Last week I tweeted (Geographer70, 2014) about the recent media decision to cancel Dean Blundell’s “shock jock” radio show because of homophobic comments he made on the air about a sexual abuse trial where his producer and co-host was not only on the jury, but was the foreman. (Toronto Star, 2014) Now usually when I tweet something like that, I don’t write anything further because, well, it’s SO incredibly obvious that nothing else needs to be said. Any kind of blog comment would be a redundant waste of time. I mean, listen to the recording included in the referenced article. As a gay man myself I would hate to have that man on my jury, never mind leading it. Does he sound impartial? I may have never been to the Toronto bathhouses: but I can only imagine what they would have said if they’d been joking about my activity in Arkansas, where I was heavily involved in gay rodeo; every week I’d visit the bars in Little Rock and our Rodeo Clubhouse. Believe me, I hardly need either of those men to exercise their creativity regarding comments in that regard.
But a few days later, Mr. Blundell came out with a statement: “I am not a homophobe” (Toronto Star, 2014). I have to say, recognizing that he feels the needs to come out an say something like that does my heart good. Employed in Toronto, being homophobic is not popular. There’s still anti-gay discrimination, there’s still abuse, there’s still people who hate. But the word isn’t popular.
If that was all there was to this: I’d still probably let it slide. Ol’ Dean recognizing the employment difficulties of being labelled a homophobe in Toronto and therefore gasping, wild-eyed, that he’s no such thing: that would deserve no more than another tweet. But there’s more. I want to look in a little more detail at his justification for why he can say the things a homophobe says, yet claim he’s not. From his website: “I did not discriminate on my show. I made fun of everything and everyone, and was encouraged to do so with the brand of entertainment we were employed to deliver.” (Dean Blundell, Jan 10 2014) And I decided, in light of this being a reaction to his statement, to treat this as a bit more personal. The following paragraphs are addressed to Mr. Blundell directly.
“I did not discriminate on my show”: well, you’re not really the one to decide that. I felt nauseous when I listened to the extract: you reinforced stereotypes that abound about… well, me, for one thing, but that’s beside that point… about a group that is marginalized in many parts of this country, this continent and the world. Remembering hearing what could have been the identical words from people I knew in Arkansas, people who weren’t “joking”: I know that many people think the same thing in the GTA, even if it’s unpopular. Thinking that such comments are innocent and harmless and “fun” is not only not “humorous”, it’s the very definition of homophobic and discrimination. So yes, you did.
“I made fun of everything and everyone”: that may be so. That’s your choice of vocation, and you need to take responsibility for that. You ridicule and demean… everyone. Even yourself, you say. But I’m reminded of fights I had in Arkansas about what a homophobe really is. If someone pokes fun at you, or your producer, or PM Harper, or our illustrious Mayor, Mr. Ford: you all have the power and the backing and the money to blow it off. You guys are the “powerful” in our society: you can (and do) lash out if you’re attacked. Look at the way Mr. Ford storms across the Council Chamber when someone irritates him. You’re the same: you just wield nasty words and insults instead of clumsy fists. It is only very recently that the LGBTQ community have discovered their power, and most of us don’t really experience it. So the point is not that you pick on everyone equally. It’s nice that you’re an equal-opportunity abuser, but you still abuse. If the bullies who are the biggest boys in the playground do the same thing, picking on the smaller kids equally: they’re still bullies. There’s no honour in ridiculing the weak. If you’re going to choose this as your vocation, you need to know how to pick on someone your own size. Picking on the strong can be funny, even enlightening: picking on the weak is not.
“encouraged to do so with the brand of entertainment we were employed to deliver” I have to admit: I almost laughed when I read this. I cannot believe that you’re justifying your actions by saying, effectively, “it’s my job and that’s what I’m paid to do”. “Blame those who listen.” A bit reminiscent of the “Nuremberg Defence” used by soldiers who have “only followed orders” when they committed atrocities, it didn’t work for them either. You see, you chose your profession and you know its limitations and risks: even though you sound like a complete idiot on the air, and you pretend you’re an ass in order to achieve what some call, “entertainment”, we know you’re not really. At least you’re not supposed to be. You’re supposed to know the limits of where simple poor taste becomes morally reprehensible. Then again, maybe we’re wrong. Maybe you are that stupid. Maybe you’re like the young girls who were were recently charged with child porn (CBC, 2014). They couldn’t tell when “having fun” became bullying, and turned into something very illegal. They’re paying the price with a criminal record. You just lost your job.
And I do think this is important: more important than many would think. I mentioned our mayor, Rob Ford, earlier: and there was a reason for that. Many of us are surprised that Ford got into power in the first place: and that after his revelations of smoking crack, drunk driving, bullying and verbal comments that make the mind reel, he still has a solid support base. And I would guess that most of that support base listens to you, Mr. Blundell. Strange how strong the common denominator is (and how low). Rob Ford seems to “care” about things exactly as much as you do: and beyond money, that’s not very much. I know you think you’re just having fun, just “playing the game” and pandering to what your audience most wants. Bully for you. (Pun intended.) But as far as I can see, you’re poisoning our youth and destroying our democracy. Toronto is no longer the place it was when I was growing up here, and people like you are the reason.
I’ll agree with you on one point. Although you’re a homophobe, I don’t think you’re more of a homophobe than anything else. You hate pretty evenly. When I lived in Arkansas, I knew a lot of homophobes: but at least they liked something. They were actually very nice people; as long as they didn’t know I was gay. But you: you make fun of everyone. Everything. I believe that’s even a quote. So you’re actually more of an everything-phobe. And that doesn’t mean “fear of everything”. It means “disdain for everything”. “Hatred of everyone.” Oh, except for money. Like Mr. Ford, you know exactly where your bread is buttered.
So good luck at getting another job, Mr. Blundell: but I hope it’s not here.