You know what I love about the NOW magazine–Dave Meslin contretemps that flared up this week? I get to use the word ‘contretemps’. Both germane and pretentious.
One of the interesting aspects to this back-and-forth is that at its core — the role and approach to civic engagement – it reveals what goes on everyday here in the offices of All Fired Up in the Big Smoke [When this writer deigns to show up at the office – ed.] and, very likely, wherever political debate takes place. That is, how to best deliver your message and make it one that those in positions of power want to help further or simply can’t ignore. It’s hard to believe that there’s a one-size-fits-all approach to it.
Yet that’s what it feels like in reading the original NOW piece and, to some extent, Mr. Meslin’s response. The concerted effort NOW has taken to demonize, vilify or, at the very least, demean Dave Meslin for his fraternizing with the enemy seems a little petty. Is he really some sort of traitor for his attempts to open up a dialogue with Mayor Ford and his team, to hope that there is some common ground that can be found on issues like bike lanes and electoral reform? For his part, Meslin initially seems to rise above that sort of pigeon-holing, summoning up the notion of a ‘diversity of tactics’ but 7 paragraphs later suggests that we should move beyond polarization and condemns NOW’s pillorying of the mayor and his supporters. Either he doesn’t really believe in a diversity of tactics or he needs an editor to tighten up his posts. [Who doesn’t? – ed.]
Only under the most extreme circumstances should we expect utter fidelity to a cause. I’m thinking, maybe, the various resistance movements in Nazi-occupied Europe. [While not explicitly calling anyone a Nazi, interesting to note how quickly writer evoked Godwin’s Law – ed.] Enforced conformity is something rigid ideologues do. It’s what intransigent bodies like police forces utilize to maintain an ominous wall of unaccountability. Us vs. Them marginalizes independent thought and squashes innovation and creativity.
While nominally operating under some sort of nebulous Left Wing banner, NOW and Meslin are simply going about trying to achieve similar ends in different ways. The weekly seeks to de-legitimize the mayor, to reduce his powers of persuasion in both the public sphere and at City Hall in order to put the brakes on what they see as a path of destruction he’s determined to travel down. Meslin seems more interested in wanting to help the mayor broaden his scope of what it means to have a well run city. Ultimately, both are just working to make the place where they live better.
And as much as he may dislike NOW’s disparagement of him and think it counter-productive, Mr. Meslin instead should view it as aiding his cause. With his conciliatory, hands across the aisle attitude, he gets to show Mayor Ford that not everyone who isn’t in complete agreement with him is some sort of left wing, pinko kook. NOW’s attack on him for his openness toward the mayor emphasizes that. Those people over at NOW are crazy! This Meslin guy seems reasonable. Let’s listen to what he has to say.
Firebrands are the heavy artillery that soften up the opposition’s defenses. Rather than look at NOW’s salvos as incoming strafing, maybe Mr. Meslin should see it more as friendly fire or cover. Giving him an opportunity to advance his position behind ‘enemy’ lines.
While I’d love to share his optimism about this administration’s willingness to listen to opposing views, I’ve seen little in the way of evidence to offer up hope of that. [As a matter of fact, Dave, not all answers to issues do lie in the middle. ‘Mutually respectful dialogue’ has to be a two-way street – ed.] But what do I know? Perhaps he’s gleaned a better insider’s view that cooperation is not beyond the realm of possibility. So why condemn him for trying to reach out? Being a hopeful and positive agent for change is Dave’s… if he’ll excuse the familiarity since my busy body editor seems to be on a first name basis… strength. Have at it, I say.
But since the mayor declared yesterday that he’s going to talk about what he wants to talk about, I hope Dave Meslin won’t hold it against anyone who thinks more forceful measures may be necessary in an attempt to redirect Mayor Ford’s energies in a more positive direction. Like many a battle, fighting the good fight may best be fought in multiple manners and on numerous flanks. [Gee willikers, Urban Sophsiticat. Nice of you to let us play along – ed.] [Don’t you have your own post you can vent on? Stop sticking your nose in mine – US] [Appeaser – ed.] [Hothead – US] [Ingratiating toady – ed.] [Mindless ideologue – US] [Unprincipled apostate – ed.] [Shut up – US] [No, you shut up – ed.] [No, you shut up – US] [No, you – ed.] [No, you – US] [Shut up, shut up, shut up – ed.] [You shu—US] [Nope. I get the last word because I’m the ed.]
— submitted by Urban Sophisticat/ed. by Cityslikr
Great post Slikr!
Good news on the “Ford won’t talk to the media” front. I was at the “David Pecault Square” ceremony this morning, and the mayor did a full scrum taking media questions on all topics, including Gordon Chong, Adam Giambrone, the provincial elections, City Hall office spending, etc….
Joshua Errett’s bully pulpit is a bit bigger than Dave Meslin’s. Errett presumably got paid for that hatchet job too. In fact said hatchet job probably got more eyeballs on the original piece – mine, for two.
I wish Torstar would just lure Savage to Eye (back to Eye, IIRC?) so I would have no good reason to read NOW any more. (I know DS is online but it seems to read better on paper for some reason).
I think that what NOW and others (including me) take issue with about Meslin’s approach is not that he is open to working with Ford, but that he goes the next step to be positive about Ford, despite Ford’s huge history of terrible attitudes and behaviour. What bothers me about being hopeful about Ford is that it seems to absolve him of all the harm he has done and wipes his “slate” clean, if you will. Basically I think we should respect him and trust him only as much as he has historically respected others (like Toronto’s most vulnerable citizens, which I would say is barely at all).
It raises the broader question of how well we should treat people who treat others badly, sort of like the “should we tolerate the intolerant” cliché. For instance, Meslin criticises NOW for lowering the political discourse in its dismissal of Ford, but Ford lowered the political discourse far more than anyone in recent Toronto history in order to get elected (so flagrantly that Kouvalis even boasted about it). Should Ford, then, be defended in the interest of “raising the discourse” from NOW’s condemnation?
Or for a parental analogy that is not personally irrelevant, if one’s mother has devoted herself to one’s welfare throughout one’s life, while one’s father has been mostly absent, should said father’s history be forgotten in order to give him another chance, or should that history have repercussions?
I definitely see value in working with Ford and not being completely pessimistic about him, but I also think it’s important not to ignore his political history in pursuit of optimism. He deserves a whole lot of shunning/dismissal/condemnation (though I realise this isn’t the most productive way of being).
I’d like to think this is an illustration of the need to work both tactically and strategically. Short-term accommodation in specific contexts may be tactically advantageous, and in that regard Mez’s approach is admirable. In the long term, however, we can’t lose sight of what Ford represents and where he wants to take us. Principled opposition has to be the strategic posture, although in all candour, Now’s sophomoric sight gags and condescension really aren’t that helpful.
For whatever it’s worth [and we’re thinking that and a couple of loonies might get you a coffee at Starborg’s – ed.], my thoughts on the matter are here.
[Who asked him to stick his prissy nose in here? -ed.] [Never seen this guy before in my life. – US] [Yeah, right. -ed.]
“But what do I know? ”
Very, very little and I’m sure you could learn something from The Mez.
Dear Mr. MacQuarie,
We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke are going to let one of your comments through just so we can publicly thank you for mentioning us over at Mr. Meslin’s blog. Our numbers here jumped appreciably.
Thanks and keep up the good work.
Hey Cat & City; you probably should emphasize the writer; Errett, rather than the publication. For years Levy writes garbage at the Sun…Anyways for the cover art and story Di Matteo writes an addition.
could be another writer the Fords avoid…