Jian Ghomeshi Is Back With a New Project and People Are Angry About It
But Ghomeshi’s project manager told VICE he deserves to share his “art.”
Lead image via The Canadian Press
The man behind Jian Ghomeshi's comeback—The Ideation Project—says people should "let the art speak for the art."
Ron Hartenbaum, a manager at New York City-based WYD Media Management, the company that is heading up Ghomeshi's new series of online videos, told VICE he's hoping the Ideation Project will spark public dialogue about the topics it covers.
"My comment on Jian's past is that it's his past. It is in the past. I reacted to creative content that I heard, which now others are hearing in a more finished and polished sense."
Last March Ghomeshi was acquitted of four counts of sexual assault in a trial involving three female complainants; in a separate matter, involving the alleged sexual assault of his former CBC colleague Kathryn Borel, he agreed to sign a peace bond and apologize in exchange for having the charge withdrawn.
On Monday, the disgraced former CBC host, who is verified on Twitter despite having only 342 followers, tweeted, "Hi. For those interested, here is something I've been working on... http://TheIdeationProject.com."
The project is described on its website as "a new media creative project that features all original words, music, recording and production. The content covers a variety of topics from politics to philosophy to pop culture and the human condition."
The first track, called "Exiles," features a recording of Ghomeshi doing a six-minute spoken word poem about the concept of xenophobia and being exiled. The words are set to "original music" by Ghomeshi and black-and-white images of what appear to be a racially diverse group of people.
"Do all lives still matter?" Ghomeshi asks.
"Can anyone really get on a high horse about how their country is somehow immune? There's no place in the world now devoid of some folks singing this tune."
It's unclear if the title "Exiles" is meant to be a nod to Ghomeshi's fall from grace, but at one point he says, "If it can happen to your neighbour down the street it can happen to you." All of the tracks will follow a similar format, according to Hartenbaum.
Upon hearing of Ghomeshi's attempted comeback, many people expressed outrage.
Linda Redgrave, a complainant at Ghomeshi's sex assault trial who said he punched her in the head, told VICE Ghomeshi's return is triggering.
"The legal process does not guarantee you will not see or hear from (people who have reported) again. The legal system does not address trauma and its effects such as fear or possible re-traumatization."
She also thinks Ghomeshi may have been trying to evoke sympathy for himself in his first track.
"Our struggles are being trivialized by his resurgence and the content which speaks to exile. Poor Jian. He speaks of exile in many scenarios, but it feels that the overall theme of exile and NOWHERIANS is him speaking about himself," she said, noting that today is also the day Coming Forward, her organization dedicated to helping sex assault survivors through the legal system, was registered as a non-profit.
Reached by VICE, Borel and Lucy Decoutere, a complainant at Ghomeshi's sex assault trial, declined to comment. However, Borel tweeted, "whoa if you listen to ghomeshi's new podcast backwards it's the entire proof of concept for the pepsi resistance commercial."
A spokeswoman from Ghomeshi's PR firm Reputation.ca told VICE Ghomeshi isn't commenting on the backlash.
"I think right now he's just focusing on working on the project and letting it speak for itself," she said, noting that he was unavailable for an interview because he is currently in New York recording another track at a studio there.
Julie Lalonde, an advocate with Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres, told VICE she's not surprised by Ghomeshi's attempt to restart his career because he's an "egomaniac."
"There's no way this guy is going to go quietly into the night," she said.
But she pointed out that every time his name and face make headlines again, it re-traumatizes the people he is accused of abusing.
Lalonde said just because Ghomeshi wasn't convicted of a crime, it doesn't mean he deserves to have a platform. She said the public should boycott and girlcott companies like WYD Media Management, and anyone who shows support for him and his work in the future.
"I think we have to use consumer power to make sure it's not viable to make him an entertainer."
That approach seems to have already worked. Art19, the company whose media player Ghomeshi's project was being hosted on this morning, told VICE it suspended The Ideation Project after receiving complaints today and that the show has been moved to SoundCloud.
According to its website, WYD Media Management works with a range of political commentators, including David Webb, a founding member of the National Tea Party Federation.
Hartenbaum, who describes himself as project manager of Ghomeshi's new show, said people have the right to ignore Ghomeshi's show if they see fit but "he is an artist, he has the right to create and he has the right to share."
He also said he's opposed to boycotting.
"I think at the end of the day that hurts the ability for people to discuss different points of view."
Asked if Ghomeshi, who did not testify at his trial, would ever address the many allegations of abuse against him, Hartenbaum said, "that's a question for Jian."
Follow Manisha Krishnan on Twitter .