Ghomeshi, Anger, And College Kids

You’ve probably heard by now Jian Ghomeshi, a former Canadian radio host accused of rape by four different women, has been found “not guilty” in a Canadian court of sexual assault charges.  Moreover, the opinion released by Justice William B. Horkins focused heavily on the testimony of the alleged “victims,” which he found to be completely lacking in credibility.  In other words, they might have lied, and the lies of four women destroyed a man who had a career before his life was drawn and quartered with rape charges.

The legal sphere has responded as most lawyers would.  Rick Horowitz noted this was a rare “not guilty” on a rape case since he began practicing law.  Scott Greenfield does as Scott does, and reflects on the double standard between presumption of innocence for every crime except rape, and how those who dogpiled on Ghomeshi with rape charges might have considered those basic things like having their testimony used against them on cross-examination.  The almost universal nod was that this is a good verdict.  Ghomeshi’s case was an affirmation of why an adversarial system is necessary.

And then Buzzfeed came along with this little number, and I’m back posting again: “I Hope The Ghomeshi Verdict Makes You Fucking Furious,” penned by Scaachi Koul, a senior writer for Buzzfeed in Toronto.  In case you can’t tell, Ms. Koul isn’t an attorney, and she’s extremely mad Jian Ghomeshi isn’t facing a gallows right now.

Buzzfeed isn’t a place where you can attempt to find any semblance of actual thoughtful legal insight or analysis.  But it will get clicks, especially with inflammatory headlines like that, and it bears at least a means of looking at why Ms. Koul is so angry.  Anger is conflict, and it’d be nice to see why Ms. Koul is so upset.

The Jian Ghomeshi verdict wasn’t surprising—sexual assault survivors are rarely heard by the justice system, and worse, the Crown botched the case entirely. Still, the way in which the verdict was read by Justice William Horkins told any assault survivor, and women in particular, that your story doesn’t matter. He read for around an hour, barely touching on the allegations against Ghomeshi and instead, spending most of his time going over the inconsistencies in the survivor statements.

Except that it didn’t tell “any assault survivor,” or “women in particular,” that “your story doesn’t matter.”  What Justice Horkins’ verdict focused on was the testimony of the “survivors” was not credible, and therefore established reasonable doubt for the allegations levied against Ghomeshi.  If there’s a bench trial involving rape accusations, one factor necessary to consider is witness testimony, and whether it’s enough to establish reasonable doubt.  That’s what the law does, and if it means acknowledging “survivor” testimony isn’t credible then that’s what will happen, no matter how angry Ms. Koul gets.

And then there’s the fact that this judge stuck to the law, and Ghomeshi’s attorney once defended someone else on a different case but by all that is good and holy, that guy was BAD, and he got away with it!  Or in Ms. Koul’s own words,

Ghomeshi’s lawyer once (successfully) defended Michael Bryant, the judge on the case has a bad record with sexual assault complainants…

And the verdict.  Oh how the verdict wasn’t enough for every woman who ever “survived” sexual assault.  Instead, it was an indictment against every woman who decided to follow due process and report their attackers to the police.  What Ms. Koul wanted was a tummy rub and a confirmation that her feelings meant more than the actual truth.  She didn’t get that, and her outrage shows.

[Horkins] detailed the confusion around timelines, the positioning of people’s hands, the deviations in stories that arise when you try to recall a decade-old traumatic experience. Every debunked stereotype people still seem to believe about sexual assault complainants, this judge trotted out: why did Lucy DeCoutere write to Ghomeshi after her alleged assault? (The rest of us, meanwhile, were asking, how does that fucking matter??)

For those who prefer a “saved you a click” synopsis, the link to  “debunked stereotypes” is another Buzzfeed article written by a Canadian feminist that conflates every possible fact and misconstrues empirical evidence in a manner that suits the writer’s own personal need to feel believed, validated, and loved.  And the details mattered to Horkins because he was required to make a finding of guilt or innocence on charges that can bring prison time.  When you’re dealing with a person’s life, that’s the least you can expect from a jurist.

But why did the system fail so many women who are “survivors?” And why should people be angry?  Ms. Koul will be happy to explain that to you too.

The courts and the judicial system let the things we know not to be true about sexual assault—that there is a “right” way to act after you’re assaulted, that women never contact their alleged abusers, that they would never consider trying to find normalcy by moving on, and fast—take control over the narrative of the case. (Emphasis added)

There’s the touchstone of Koul’s entire invective.  The Narrative.  The Narrative here is that women are always raped when they say a man raped them, that no woman ever lies about being raped, that when we first hear a woman voice her pronouncement of rape that we must LISTEN and BELIEVE, as Cernovich says, because reasons.  And if the woman is found to later have lied about being raped, then it doesn’t really matter, because the Narrative is more important than the truth.

Let me give you two other examples in the United States where “The Narrative” was more important than the truth.

1. “Jackie,” Sabrina Rubin-Erdley, and Rolling Stone’s now discredited story “A Rape on Campus.”  Sabrina Rubin-Erdley wanted a lurid story that would sell magazines, and she bought into “Jackie’s” story of a gang rape on the University of Virginia campus. As the story unfolded, “Jackie” was discredited, Sabrina Rubin-Erdley was found to have been a fabulist writer who did no fact checking whatsoever, and Rolling Stone had to issue a retraction.  Now they’re looking at millions of dollars in lawsuits.

Even after “Jackie’s” story was discredited, we were told “So what if she lied?  The narrative is more important.  There’s a rape epidemic against women and it has to stop.  You should always believe a victim.” That statement changed later to “You should generally believe victims,” but you get the point.  The truth means nothing when it doesn’t serve the “narrative.”

2. Paul Nungesser and Emma Sulkowicz.  The “Mattress Girl’s” story wasn’t true, and didn’t hold weight with either police or the Title IX kangaroo court that heard her allegations of rape.  Yet Nungesser will forever be branded a rapist, and when Sulkowicz left the school her “work” continued with a short-lived career as an adult film actress.

When Mattress Girl took her mattress across Columbia University’s stage, the university’s Dean didn’t shake her hand when presenting her diploma.  He had no reason to, because the school was facing a multi-million dollar lawsuit as a result of her “endurance performance art.”  Despite lying, Sulkowicz was branded the hero, and Columbia and Nungesser the villains, because The Narrative was more important than the truth.

And so Anger is all they have left, because every time a lie is exposed, the concept of “victim-blaming” as opposed to “show us evidence” is whittled away.  And Ms. Koul wants you to buy into her anger, because that’s all she’s got left.  She has no valid arguments to support why Jian Ghomeshi should be found guilty of sexual assault, no fact-based support, so just get angry.

But I hope you’re fucking furious. If you’re not, I hope you find a way to your rage, because I think it can help you here. Cut off friends who think those women lied, lecture your parents if they don’t understand rape culture, talk to your co-workers about this flaming dog-shit day and how it could happen to any of you. Let your body crack wide open and fill the world with your anger because anger gets shit done.

I mention all of this because a kid came to my door today selling candy for an organization that tries to scam kids with promises of a college education.  He told me that he wanted to go to the University of Tennessee, and study chemical engineering.  His mother lived in Section 8 housing, and he wanted to make sure his family was taken care of when he got to college.

I told the kid to go to a trade school instead.  Not because I didn’t want to see him get a college degree.  Not because I particularly thought chemical engineering was a bad field absent jobs.

It was because the kid was a fifteen year old young black man, and the last thing he needs in the South is a charge of him raping a white woman on a college campus.  That’s what the anger and rage of people like Ms. Koul will accomplish. That’s why I told a young black man to avoid college like the plague.

And that’s why anger has no place in a discussion about rape, “victim blaming,” or any of the other buzzwords that people want to use when discussing cases like Jian Ghomeshi’s.