Ghomeshi gossip: a lesson for the CBC steeped in oral tradition


I watched The Fifth Estate interview with Chris Boyce, the executive director of CBC Radio, about the Jian Ghomeshi matter last Friday. The interviewer missed something. 

What really concerned me was the way Boyce responded, and only after being asked repeatedly, to a question on what he knew of Ghomeshi’s alleged abuse before the scandal broke. His reply was dismissive: “Only through office gossip.” 

It was at this moment that the CBC executive spun very legitimate and valid oral knowledge into nothing worth listening to. 

We all talk and listen to one another. We all tell and listen to stories. All peoples are vested in the oral tradition, not just the people of Turtle Island. 

It could be said that the oral knowledge circulating in discussions around the dinner table, on sidewalks, in coffee shops, in lunch- and boardrooms is the more important knowledge. It has not been “cleaned up” by higher powers and political agendas.

When people began to define knowledge in legal terms, relegating it to the written word, an artifact or a criminal conviction, they arguably did the oral tradition and the truths contained therein a disservice. 

While the word “gossip” has an interesting etymology worthy of learning, in the contemporary context it refers to the process of intentionally undermining a person through spreading malicious untruths about them. Gossip is intended to harm and discredit good people. It is not something that only women do. I have witnessed men engage in gossip as a mechanism to see who they can rely on in their pursuit of the larger goal of undermining another person or gaining power over them.

The knowledge sharing that takes place in our social spaces is not gossip. It is the oral tradition. 

In a world where people abuse their power, and where women are unwilling to move forward with a complaint due to issues of power and the narrow interpretation of evidence and truth, it is even more crucial that the oral tradition not be dismissed as mere gossip. 

It seems some CBC executives have been grossly misinformed about what is knowledge.   

Lynn Gehl is a researcher, writer and author on indigenous issues. | @nowtoronto



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