Home > Current Affairs, Politics > Rob Ford’s Latest Media Fracas: Victimhood, Division, and the Consequences of Public Democracy

Rob Ford’s Latest Media Fracas: Victimhood, Division, and the Consequences of Public Democracy

Two years into Rob Ford’s term as Mayor of Toronto, the ever-divisive figure continues to make headlines for things quite apart from his policies or governance. Perhaps because the initiatives that he was purportedly elected to pursue have petered out to nothing due to his intransigent mismanagement of their public profiles, Ford seems only to pop up in the news lately when he demonstrates his extremely thin skin in dealing with the expected consequences of holding a major public office in a modern media-enabled country.

His latest altercation was with an award-winning (and decidedly unthreatening-looking) Toronto Star reporter, who was investigating the conservation authority-owned parkland behind Ford’s house which the mayor is looking into buying in order to build a security fence to protect his privacy. Following prominent fracas with Mary Walsh of This Hour Has 22 Minutes and ill-tempered encounters with citizens in public, this incident is more grist for the mill both for Ford opponents who find his conduct to be a public embarrassment and for Ford and his silent “nation”, who thrive on the conservative subculture of victimization and resentment and blame the “liberal media” for their side’s every PR disaster.

As Mayor, I solemnly promise to raise the roof on every possible occasion.

Whatever the real story behind the Rob Ford-Daniel Dale incident, and complicating details continue to emerge, it further exposes Ford’s curiously contradictory attitude to the public and to the spotlight. His campaign used media (especially the slavishly devoted Toronto Sun) and public opinion masterfully to get him elected, taking the calculated risk of alienating whole swaths of the city’s voting population in order to maximize their appeal with other elements of the public. He and his allies on Council have continued to divide the city against itself, pitting the divergent concerns of commuting suburbanites against those of comfortably affluent downtowners over port-lands development, librairies, service cuts, and the ever-contentious transit issue. The tactic has, more recently, not really worked: no ferris wheel or monorail is forthcoming on the waterfront, Councillor Doug Ford’s ill-advised battle with Margaret Atwood cost the conservatives the library cut war, and Council and the province seem content to bypass the stubborn Mayor and go their own way on transit. But it’s become a tried-and-true conservative tactic, and it still stands a solid chance of success in the next election, regardless of the many media catastrophes of Ford’s first term.

More than anything, though, the fundamental conservative authoritarianism that dwells at the heart of Rob Ford’s uncompromising, unlogical ideology is exposed in this and the previous incidents. He clearly believes himself above public criticism as well as to be immune to the inescapable consequences of being a prominent elected public figure. Ford, and his supporters, have long construed his evident temper and habit towards petulant outbursts as proof of his strength and toughness as a leader. But like many a tinpot dictator (and this one with little in the way of real power, when faced with the near-direct democracy of municipal politics), Rob Ford finds the actual messy, contradictory business of democratic engagement to be a nuisance, if not an outright unwelcome insinuation upon his personal rights. As he faces a city less and less inclined to give him and his policies the benefit of the doubt, Mayor Ford will need to do much more than shake his fists and call the police in order to salvage some species of legacy for his tumultuous first term, let alone to win a second.

Categories: Current Affairs, Politics
  1. Nick
    May 7, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    Is that Rob Ford’s back yard? Nice patch of garlic mustard. Time to call the weed control inspector? Or, perhaps this is a naturalistic garden which is protected by the Charter.

  1. September 6, 2012 at 10:35 pm
  2. November 27, 2012 at 7:41 am
  3. March 12, 2013 at 5:27 pm
  4. November 21, 2013 at 9:58 am

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