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BY: JAMES DIFIORE

Depending on where your political beliefs fall, the first 6 months of Justin Trudeau’s leadership has either been testament to positive politics or a buffet of cringe worthy sentimentality. Unsurprisingly, Trudeau has continued to show a remarkable gift for retail politics and connecting with people on a human level, but that kind of charm eventually wears thin, and so far Trudeau has not shown Canadians what they will see once he turns off his celebrity sparkle.

The answer to what should come next is obvious; the mountain of carefully crafted policy implementations we were promised during the campaign. But even more precarious than campaign promises are the items that seem to contradict the very essence of the Trudeau brand. That image, which encapsulates progressivisms -from international humanitarian work to domestic social policies – has been quietly eroding since the new year began through a series of decisions that have contradicted his personal brand.

The most glaring contradiction thus far is clearly the decision to honour the 15 billion dollar arms deal with Saudi Arabia. At the recent federal NDP convention in Edmonton, NDP stalwart Stephen Lewis said, “What kind of feminism is it that sells weapons to a government steeped in misogyny?” It was the perfect question for a young prime minister who has skated virtually unchallenged since his election victory, and one Canadians should demand he answer sooner than later. The most valuable facet of having a brand like Trudeau’s is the built-in flexibility to change course when the people demand it. After all, isn’t that what being a down to earth leader is all about? Furthermore, if Trudeau remains a loyal servant to his brand, then he should level with Canadians regarding its special relationship with the Saudi kingdom.

Instead of throw away lines like “We don’t want to break a contract”, perhaps it is time for Trudeau to explain exactly why we are beholden to a regime as nasty as theirs. Typical ambiguous responses have been flying out of the office of Foreign Affairs over the past month, including “Saudi Arabia is a strategic ally in the region” and “Our two nations have various economic ties.” But Trudeau has given himself little choice but to remain loyal to transparency, and that would have to include an explanation of the exact dynamics between Canada and a country that beheads atheists and dissidents more often than ISIL. A flowery speech and a boilerplate response from Stephane Dion aren’t good enough. Canadians, as Trudeau often repeated during the campaign, deserve better than that.

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But it gets worse.

It turns out the deal the Liberals could not get out of that was initiated by the Conservatives wasn’t exactly accurate. Global Affairs Canada has released documents that confirm Stephane Dion signed off on the export permits just last week, without a formal announcement from the Trudeau government. The document pays lip service the Saudi Arabia’s abhorrent human rights record by stating “the reported high number of executions, suppression of political opposition, the application of corporal punishment, suppression of freedom of expression, arbitrary arrest, ill-treatment of detainees, limitations of freedom of religion, discrimination against women and the mistreatment of migrant workers” – but ignores these atrocities and justifies the sale by citing previous arms sales to the Saudi kingdom since the early 90s. Worse, like a successful drug dealer justifying the sale of crack to a 12 year old, the government is implying that if Canada doesn’t sell arms to a barbaric, theocratic regime, somebody else will.

In other words, Trudeau is supporting the status quo, which is essentially continuing the fine work of Stephen Harper. There is no way around that point, and even Trudeau’s sparkly eyes can’t sell this to Canadians who are cognizant of the greater implications of this deal.

Which means the honeymoon, which began with so much hope, is now over, coming to an end in the hot sands of a Saudi desert. Trudeau still has qualities he can use to build a more progressive country, but if he continues to provide counterweights that so drastically contrast his sunny image, the honeymoon ending may be the least of his concerns.

 

Wall Street Document Cites E-Cig Regulations as Good News for Tobacco Stocks

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BY: JAMES DIFIORE

One of the world’s largest financial services companies is advising its investors to expect growth in tobacco company stocks due to government restrictions on e-cigarettes and vaporizers. Kathleen Wynne’s Ontario government, along with several other state and provincial governments in North America, has already passed legislation that equates vaporizers with combustible tobacco products, resulting in several protests and demands from opposition MPPs to rethink the controversial measures.

The document, titled Tobacco – Negative Reaction to Pending E-Cig Regs Overdone –   drafted to calm investors after all major tobacco companies experienced shrinking stock prices over the past week, may also help provide context to the controversy surrounding the recent fundraising strategies of the Wynne government.

A high-powered lobbying firm, Sussex Strategy Group, which represents big tobacco and various other industries, teamed up with the Ontario Liberals for a $6000 a ticket, high access dinner with the premier herself. The event has caused headaches for Wynne who has been in a state of damage control ever since, trying to reassure Ontarians that her government is not for sale. Sussex’s tobacco company connections help reinforce the possible reasons behind the unusually aggressive posture the government has towards nicotine vaporizers.

Recently, several governments outside North America have loosened restrictions on electronic cigarettes as a response to new research showing it is significantly less harmful than tobacco, but the Wynne government is moving forward with Bill 45, legislation that essentially equates e-cigs with cancer-causing traditional cigarettes. While there is no smoking gun proving Sussex has successfully lobbied the Wynne government to tighten restrictions on e-cigs, the lobbying firm’s client list must be pleased, especially when a company like Wells Fargo is praising e-cig restrictions as a coup for tobacco companies stock prices.

Along with its new restrictions on e-cigs, the Wynne government has been trying to curb contraband tobacco for years, with an estimated 1 billion dollars of lost revenue due to illegal cigarettes manufactured on First Nations reserves. It is difficult to estimate how much of a dent the government has made in the underground market, but tobacco companies are obviously the main benefactors.

Some members of the public have taken a stand against these new regulations. Organizations like the Vapor Advocates of Ontario, who organized a protest recently at Queen’s Park, are pressing the government to loosen restrictions on businesses that sell vapor products, as well as the perceived false equivalency the government is making between cigarettes and e-cigarettes.

In Ottawa, where there are more tobacco lobbyists than anywhere else in Canada, health officials have gone a step further in the fight against e-cigs, banning flavoured vaporizer liquids in an attempt to dissuade children from using the product. Ottawa Public Health staff argues that e-cigs are just as harmful as cigarettes, a dubious claim with no actual scientific backing.

SHAD: One of the Greatest Emcees, One of the Worst Radio Hosts

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BY: JAMES DIFIORE

When the CBC parted ways with Jian Ghomeshi they were left with a massive hole to fill. Given all the legal woes and the subsequent media storm that engulfed the public broadcaster, executives had some tough decisions to make. First and foremost, they felt it was important to make a real statement with whom they chose to replace Ghomeshi.

Their first move was a show rebrand. I would have paid to be in the room when they settled on keeping the show name but replacing the upper case Q with a lower case q. Not only did it seem like a decision that was drenched in unnecessary humility, but it immediately put the new host into a position of symbolic weakness. It screamed, “This show will not be as good as when Jian was the host, but that’s ok for some reason. Trust us!”

The conventional wisdom would have been to fill the host’s chair with a woman. That decision would have at least been consistent with the image problem the broadcaster and the show had at the time. By replacing an accused (yet ultimately acquitted) abuser with a strong, female voice, the network would have made a statement without having to explain a thing. It would have been universally seen as the right way to move the show forward given the circumstances they were dealing with.

Of course, choosing a nice guy, especially a non-white nice guy, would have also fit within the unspoken CBC mantra. Ghomeshi isn’t white, but he was just white enough for many people to believe he wasn’t a person of colour. But there were also other options like broadcasting veteran Sook Yin Lee, an experienced interviewer on television and radio, and someone who didn’t need any orientation for the role.

However, after 6 months of rotating a slew of temporary fill-in hosts, CBC settled on veteran Canadian hip hop artist, Shadrach Kobango, better known as Shad, to take over the broadcast.

Shad is a glorious lyricist. As an emcee his rhyme schemes and mostly casual delivery make him one of the most listenable hip hop artists in the country. He’s super intelligent, uniquely creative and is already a legend in the sparse landscape of Canadian hip hop.

He was also immensely unqualified to take the helm of the most widely listened to radio program in the country’s history, one that is syndicated in 160 markets south of the border.

Shad has been the host of q for just over a year, and during that time he has had his share of critics. It’s not easy to say since he seems like such a nice guy and all, but he’s extremely boring to listen to. It reminds me of Toronto university radio, where most hosts are very monotone and do not have the authority behind the mic to engage listeners for long periods of time. That spark of greatness Shad carries with him in the recording booth as an artist just isn’t there as a radio personality.

This mediocre reality isn’t entirely Shad’s fault, however. I don’t know how much of the content is determined by his producers, but whoever decides on the locally focused content is dropping the ball. He once had the “I-am-trying-really-hard-to-be-shocking” BuzzFeed pill Scaachi Koul as a guest who yapped about a morning rave she attended that was “full of white people as far as the eye could see,” because I guess that’s what q listeners find interesting? More recently, Shad had a bizarre panel of Canadian musicians who spoke about racism in the music industry. What could have been a compelling, thought provoking 15 minutes was actually a bizarre conversation featuring arbitrary stories that did not include any tangible examples of racism. It just seemed like the show was thrown together without any research or organization by the producers who tried to pass off typical music industry bullshit as serious examples of racial discrimination. One guest cited venue sound engineers who didn’t mix live hip hop well as an example of cultural racism, and Shad seemed all too eager to let his guests skate by without challenging these seemingly benign claims. The segment fell flat, and the Internet let the producers of  know it through the universal theme in the comments section that said “This is what passes for racism? Really?”

One could argue that Shad is a work in progress, but if he is he shouldn’t be saddled with weak content to boot. But hey, CBC is known for keeping horrible programming on-air forever, so even if he has plateaued he might still have a career for years to come.

And if that’s the case then the decision to change the letter ‘Q’ to a lower case ‘q’ isn’t just fitting, it was tragically prophetic.

We Need to Talk About Whitey

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BY: JAMES DIFIORE

There’s no good way to write a piece like this, especially in today’s world of awareness, where a small group of white people have decided that being white is the same as being evil, and being male is the equivalent of, well, also being evil.

Add to that the fact that I’m not gay and you have the Luciferian trifecta of being a horrible person.

This combination – white, male, straight – is currently the enemy of self-righteous preachers in the modern realm of social justice. There was a time not too long ago where repugnant men on the right, guys like Rush Limbaugh, would cry incessantly about it being open season on white men. These complaints always seemed so pathetic to me, mostly because I didn’t notice any unfairness towards whites, and partly because I knew white people had run things for so long that any complaints of injustice seemed misguided.

I’m 39 years old, and I have never felt the need or inclination to defend myself for being white. It just seems like such a bizarre thing to do. I don’t really have pride in my whiteness, but, much to the dismay of many of my peers, I don’t have any white guilt either. I do not identify with pieces of shit that enslave, marginalize and oppress people of colour, other than we share the same skin tone. At the same time I’m competent enough to know that I could not possibly identify with non-whites and their experiences in this world. After all, the world is a very complex place. I understand how the oppression of people of colour is the counterweight to the privilege white people enjoy, and I am fully aware of the imbalance North America still fosters after hundreds of years under this system. I won’t pretend to know all of the answers as to how to correct this injustice, but I think I have discovered a tragic reality that has fostered the prolonging of this white supremacist system. Namely, the white people who have spoken out most forcefully about racial inequality are the very people who guarantee its survival.

I have a young son. He’s still too young to understand the nuances surrounding race. Hell, he doesn’t even talk yet. Lately I’ve been thinking how lucky he is not being able to speak, because it won’t be too long before random people, mostly bitter activists, and mostly white, will be badgering him, asking him to stop mansplaining or whitesplaining. He will soon learn that there are large contingents of people out there who will want him to know his place, and that if he can’t parrot their talking points and self-admonishing postures, he should just shut up.

In case you haven’t noticed, the Tea Party of the left has emerged, and they have taken the form of the verbally abusive, incredibly judgmental know-it-alls who have collectively decided that racism is bad, but blanketing one particular race with unadulterated hatred is acceptable, expected, excused and justified. White people who live in a white supremacist society have two choices; be an ally in the army of self-loathing peckerwoods, or be an enemy of progress.

I know, you think I sound like Rush Limbaugh. Hey, I get it. Not too long ago if I read what I just wrote I would have said the same thing. But then something happened. I began to notice a widespread trend of openly calling out white people simply for being white. These days, calling someone ‘white’ is an insult on par with calling them a dickhead, an ignorant piece of shit, or just plain evil, especially in the world of the young, hip bloggers and commentators who fill up our newsfeeds and inboxes with the latest trends in social justice.

Recently, a fairly well known editor and media personality tweeted that she was looking for writers to pitch her web site some stories. She mentioned how she was specifically looking for ethnic writers, an understandable request given the complexion of writers in Canada being a pretty pale shade overall. But then, inexplicably, just after she communicated what she was looking for, she felt the need to point her finger specifically at who she wasn’t looking for. Namely, white men. She just said it. She went on, after getting a little bit of heat, to compare white men to demons and then suggested that white men be placed in the garbage.

This female editor was threatened with rape and murder after tweeting those ignorant tweets. This is obviously an overreaction, a criminal one at that, and should be admonished in the strongest terms possible. Nobody deserves to be threatened with rape and murder after saying stupid things. Unfortunately, many people failed to see the stupidity in her words. Worse, many people said that by comparing white men to demons, what she was really doing was trying to uplift non whites, which is about as logical as me wanting to uplift lesbians by calling gay men ‘faggots.’ Yes, it’s that stupid. And finally, the white saviors amassed, telling anybody who criticized this editor that by doing so you were co-signing the death threats made against her. Yay social justice!

Even more recently, a co-founder of Toronto’s Black Lives Matter Movement tweeted the following: “Plz Allah, give me the strength not to cuss/kill these men and white folks out here today.” Predictably, the media overreacted, devoting more segments to this person’s tweet than they had to many of the stories revolving around police antics against black people in the city. But one other thing struck me; many activists, black and white, did not see any problem with making a public statement about killing a group of people who all had the same skin colour. There is no room for debate on this point – that because we live in a white supremacist system, this means it is acceptable to openly muse about killing white people. Their logic is that only one race rules, therefore that ruling race is available to be a target of hate speech. Only, it isn’t hate speech because white people run things. Make sense?

So what is a white guy who has never held racist ideas but still wants to support his family supposed to do when the industry he is trying to find work in is telling the world not to hire him? Am I supposed to fall on my sword? Furthermore, what am I supposed to think when an activist, who is part of an organization I support and respect, makes it clear that my skin tone makes me an acceptable target of violent hate speech? Is it vengeance against white supremacy? Is this all part of the complexities of social justice? Should we be organizing lynchings against white folks at The Drake? Will these white folks merely volunteer their heads be placed in a noose as a way of doing their part? Look, I don’t know how to quantify what white guilt is, and I know I’ve had it a lot better than most non whites, but I can’t reconcile the self loathing required to champion a hypocrisy of morals. I can’t get to a place where I nod politely whenever I am lumped in with the people who enable my privilege.

And I don’t like speaking like this. I hate it, in fact. I’ve been told countless times by white people who “get it” that all I have to do is understand that white people have had it good for a long time, and I should align myself with people who openly disparage white people because of my white privilege. My privilege, which I know exists by the way, apparently isn’t potent enough to spare me from having to hear about how my skin colour makes me disposable, why my opinion is no longer needed, and why my appearance sometimes disqualifies me from applying for work in my field. I suppose that when a straight, white male speaks the world believes he is speaking for all straight, white males. I don’t know about you, but I had always believed no race or gender was monolithic. Apparently, there is an exception to that rule, and I guess to many people that exception is grounded in status. I profoundly disagree.

I sometimes wonder if the self-proclaimed gatekeepers of decency and liberalism will grow out of this phase where progress is not just measured through new opportunities for minorities, but also through the hyperbolic discourse levied at the exact demographic you will need to help facilitate real change. It shouldn’t be controversial to point out that if there is to be a shift in privilege in North America, the keepers of that privilege are going to have to be a part of that shift. Personally, I would love to be on the front lines working towards an egalitarian system where nobody is left behind based on their heritage and skin colour. The problem is I’m not welcome at that table unless I conform to a belief system I find self-deprecating and the exact antithesis of what I want to instill in my son.

White people who want to help create this shift are everywhere, by the way; but we are feeling intimidated. And it isn’t non-whites who are intimidating us; it’s other white people. The frantic, over eager, self-hating honkies that agree with everything a person of colour says might sound dope, but a good ally they do not make. Trust me, these douche bags are the most annoying white people…to other white people. They are cowardly, bearded hipsters who the rest of us will never, ever follow. Sure, you think they got your back, but you could tell them almost anything and they’d just nod with a furrowed brow, their stuttering blinks tipping you off that they don’t know shit. Worse, they are probably wearing a Public Enemy t-shirt with penny loafers.

But don’t worry; you are right to mock them when they’re not around (we both know you sometimes do, it’s all good), despite their semi-endearing qualities. But at the end of the day my non-white brothers and sisters, you had first pick in dodge ball and you ended up taking the fat kid. Don’t get me wrong, they mean well, but they are a bad combination of being incredibly shallow thinkers and fierce ideologues. They have managed to create a debate killing, Orwellian paradox, claiming to be for freedom while snuffing out free speech. Yes, rabid right-wingers have the exact same complaints about these white guardians of the left, but that doesn’t mean they are wrong, it just means the right are motivated by something other than progress. Free speech, which these same white lefties will cite whenever they defend systems like the Boycott/Divest/Sanctions movement, is not dependent on ideology or opinion. Aligning with the prototypical white activists, especially the commentators and online vigilantes, guarantees a longer incrementalization process for achieving true equality. White activists engage in relentless browbeating, and the condescending style they use to explain why Caucasoid people need reprogramming will never work if the goal is racial harmony. You can be right about all the main issues, ancillary issues, or even have a multi-generational demand for racial reparations…all that is great. But real progress is currently being bogged down by the relentless pursuit of other people’s moral infractions, executed by a group of self appointed white saviors, infecting social networks and weakening the very fabric of mainstream political discourse.

Toronto Star columnist Desmond Cole called me a racist the other day. I shrugged. Not because I agree with him, but because that label is tossed around so arbitrarily these days that I couldn’t summon up the energy to actually get upset. If that isn’t a sign of ineffective activism, then I must be as oblivious as the activists I criticize.

Peace.

 

 

 

 

Ghomeshi: How the Reporters Who Broke the Story Set the Tone of Division

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BY: JAMES DIFIORE

The public does not show any signs of slowing down the debate surrounding the not guilty decision in the sexual assault trial of Jian Ghomeshi. As expected, there has been an outcry from some members of the public over the perceived lack of justice in the case. Others agree with the decision, arguing that the witnesses were so unreliable that the judge had little wiggle room and could have only reached the decision he did. The public is predictably polarized and will probably have it out until the next Ghomeshi trial begins in June.

But if you ask the two main reporters involved in breaking this story – the Toronto Star’s Kevin Donovan and freelance scribe Jesse Brown – you might begin to understand why this particular story seemed destined to divide the country. There was always an element of polarization, even before the story actually broke.

Brown had a scoop. He had already interviewed 8 women by the time he brought the story to The Star. Brown had never met 7 of the women before interviewing them as sources for the story, but one woman was decidedly different. Brown and she had a long-time friendship, which made things problematic from the Star’s point of view. Journalists, especially those who work for a big publisher, are meticulously careful about even the appearance of a possible conflict of interest when reporting on a big story. Reporters are almost never allowed to remain on stories if they have a personal connection to any of the subjects involved.

Brown, for his part, feels like his reporting was not a problem, and says neither Donovan nor the Toronto Star seemed concerned about his relationship with one of the alleged victims.

“He (Donovan) knew…and never raised it as an issue. In fact, he never bothered to interview her prior to our 1st story’s publication, though he had opportunity to do so. “

The truth is the Ghomeshi case created a rift between Donovan and Brown, born out of the stark differences in how a full time reporter and a freelancer investigates a story.

On Brown’s professionalism, Donovan says, “I found Jesse Brown reluctant to ask the sort of questions that needed to be asked. On social media he aggressively asks questions, but that was not my experience with him in person. To be fair to Jesse Brown, he has no background in this type of journalism.”

Donovan added, “…my interviews elicited more information due to the nature of the questions I was asking.”

Brown, who has secured a decent following since the Ghomeshi case broke at his Canadaland podcast site, continues to insist that his personal friendship did not negatively impact his ability to objectively investigate the story.

“…my connection to (name removed due to publication ban) actually helped with the reporting of the story, as I could personally confirm that she made her allegations years ago, when she said she did, back when the alleged incidents occurred. “

Donovan sees Brown’s involvement differently.

“ a reporter who has a connection or friendship with someone who is an alleged victim in a story cannot objectively do his or her job. It’s very important for journalists to be open about these things and to know when to step back.”

This is why Jesse Brown’s initial involvement is problematic. Nobody I have spoken with for this story had anything negative to say about Brown’s honesty or his intention to find the truth behind the Ghomeshi accusations. He’s not accused of fabricating interview notes, but we should consider the possibility his friendship did impact his work, as Donovan suggested. This is precisely the reason you walk away from the story if you are too close to a subject. Donovan knew this and interviewed the same women Brown had interviewed, a sort of insurance policy on accuracy. Indeed, Donovan did not have confidence in the type of questions Brown asked the other alleged victims, although he did not elaborate as to how Brown’s questions were insufficient, just that he was able to unearth additional info not pursued by Brown.

But it’s not just the integrity of the story, or your new career as a podcaster, or even your loyalty as a friend that matters, it’s the professionalism to understand that your perceived lack of objectivity could be seen as activism rather than journalism. Since Brown admits he was friends with one woman and knew about her alleged encounters with Ghomeshi years beforehand, he should have never interviewed the other 7 women.

From the very beginning of the Ghomeshi affair, objectivity seemed to take a back seat to salacious details of statements made to the media. Some articles from major papers and online publications seemed almost annoyed at having to use the word “alleged” in front of the allegations, often peppering the rest of the article with language that implied Ghomeshi’s guilt, such as referring to the alleged victims as ‘survivors.’ Journalism seemed lost as regular news articles were written like editorials, featuring an activist slant against a man who hadn’t yet been convicted of a crime. While columnists and civilians are free to share their unfiltered opinions, those opinions began to largely outnumber the reporting that should have remained neutral.

As for Donovan, he didn’t break any rules or have a friendship with any of the witnesses. Instead, he reserved the right to take some of the interviews  as part of a soon-to-be-published book entitled Jian Ghomeshi – A Secret Life. When the largest daily paper in the country spends months publishing articles that deal with the fear some women have coming forward to report sexual assault, they probably didn’t think their lead investigative reporter working on the biggest story in the country would one day add to those fears by publishing the details of those interviews. He isn’t the first reporter to write a tell-all, but the sensitivities surrounding this case makes his book tough to swallow, especially for some of the women he interviewed in good faith.

With the first trial resulting in a not guilty verdict, and with the second trial looming, this saga will reign supreme as the most volatile, socially relevant and consequential story in recent memory. Many will see it as proof the justice system is not equipped at handling sexual assault crimes, while others will see it as proof that reporting sexual violence promptly is the tough pill victims have to swallow in order to achieve justice. But from a journalist’s perspective, it should give every writer pause as they ponder what their role is when unearthing a story of this magnitude, especially if they are connected to one of the alleged victims.

 

 

Social Media is Destroying Us

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BY: JAMES DI FIORE

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

The Internet was originally intended to connect the world. People from different walks of life coming together to communicate with each other, learn from each other, share ideas and evolve. The world was going to be a very different place, they said.

They were right; the world is very different, far different from anything most of us ever imagined. And a part of me wants to go back to a time when were all still disconnected.

It is worth asking the question: have we always been such miserable, cynical creatures?

Case in point; Rob Ford recently passed away. He was the world’s most famous punch line. He was a drug addict. He was an alcoholic. He was immature. He was not very smart. He could be described as a bully, but he didn’t have that mean streak one normally associates with bullies. Ford seemed to suffer from something else, an arrested development of sorts, making him prone to smiling all the time, bumbling around and speaking off the cuff.

But then he was diagnosed with a rare cancer. For over a year he underwent chemotherapy and radiation, but it was to no avail. He passed away, leaving his wife and two young children to pick up the pieces.

Then, the Internet weighed in, and I once again remembered why it is not the miracle invention it was promised to be. Mercilessly, countless people, mostly self-proclaimed progressives, giddily celebrated Ford’s passing, as if he was a villain in a soap opera, artificial, sub-human. I tried reasoning with a few of them, telling them that while he was certainly a horrible mayor and a man with countless vices and self inflicted problems, that he was still a human being who had not murdered anyone, molested children or stole a pension fund from seniors. I figured his punishment for all his foibles was already administered, that he had paid the ultimate price, and perhaps now would be a good time to just leave him be.

Nope.

Our society is becoming dangerously sociopathic, enabled by the unlettered method of communicating almost exclusively through social media. We’ve lost something; the ability to compartmentalize our need to admonish people with the notion that we should have some respect for the recently departed. It’s a strange thing to witness if you aren’t looking for it. Most of us probably scroll through our newsfeeds and only half glance at headlines and comments. But those of us who do contribute to the zeitgeist, we need to either get our act together or just call it a day. We are all becoming extremists, forgetting that the words we type are most likely not the same words we would speak if we actually communicated in person.

Or, better yet, what would we say to Rob Ford’s children if they asked us about their dad. Are we a society that condones cynical, brutal honesty 24/7? Is that what passes for a civilized society now?

People used to say things like “You can’t feed the trolls” or “Yeah, there’s a lot of assholes out there, just ignore them” and other quick tidbits of advice to help make your online experience more enjoyable. Well, I hate to break it to you, but we are all trolls now. Everyone is posting childish memes, bullshit quotes, statuses that spotlight our kindness but carefully worded to come off as humility, and this schizophrenic way of promoting political correctness as we kick a coffin carrying a corpse that isn’t even cold yet.

We are all extremists.

The Syrian refugee crisis was the same. You either ranted about the evils of Islam, or you ranted about the west not caring about brown people. If you tried to reason with either side, you were pelted with slogans, taglines and hoaxes that propped up their side of the argument. With all that information at our fingertips we still can’t find any credible sources, especially since we seem to only choose memes that appear to be created in the basements of unemployed lunatics.

I don’t want the Internet to be solely a place to watch Youtube videos of kittens, or to check out sports highlights. I want the robust debates, the exchanging of ideas and the civility that is supposed to come with living in a civilized, free society.

Because, hypocritically, if social media died tomorrow, I’d be the first to kick its coffin on its way out.

 

 

Online Extremism: Starring YOU

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BY: JAMES Di FIORE

The latest terrorist attack in Paris was different from previous terrorism related crimes perpetrated by Muslim extremists. There was a decidedly different feel to the crime itself, the reaction by the media, the posturing by western governments and, possibly the most transformative reaction, that of the public, especially in the online world.

In our quest to pair our personalities with technology via social networking profiles and smart phones, we have created a polarization unmatched by any real world interactivity. In the recent past, left and right wing ideologues were easy to spot. They were loud, brash, hateful, judgmental human beings. They targeted each other with dogmatic self-assuredness, recycling their own statistics, their own talking points and their scripted rebuttals to the counterarguments of their ideological opposites. They hogged the newsfeeds, the hash tags and the mainstream media coverage by following one easy to remember method: be loud. To the non-ideological, this became our entertainment and our sources of information. We may not have contributed to the noise, but we were following it intently.

Right wing zealots were always the easiest to spot online. They have very little time for politeness, very little need for opposing views. We used to watch them sing from the same playbook on issues like immigration, taxes, climate change and, of course, Islam. Before the Paris attacks, most of us shrugged at their repetitive musings about Muslims taking over the planet, and now many of us have joined in their chorus. Among these new members of the anti-Muslim flock are actually well minded people. They were not dogmatic conservatives-in-waiting, lying dormant until the piper played his flute. They were regular people, even progressive in their views, who reached their tipping point after seeing the macro reaction to the 129 dead Parisians. We will get back to them in a moment.

Left wing zealots, just as crazed and indignant as their right wing cousins, can sometimes be trickier to spot, mostly because centrists and some moderate conservatives hold many of their values. Their list of important issues includes the opposing viewpoints held by right wing zealots, especially in regards to climate change, and most especially in regards to Islam. To them, Islam is not just off limits, it is already a victim of worldwide disdain, and any criticism should be viewed through the lens of this ongoing state of victimization.

And so, post attack, both these groups were out in full force. Everything was fairly predictable. The right was posting memes, videos and photos that propped up their predispositions about the Muslim world. They referred to Syrian refugees as a poison being plunged into the veins of western societies and the eventual Islamafication of western cultures. The left were draping themselves in the French flag, virtually, and showcasing their humanity by demanding the world not criticize Islam in the wake of the tragedy.

Then it happened. Moderates and normally quiet onlookers began taking sides. Some questioned why countries like Canada were even considering taking in a single refugee now that all those people lay dead in Paris. Other moderates and normally quiet onlookers were openly accusing people of racism and bigotry for discussing the impact religion has on the world. In essence, those who normally watch were suddenly propping up the two fringes that normally take up all the oxygen. It was and continues to be a strange evolution in our online behaviours, where our opinions are now so extreme that they lose their value, their substance.

We should not have to run to the fringe when we want to talk about Islam. We should not be burning down mosques and beating up mothers for wearing a hijab. Simultaneously, we should not yell racism if we discuss the role of Islam in terrorism. Repeating tag lines like “Islam is a religion of peace” is a dangerous way of burying a problem, and not unlike the way we bury our brothers and sisters after a zealot decides to attack.

Vince Staples on 1990s Hip Hop: “Fu*k Your Era”

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BY: JAMES DIFIORE

Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, but until yesterday I had no idea Vince Staples even existed. Many reading this still probably have no idea who he is.

But, while skimming through my news feed yesterday I came across a story where this young rapper said the following in an interview with Time Magazine:
“The 90s get a lot of credit, I don’t really know why. Biggie and 2 Pac, those are the staples of the 90s, I think that’s why they get the Golden Era credit.”

Now, normally we can excuse a youngster for having a stunningly superficial idea of what the 90s provided as far as hip hop music is concerned, but this is an artist who is supposed to be buddies with Snoop and lists Lauryn Hill as one of his all time favourite emcees. How he reconciles his distaste for hip hop in the 90s with these two factoids is a mystery, and leads many to believe Staples is merely trolling for publicity.

But this opinion, apart from being woefully ignorant, seems to be a reaction to modern rappers not feeling they are treated fairly by hip hop heads who are older. There are certainly a ton of older heads who simply won’t give any credit whatsoever to the younger cats trying to make a name, a trend that speaks to the romanticization many have with Golden Era music. This close-mindedness is wrong, but this reaction is just as short-sighted.

I had a mini Twitter war with Staples after watching the Time interview where he doubled down on his displeasure of 90s hip hop.

As far as Staples’ music is concerned, I had a listen to a few tracks before writing this article. It’s not bad. Not great either. But that’s a subjective argument, not a blanket statement on every cat coming out with tracks today.

Because anybody who blankets an entire era with a statement meant to downgrade that era is probably just seeking attention. The only other reason would be a dreadful lack of understanding how movements are made and how paths are paved. Staples would be wise to adjust his mindset before he finds himself at an awards show with Busta Rhymes, DJ Premier or any of the other artists from the era that made his even possible in the first place.

The Painful Demise of Thomas Mulcair


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By: james Di Fiore

When Olivia Chow announced she would run to become the mayor of Toronto it looked like she couldn’t lose. Toronto had just spent 4 years dealing with Rob Ford, a cartoon-like politician whose exploits need no rehashing.

Toronto knew Olivia. She had a presence in our city for decades. She had a famous husband who propelled the NDP to Official Opposition status and gave them 100+ seats in the House of Commons.

In short, we needed no introductions. We just needed Olivia to be herself.

Instead, in one of the most badly calculated political strategies in Canada’s history, Olivia gave us someone we had never met before. She changed her clothes, her way of speaking, her overall demeanor. She hired political goons while giving her rivals all they needed to completely destroy her.

Chow finished a distant third place as John Tory rode to victory ahead of Doug Ford, the conservative who finished second.

This federal election is showing a lot of parallels.

NDP leader Tom Mulcair had everything going for him. His party was well ahead of the conservatives and liberals in the polls. He had impressed Canadians over the past two years by holding Stephen Harper to account in the House of Commons, especially during Question Period. A majority of Canadians had become wise to the antics of Stephen Harper; his incremental strategy of ushering in anti-democratic policies, his disregard for evidence based decision-making, and his contempt for ethics, especially in regards to the Senate scandal.

Canada finally had a competent politician holding Harper’s feet to the fire, and Canadians rewarded his feistiness by propelling him to the top of the polls.

And then it happened. Harper announced an elongated 78 day campaign, and Mulcair decided to do his best Olivia Chow impersonation by needlessly reinventing himself. He or his handlers decided to abandon the Mulcair that won us over, and place a stiff, faux jovial imposter in his stead. His entire demeanor had all the authenticity of a wax museum figure, and his support began to plummet.

Mulcair had been known for years in Ottawa as Angry Tom, and it was Angry Tom who Canadians needed at a time when they felt exhausted by a prime minister only interested in retaining his power. Moreover, Mulcair’s new persona was matched only by his decision to push the party towards the right, alienating his base and confusing undecided voters who were not looking for outlandish promises like balanced budgets.

Add a masterful Liberal campaign and a surprising performance by Justin Trudeau, and the writing on the wall became ever more clear: the NDP were in third place, and the notion of their first crack at power had all but evaporated.

Campaigns are not all that complex at the end of the day. People are not always savvy, but almost all of us have instincts that tell us who is being real with us, and who is trying to play a role. In this election, Mulcair was playing the role of a guy who wasn’t being himself, and Canadians rewarded him by making sure he would never become prime minister.