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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Thursday 6 November 2014

Ghomeshi: In Laissez-Faire Capitalism, Fairness is a Commodity

... and here's the post I was going to do yesterday.
First off - I know Michael Bryant and consider him to be a decent, honourable fellow.  As anyone who's served as AG, he's got enemies.  Plus, the way the death of Darcy Allan Sheppard became a story of cars vs bikes and elites vs the poor didn't do him any favours.

So far as I know, Michael is still paying down the massive legal and PR costs he incurred as a result of that tragedy.  He got the best support, but it cost him dearly. 

I imagine Jian Ghomeshi has more cash to throw around in his defense - hiring wickedly smart legal beagles that are comfortable representing predators probably isn't that much of a challenge for him.
By all accounts, Marie Henein is tough, ruthless, effective.  It's why she gets the big bucks - it's why public people in trouble seek her out.

She plays mind games.  She puts victims on the defense, finds and exploits their weaknesses, reduces them to quivering masses.  She puts the right doubts in the mind of her target audiences, nudging them to doubt the victim.

It's what she's paid big bucks to do and she's good at it - it just happens that what she's good at isn't very nice.

In fact, the argument could be made that in cases like this, a strong offense as defense kind of looks a lot like re-victimization.  Does the fear of facing this scare off other victims from coming forward?  Does knowing they can't afford competitive legal talent, and face social evisceration hold them back?

We already know that Ghomeshi victims, even ones with their own success and wealth to back them, have been reticent to come forward against the Ghomeshi behemoth, and for good reason.  In our world, it's reputation that matters - chinks in that reputation can rapidly and irrevocably destroy careers.  On top of this, it's embarrassing, humiliating - sexual assault victims have suffered injuries that may not heal, and certainly aren't helped when salt is rubbed in the wound.
The way these narratives get built, though, is about ensuring the powerful get fair trials and treatment.  The assumption in this is that perhaps the court of public opinion has already made it's judgment and therefore justice for the defendant is at risk. 
Which, when you think about it, is mind-blowing.  It's spin of the highest degree.  If even a fraction of the allegations against Ghomeshi are found in a court of law to be true, then he has been rather unfair to a whole host of people for decades, aided and abetted by enabling employers and peers.  Where does justice for his victims come in to play?
Think more broadly about politicians who get off on DUIs, on committing HR fraud, etc.  Think about how many people of means get off or get better treatment because of a socially accepted but unwritten rule that they "matter" more in a socio-economic context. 
A few years ago, I was hit by a negligent driver doing a left turn at an intersection while I was crossing the street with the walk sign.  I ended up in hospital; my left side constantly aches and as I get older, my risk of arthritis and other related ailments will only increase.  The guy who hit me broke the law, lied to the police - and they recognized this - and yet got away without any punishment whatsoever.  If anything, he feels less responsible for his actions, because he knows what he can get away with.  And he happens to be a lawyer.
How often do stories like this play out, day after day?
And yet the conversation is about ensuring "fairness" for the people of means. 
What of those accused of crimes who aren't wealthy, or don't have powerful friends?  There are people who have committed a fraction of the crimes Ghomeshi has been accused of who've spent more time in the justice system than it seems likely he will, because he's got the tough lawyer in his corner.  There are people in the justice system who've committed no crimes at all, or crimes for which they cannot be cognitively held responsible.
There was no fair trial nor equitable treatment for them.
Denise Balkissoon is right to call us all out on this crap - this notion of watersheds and culture change and equitable justice finally coming to the fore.  Ultimately, the story here isn't one of justice, of chickens coming home to roost - it's about our fractured culture.
Democracy is all rights and freedoms, isn't it?  We want to be consequence free.  And yet, we want crimes to be punished to create the image of fairness - so long as we're not implicated.  We're all about free market capitalism, which means that justice is just another commodity that can be bought and sold.  Purchasing power and boldness matter; equity is just a word.
There are always consequences.  It just happens they tend to get downloaded to those with the least power, or diffused by those with the money to outsource them.
That's the way the world works; it's nothing personal.  It's just business.
Which is why social justice matters.  Until responsibility enters the equation, we do not have an equitable society.  And none of us are free.

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