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city howl

i've been meaning to write this post for days, but the rob ford train wreck wouldn't slow down long
enough for me to get the words out. in fact, i'm still not certain i can type this without missing a few updates, but it's basically all i've been able to talk about for the last week, so it kinda seems like i should be posting. after all, this is the repository for all the junk that's built up in my brain. [in case you thought there was some larger point to this, no there isn't. i just wanted a place to rant on the internet.]

so let's review:

six months ago, two journalists from the toronto star and one from said that they were approached about buying a video of toronto mayor rob ford smoking crack. stills from said video were made public and the journalists sounded pretty convinced that they were dealing with a legitimate thing- legitimate enough that gawker went to press with the rumour of the video's existence.

gawker actually raised the seller's $200k price to buy the video, but the buyer had disappeared before their "crackstarter" campaign came to an end. [kudos to gawker for being up front about the fact that they couldn't find the seller before the fundraising was over and for deciding to donate the funds to charity.]

the canadian media went understandably batshit, but the involvement of gawker boosted the visibility of the story and all of a sudden the american media, plus a little comedy host by the name of jon stewart, started paying attention.

the mayor waited an inordinate amount of time [a week] before making a statement. he said in his typically pugnacious style that he was not a crack user or a crack addict and that he could not comment on the video, because the video didn't exist.

the grumblings never stopped and then it turned out that one of the guys in the much-publicized video still had turned up just a little bit dead in a gang-type shooting. but things did get quieter.

fast-forward to last week, on halloween. suddenly, there's toronto's chief of police, looking more than a little shaken, saying that they'd arrested ford's friend and sometime driver on drug-related charges and charges of extortion and that they had a video that was "consistent with what has been shown in the media". the chief's efforts to be extremely cautious in his language were at once painful and painfully comical. i think i watched his press conference about ten times and i felt for the guy, who was obviously aware that he was looking down the barrel of a media shitstorm with very limited information.

i spent most of the night glued to my television, praying that the police would relent and cough up the video. but in the end, they went right back to whatever it is they'd been doing and what we were left with was... aftermath.

ford angrily denied that the video could exist, his allies challenged the police to produce the video [pllllleeeeeaassssssse], the political force known as "ford nation" closed ranks and the standoff was on.

the next week, the mayor's older brother- a reputed high school hash dealer himself- took to the airwaves in toronto calling for the police chief's resignation over the fact that he'd said the video and/ or the situation was a disappointment. apparently doug ford felt those remarks were political and inappropriate. personally, i just found them inaccurate, since most people i know have very far from disappointed in the whole spectacle. but most of us don't have to live there.

later the same day, rob made a bizarre appearance in front of the gaggle of reporters who were living basically twenty-four hours a day at the doors of his offices and offhandedly admitted that yes, he "probably" had smoked crack "probably" in "one of my drunken stupors". cue the whirring sound of heads spinning and the scent of burning wires as millions took to twitter [myself included] to immortalise #inadrunkenstupor as the most magnificent get out of jail free card in living memory. [did i mention that this happened on guy fawkes day? it's like the international day for the saint of bad role models, apparently.]


a few hours later, ford reappeared to basically kick-start his next electoral campaign, defiantly announcing that he would not back down and claiming "i have nothing left to hide". oh, rob. i'm guessing that you don't have many people with experience in public relations in "ford nation", because any of them would have told you that that's the one thing you can't ever say to the media. saying that you have nothing to hide is just chumming the water for the journalistic sharks and, let's face it, they already have the scent of blood in their nostrils. [enough that several of them openly guffawed at his closing statement "god bless the people of toronto".]

the next day, ford apparently had to sneak up the back stairs to his office to avoid the shark pool- and even a passing glance at the man would make it obvious that that represents a serious situation. this man hasn't seen his feet in twenty years. one has to wonder how he manages to go to the bathroom.

of course, one wouldn't have had to wonder long, because the police took mercy and released some of their hours and hours and hours of surveillance video of alexander lisi, which included him meeting up with the mayor to exchange "packages" and dumping vodka bottles in a schoolyard and, the piece-de-resistance, the mayor himself taking a leak on this self-same schoolyard. at least it wasn't during recess.

and while the images of him befouling school property made the rounds on the internet, the man himself was shepherding a group of children around city hall, because it was bring your kids to work day. seriously. there are photos of that, too.i only wish they'd let the media in to see how many children asked him what a drunken stupor was.

today, a surreptitiously taken video of ford threatening to kill an unidentified person to a third party while "inebriated" [according to him] or high as a friggin' kite [according to anyone else who's ever been inebriated] was obtained by the mayor's media nemesis, the toronto star. ok, i'll admit that i've said a lot of things in the comfort of my own home that i wouldn't want broadcast on the internet either, but this is just feeding the man's increasingly mythical stature as the nutjob in the northern attic. unless the police are seriously building a case that ford was involved in the crack-vid related extortion attempts or that he is somehow implicated in the still-mysterious deaths and disappearances associated with said video, this new piece of cinematic work doesn't really mean anything. but ye gods it's hilarious.

in the face of all this, ford still has a remarkable number of supporters. and you know what? it doesn't surprise me. he has the bluntness and self-assurance that has made chris christie so popular. think of him as a drunk chris christie. on crack. they both share the same near-pathological hatred for public servants, including groups like teachers. they both trade on their unapologetic brashness [because whatever you want to say about rob ford, i have never felt that his personality is in any way adjusted for public consumption.]

on top of that, he has that uniquely suburban sense of entitlement, that sense that he has no responsibility for the maintenance of anything in the city if it does not convey a direct benefit to him. and let me tell you, that attitude has a lot of resonance in toronto. the city has been decimated by decades of people flocking to the safety of identical homes in sprawling subdivisions. there is a recovery in progress as many either return or choose to stay in toronto "proper", but there is a constant but undeclared state of war between the city and its suburbs. the increasingly artistic, liberal, artisanal city has little in common with the conservative, mass market suburbs. a balance has been maintained over the years because they've traded off power in city hall- ford's predecessor was a left-leaning city dweller who championed public transit, his predecessor was a man who may now go down in history as toronto's second craziest suburban mayor.

[note :: i would never say that this characterisation is common to all suburban dwellers, just that it is common enough to be reflected in voting patterns on all levels. and i'm not the only one who thinks so.]

just as ford's admission was settling in the [inter]national conscious, the cbc broadcast "person on the street" interviews with citizens in ford's home base of etobicoke, who said things like "as long as he saves me money, he can smoke whatever he wants". herein lies the essential problem of suburban entitlement: you can be as much of an asshole as you want [and ford has some precedent] and people will support you as long as there's something in it for them. you can be a liar, a hypocrite, a crack smoker, but if you let your buddies wet their beaks and act like you want to kick some ass, chances are you'll be ok.

therein lies the truly scary thing: ford could easily get re-elected. his base doesn't really hold this whole thing against him and, in fact, it may even reinforce his image as the guy who's tough enough to take on the imaginary problems of his home city. or his home country. don't count him out. there are a lot of suburbs in canada and they all pretty much think the same. anyone who thinks this guy doesn't stand a chance is, you know, on crack.

now let's all dance...


Bellyhead said…
This is just the most comically (and sadly) ridiculous situation. But I'm happy (? relieved) to know that crack smoking mayors are not solely a US fixture. Vive la North America!
Kate MacDonald said…
Yes, however Marian Barry at least had the good sense to resign, because he perceived that smoking crack might constitute a bit of a distraction from his official duties.

The TRULY sad part is how much I want him to stay on, just because following this tale is so endlessly entertaining from a distance.

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