So let's recap. In less than three weeks, you've been fired from a multiple-six-figure gig at the CBC hosting the country's most popular radio show, had a thirty foot mural of yourself removed from the CBC lobby, been dropped by your publisher (Penguin), disowned by your former band mates (moxy fruvous), let go of by the artist whose career you had managed (lights), and been informed through the media that your participation in hosting the prestigious Canadian awards events for the Giller Prize (literature) the Polaris Prize (music) and Canada's Walk of Fame was no longer needed. The nation has been transformed into a feeding frenzy of piranhas, articles about you and the cascading tide of revelations about your life sometimes occupying most or all of the top 5 most popular stories on the country's major news outlets. A kicking ourselves in the collective ass is occurring in the Canadian nation, everyone wondering how we did not see, behind that velvety voice, behind that slick but just rough enough demeanour, lived a tyrant, an egomaniac, a serial abuser of the awesome power he had gained? The story morphed and unfurled in directions we never could have imagined, parliamentarians past and present coming forward with accounts of abuse in what has been, after all, always referred to somewhat creepily as an "old boys club". Respected and hardened female columnists have come forward in their fifties and sixties with stories of rape from their youth that they never felt the need to share until now, making all those eyeballs privy to the trauma they have lived with alone, for all these years. And because of all this your name, the one you were born with and will live with forever, will never mean the same thing to anyone in Canada again.
Is this just? Is this fair? Has anyone you can think of gone from untouchable to radioactive in this amount of time? You can ask Tom Flanagan about it, who reasonably mused once in a talk to university students that pedophiles might cause less damage to society if they were able to access artistic child porn that did not use real subjects. An Idle No More member who took issue with Flanagan's position and comments on the unrelated issue of his movement put the comments up, out of context on Youtube, and smeared him as a child pornography supporter. Tom eventually did get his job, his reputation, and his column in the globe back, but he wrote a book about what happens when the twitter mob gets ahold of their tweet-shaped pitchforks in the Internet age. The "Court of Public Opinion"s migration to the interwebs means the judgement is more swift, reactionary, and emotional than ever, and while permissiveness and liberal attitudes prevail as consensus on matters of social conscience in our society, the crowd can turn vicious when the wrong emotional chord is struck or the wrong taboo is dredged up.
I am not trying to be a contrarian here defending a radioactive former radio host. He did, after all, bring this upon himself. The truth of the matter is that he claimed when he tried to get in front of the story on his facebook page that these were "private matters" and that his "private life should remain private". As I pained myself to point out earlier this year on this blog, in January, when the hapless French president's extra-conjugal trysts were the stuff of tabloid fodder, when you are an official or unofficial public figure, there are certain sacrifices you make. Period. If you refuse to make them, then you are guilty of having a strong sense of entitlement and therefore unfit for the office you hold. You don't have "rights like everybody else". You are a somebody, not a nobody. And the last thing all the nobodies out there who look up to you need to see is your deviant, dangerous, degenerate behaviour which you've somehow rationalized to yourself is ok for a person in your position to be engaged in.
Woody Harrelson's character Marty Hart in the show True Detective summed it up best in one of the first episodes, ominously alluding to his former partner "When a man is a certain age...and he doesn't have a family..." You start to wonder, basically. Married, divorced, kids, common law, gay, asexual, whatever. Society is not that judgemental these days. But you have to have some explanation. Trolling social media for girls 20 years your junior and using your celebrity status to star strike them the better to increase their vulnerability? Indefensible beyond all recognition.
Then again, so should be fraternizing with thugs, smoking crack, and showing up drunk at black tie events all over town. The public is not rational. It does not have a fair mind. People write the most hateful and reprehensible things in the comments below articles, when they do not spread misinformation and lies. The vitriol and incendiary behaviour pervades the portion of the public square that is online, as it ascends to the halls of power in the legislative chambers of all levels of government. This is not the world one wants to broadcast and justify an affinity for "rough sex" into.
Court, jail, sentences, arguments, evidence, witnesses and yes, justice all still exist in 2014. The legal matters and cases all grind their way slowly through that system through years and months, through appeals, precedent, jurisprudence, higher court rulings, overturned verdicts, more appeals, new laws, amended laws, repealed laws, and unenforced laws. The "official" justice system exists alongside the "real" justice system, online where our thoughts and mores have been collectivized and where the judgements are swift, irreversible and merciless.