By Chris Michael Burns
I will preface this by stating that I do not like Mayor Ford and I do not think he is qualified to be the Mayor of Toronto.
Rob Ford is better suited, perhaps, to be mayor of a city that boasts football as the official sport, buffoonery as the official pastime, and considers short tempers, anti-intellectualism and tactlessness to be virtues. I don’t know if there is such a city, but if there were, he would be the natural choice for Mayor. I will refrain from ad hominem beyond that, because I actually want to commend the Mayor, in a way.
I have resisted allowing myself to be taken in by the fever of the crack video allegations, and as I read reports of hundreds of concerned citizens converging at city hall calling for the Mayor to resign (and thousands more endorsements online), I am glad to be outside of the mainstream once again.
When the allegations were made public by two Toronto Star journalists and the city went apoplectic, I hoped secretly for several days that the Mayor would refuse to respond to them. People think they are owed a response to every rumour about a public figure that goes viral. Surely we can exercise some discernment here; if the allegations were about money missing from city hall, we might be entitled to a response.
Mayor Ford held out for almost a week, but he caved and held a press conference, probably at the behest of his circle of advisers (many of which are subsequently dropping like flies, as it were).
All is not lost.
Mayor Ford stated that he is not stepping aside and plans to run in the next election. I was glad to hear this and I think it is exactly right. If he stepped aside now, it would mean that he allowed himself to be bullied by a public pressure campaign that was fuelled by little more than rumour, mobocracy, and a disingenuous newspaper. Talk about ad hominem; “You may have smoked crack, so you must resign.”
I respect him very little, but if he resigned now, I would respect him even less.
It has been said that Ford’s mayoralty is a joke and his scandals have become a distraction from any real work being done at city hall. If this is true, the solution is not for him to resign. The solution is for people to not allow themselves to be so distracted by stories that are worthy of the National Enquirer, at best. So John Stewart and Jimmy Kimmel made cracks about Ford (pun very much intended) and people are crying about Toronto not being taken seriously. And then they blame Ford for it! Ford did not release the video, he did not break the story, and he did not ask people to amplify Rob Ford’s series of unfortunate events (the football fall, the camera crash) and circumvent his municipal work.
And let us remember that the news cycle moves faster than most of us can process it, so “the world” has probably forgotten about it already and moved onto some other scandal. The bad reputation cry doesn’t hold up. I could even argue that no publicity is bad publicity, and that this scandal has increased Toronto’s visibility and street cred in the U.S.A. Toronto has lost it’s innocence. We’re part of the real world now. But I won’t argue that. The point is that it’s all spin.
I am not suggesting that Ford has a respectable record at city hall, either.
We all know he’s embarrassing, but he won an election and if people feel this strongly about his removal from office, they ought to be putting their energy into a candidate Torontonians can’t say no to in 2014. Orchestrating scandals and using intimidation is no way to win. Win fair and square, just like Ford did, as much as we want to pretend it isn’t true. (Though, I still await an election fraud scandal to break. Don’t get any ideas, antiFordists.)
Scandal is all too easy to orchestrate. Suppose I contacted a gossip website with a first-hand account of the Mayor propositioning me for sex, and claimed I had the pictures and text messages to prove it. The gossip site publishes my allegations and releases some scanty evidence to a newspaper.
It’s an international scandal and people are protesting and shouting “We deserve to know!”. Would the Mayor then be obliged to hold a press conference and do the same old dance of denial?
I think not.
People accuse Ford of cheapening the city. Is it all him? Or we have allowed this to happen by encouraging it?
Many not-so-secretly want him to slip-up, and not-so-secretly enjoy it when he does. There is an heir of maliciousness to the anti-Ford mob. The rest of us are glad to criticize him on the merits of his ideas. We don’t need crack videos.
Any self-respecting person –which I believe the Mayor is, bully though he may be– would not resign because people think he may have smoked crack.
I don’t want him to be Mayor, but I won’t be taken in by the fever of allegations and mob thinking. People believe the video is real because they want to believe the video is real. And when I see tens of thousands of dollars being raised online to make the video materialize, I wonder how people can’t see the motive, and that it’s all a big ruse.
But then, the video could be real, and I could be wrong. We will have to wait and see.
I won’t hold my breathe though, because there are real problems that need my attention.
Chris Michael Burns is an aspiring screenwriter and novelist in Toronto. His sardonic play Weight Loss World debuted at the Toronto Fringe Festival (2010). He is currently working on The Rope, a novella about the corrosive spiritual effects of the philosophy of Ayn Rand.
Chris prefers dialectic over debate.
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