A New Question About Jian, Celebrity Culture, and Canada

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A thought occurred to me, as thoughts often do.

But this one is more troubling and also equally plausible than my usual cranial fare.

It’s a question. A question that I’ve yet to see asked amid the scandalous reporting thus far.

The question is this: how much did the CBC know about Jian Ghomeshi’s sordid escapades, amid the years of rumours and anecdotes and Toronto folklore, before the real gritty details of the story emerged?

How much did the CBC know and chose to ignore before it came to a breaking point? The point where the star and crown-jewel of the brand could no-longer outpace and downplay the acts?

How valuable was Jian Ghomeshi to the CBC and, for that matter, Canadian culture as a whole?

Clearly, quite close to priceless.

The thing about a man like Jian, innocent until proven guilty though he is, but faced with insurmountable accusations, the thing about him is this: one does not go from zero to one hundred in an instant.

There have been well-documented anecdotes of his escapades for years. Surely the CBC brass, guardian of Canadian culture, gatekeeper of our national identity, ambassador to our public conscience, would have been aware.

Surely they would have been privy to the repeated rumours of his “dates”, his narcissistic approach to women, and his “I’m Jian Ghomeshi, bitch” lifestyle.

They had to be. Otherwise, the CBC would be an impotent relic of a long-passed idealistic model of a public broadcaster.

But they’re not. The CBC is to Canada as the American flag is to America. It defines us. And it has immense resources.

Thus the question ultimately is at what point did the CBC decide enough is enough? At what point did they classify Jian Ghomeshi, a CBC deity on par with Peter Mansbridge and Rick Mercer, a liability rather than an eccentric yet addictively-charismatic staple?

That’s the real question in this scandal.

Because Jian is a Canadian celebrity. And we don’t have too many of those. And here in Canada, our celebrities don’t simply entertain and fascinate us. They define us. Because here in Canada, we bestow celebrity not based on notoriety, but on contribution.

And do not underestimate the value of Jian Ghomeshi not only to the CBC, but to our culture, to our national identity, and, likely most importantly, our national pride.

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