So when does any publicity become bad publicity?
The thought came to me while listening to Sunday’s The City radio show with Mayor Rob Ford and Councillor Doug Ford. “Well, you’re married to the Pollack,” brother Dougie said to Rob during their conversation about the Euro Cup. “A term of affection,” the mayor said later, responding to his brother’s apology for using the term which he claimed not to know was derogatory. All would be forgiven in Fordland later over polish sausages and pierogies watching some soccer at the mayor’s house.
Would that be the case, however, outside the family circle?
With The City, Mayor Ford has been given an even bigger bully pulpit than the already impressive one the mayor of Canada’s biggest city inherently possesses. Every week he gets to expound on his political views, his council pet peeves and his one true passion, sports. Except for the last topic, he goes largely unchallenged, tolerating little dissent from any callers who have the temerity to chime in with opposing opinions and filling the guest list with like-minded councillor colleagues.
Why, for example, after last week’s bizarre plastic bag debate at council, didn’t the mayor invite the culprit behind the ban motion, Councillor David Shiner, on to the show to have a further debate on the issue? Maybe he did and the councillor declined. Who knows? But surely one of the 24 councillors the mayor named who voted in favour of the ban was willing to come on the show to discuss the matter.
Instead we got plastic bag loving and part time Ford foe, Councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby phoning it in. This, despite the fact, as my colleague Cityslikr pointed out to me, Councillor Lindsay Luby was the real impetus behind the ban when she brought up Seattle as a city that does not charge anything for plastic bags, having been there recently, shopping. You’re right, councillor. Seattle no longer charges for plastic bags, its bid to do so overturned on an election proposition. So as of July 1st, the city will ban plastic bags outright. Councillor Shiner saw that memo passed around council chambers during the debate and ran with it.
Ooops. No matter. The councillor and brothers Ford prattled on, talking up all the benefits of plastic bags and fielding calls from listeners who felt the same.
In the show’s previous iteration, originally helmed by Councillor Josh Matlow, there was an actual attempt to discuss municipal matters from the basic left-right dynamic with the host in the role as the moderate centre. Sure, the set-up was a little cutesy but it brought a substantive dialogue to City Hall proceedings in a much more inclusive way than its bastard offspring. The City versus The City as seen through the Ford brothers’ eyes.
And it is a very narrow, skewed perspective, one that includes ethnic slurs as family nicknames, it seems. If the idea behind getting the Fords a wider audience through a 2 hour, weekly radio show was to circumvent the other, less friendly forms of media in town and get their message out there, unfiltered, the negative repercussions to such increased exposure were probably never fully considered. In the hands of a truly media savvy public figure, there might not be much of a downside but to the gaffe prone, like our mayor and his even gaffier happy brother?
Maybe the constant reminder of just how ill-informed the mayor is on almost every subject outside of sports serves to shore up the basest of his base. He’s just one of us! Maybe the regular placing of a foot in the mouth endears them to those who don’t care for the slick, knowledge based type of politician. As a then councillor, Rob Ford’s regular appearances on AM640′s The John Oakley Show show established his brand and helped develop an audience that followed him to the polls on his quest to be mayor. Maybe Team Ford hopes to keep that loyalty alive and kicking through to 2014.
But is it possible to have too much of a bad thing? While little quirks of character might be endearing in small doses, serving them up in weekly helpings could eventually get tiresome even to the most devoted of fans. “Did he really just say that?” is the response radio shock jocks aim for but is it the sort of result a mayor of Toronto seeks? Despite the emphasis during Sunday’s show on the plastic bag ban and subways, subways, subways, what lingers is The Polock, and brother Doug’s search for an appropriately WASPy soccer team to root for.
Yep folks, them thar’s our mayors, warts and all.
It’s hard to believe that such a continued assault on common sense and common decency can be parlayed into a winning re-election formula. These personality tics often do work when a candidate campaigns as an outsider but after 4 years of being the most powerful elected official in Toronto? It suggests a failure to grow into your role and can only remind voters that they may have miscalculated when they cast a ballot for you the first time around.
– wonderingly submitted by Urban Sophisticat