The local media posse falls on the mayor with their pitchforks and truncheons.
Have you read the terrible Barbara Amiel's latest terrible column? Last seen dazzlingly weaving together rape apologism, homo- and transphobia, and (I think?) a defence of child pornography in her prune-faced condemnation of our "anything-goes sexual society," Baroness Black of Crossharbour has weighed in on this most recent of the "culture wars." The latest target lined up in the shaky sights of Amiel's antique flintlock musket? The media vs. Rob Ford.
The public interest in the mayor of Toronto maybe having smoked crack cocaine is all a bit much for Amiel, news of the whole scandal having wafted into her ear trumpet more than a fortnight after the rest of the ignoble hoi polloi caught wind of it. "There is said to be a tape showing Mayor Ford smoking crack cocaine," Amiel writes, filling in anyone who scuttled out from under their gilded rocks just to read the latest Barbara Amiel column. "Who cares, would be my response, but that's idiosyncratic."
Let's bracket Amiel proudly describing herself as "idiosyncratic," which rings about as false as someone snapping down their flip-up sunglasses and announcing, "Yeah I'm a pretty cool guy." Let's also take for granted that Amiel is making points in any conventional sense, i.e. deliberately crafting a line of argumentation as a way of exploring an idea or opinion. First off, Amiel says that it doesn't matter (to her, at least) if Rob Ford was smoking crack or not. He was elected as mayor. And so must serve as mayor. If he's to be removed from office, it should be "through the ballot box."
It's perhaps not surprising that an actual member of the British nobility, a baroness - which, for the record, falls all the way at the bottom of the adorable hierarchy of peerage, just below viscountess and well below duchess - considers democracy a bit of a burden. For Amiel, the results of an election are more binding and pertinent than the actual will of the people. As you make your bed, so you must lie in it, even if your mayor shits in it.
For Amiel, it's nobody's business if Rob Ford is smoking crack cocaine. She would naturally prefer that people be kept in the dark on the private matters of public figures. Her husband, after all, is a convicted a felon who is pathetically trying to resign as an officer of the Order of Canada before being stripped of the honour, a laughably desperate bit of "You can't fire me, I quit!" maneuvering. For Amiel, there's no place for the media in the crackhouses of the nation. For Amiel, there's no place for the media.
Amiel's guiding assertion is that the media is marshaled against or "vs." Rob Ford (and the Fords more generally), "behaving like snakes hissing around prey." To this, the obvious answer would be: yes. The media may well be mobilized against Rob Ford. But it's hardly a para-political coup designed to dispatch him from office, part of some leftie wingnut affront to democratic process. Of course the media is vs. the Fords, as the media should be vs. anyone who wields any sort of meaningful authority, as the media should be vs. (that is: wary, skeptical, even out-and-out contemptuous of) governments, corporations, big Hollywood movie studios, anywhere that power rests.
People like Rob Ford - that is, not just hapless figureheads of a wannabe conservative dynasty, but all politicians - enter their public lives running a deficit. Proving their worthiness - to manage a city, to sufficiently represent its populace, to lead - is a full-time job. It doesn't end at the ballot box. You don't get a break from it when the garage door at some house on Windsor Road rolls closed, sealing you off from the rest of the world. If the media has a political agenda, it's one that should float free from partisanship or party line toeing. The media should, and very often does, offer vigilant insurance against the abuses of politics, the abuses inherent in political power.
Just look to the States, where it seems as if everyone, even the "left", even The New York Times, is finally taking President Obama's administration to task for its imaginative interpretations of the U.S. Constitution. This isn't the chest-beating of some self-important "posse." It's what the media is supposed to do.
One more thing, which bears addressing if only because people seem to keep saying it over the past few weeks. Amiel expresses wariness at Rob Ford having used crack cocaine because...
Every crack cocaine addict I have ever seen is a bundle of skin and bone. Mayor Ford could be their poster boy: Smoke crack and not lose an ounce.
Really? The general conception of addicts as emaciated Dickensian waifs might have less to do with the drug magically melting away those unwanted pounds and more to do with impoverished addicts having less money to spend on food, because of, you know, their addictions. Someone who is the inheritor to a label-making fortune and mayor of a major metropolis is likely pulling in enough dough to sustain (in theory/allegedly/etc.) a sweet tooth for a relatively cheap street drug, without having to worry about missing a meal.
In summary. The line, "Hey Rob Ford can't be smoking crack. He is a fat guy and crack guys are skinny guys," may pass as a punch line at amateur open-mic (barely). But it doesn't really qualify as an argument. This goes for pretty much all 964 words of Amiel's column, which people will continue to read, and react to, because it's inflammatory and
idiosyncratic idiotic and a carefully, cynically crafted addition to the same rapacious media cycle Amiel pretends to condemn.
She also thinks Ford's proposed Sheppard subway extension constitutes a "sensible" idea, one that will bring Toronto up-to-speed with "every other major capital in the world." By which she means, probably, Paris. Maybe Winchester? This is something someone who travels by chartered horse carriage and locomotive engine and zeppelin would probably think.
Mediaocrity runs every so often.