The former editor at the New York Review of Books says he stands by his decision to publish a controversial essay by former CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi.
In a piece published Thursday in the Dutch magazine Vrij Nederland, Ian Buruma drew parallels between his case and Ghomeshi’s, saying it’s ironic that he has now been convicted on social media, but not in court.
On Wednesday, a spokesperson for the Review of Books confirmed to the Star that Buruma had left his job amid sharp criticism for publishing Ghomeshi’s essay, titled “Reflections from a Hashtag.” Critics said the piece, in which Ghomeshi stopped short of admitting any physical abuse and did not explicitly apologize, lacked context and was poorly fact-checked.
“I have now myself been convicted on Twitter, without any due process,” Buruma told the Dutch magazine.
“It is rather ironic: as editor of The New York Review of BooksI published a theme issue about #MeToo-offenders who had not been convicted in a court of law but by social media. And now I myself am publicly pilloried.”
As always, I’m curious what “process” Buruma believed he was “due” before people are permitted to criticize his actions. Anyway, the fact that Buruma
was fired felt forced to resign because 1)he made a transparently indefensible decision when exercising his core job responsibilities and 2)made it very clear in a myopic follow-up interview that the decision was indefensible, while also making it crystal clear that he was not the editor to address the journal’s well-documented history of structural sexism is the rain on your wedding day.
I can’t put this more eloquently than Paul did, but the idea that people who lose high-status jobs because they…do lots of horrible shit are particularly deserving of sympathy because they’ve been “punished” is deeply weird. Look, in ascending order of fairness there are several reasons one can lose their job:
- For illegal reasons (such as racial or gender discrimination) that cannot easily be proven or the victim lacks the resources to litigate or faces a Republican adjudicator
- For legal but bad reasons, as documented in Paul’s post — nepotism, cronyism, profit-taking, politics, because because it makes it easier for admin to eliminate the humanities and start the new School of French Fry Grease Manipulation, etc.
- For unfortunate but unavoidable reasons, such as a company genuinely losing money and unable to afford its current staff
- For cause
Losing a good job in a competitive field is always hard, and the older you are the harder it is to get another comparable one, even if you’re fired through no fault of your own. The implicit argument of the “but hasn’t #MeToo gone too far” argument is that people fired for cause are worthy of more sympathy and attention than people who are fired for worse or much worse reasons. This is bizarre. It is true that people like John Hockenberry will have an even harder time finding a comparable job than people let go because their employer decided to PIVOT TO VIDEO or whatever, but…it’s not clear why it’s unfair that having a history of doing stuff like “making it impossible for your African-American co-workers to do their jobs because you feel threatened by them” and “repeatedly sending unsolicited creepy texts to your company’s 21-year-old interns” might now tend to count against you in the job market. The only way these arguments make any sense whatsoever is…if you don’t really think repeated sexual harassment constitutes being fired for just cause.
I think all workers should have the protections Rick MacArthur denies his workers. But even robust labor protections don’t mean you can’t get fired for cause, and don’t guarantee that you can get the job you want if you do.