The Toronto Sun’s Rally Cry

May 16, 2011

I tend to try and ignore the noise that emanates from the pages of the Toronto Sun. It’s not a newspaper so much as an organ of right wing dissemination. Sometimes the silliness tends to reach such stratospheric levels (I’m looking at you, Sue-Ann Levy) that I can’t help but comment.The org’s front page last Friday, however, did stop me up in my tracks. Rallying Cry. Call goes out to ‘Ford Nation’ to support mayor. The accompanying article was, if not innocuous, less propagandistic than the cover appeared to be. It seems the mayor’s office sent out an email to those on its campaign update list (aka ‘Ford Nation’), alerting them to the upcoming service review public meetings and urging them to sign up and attend. ‘Stacking’ the room as Councillor Janet Davis suggested.

Clearly, Mayor Ford has little interest in reaching out past his constituency. Instead, he’s choosing to firmly entrench it in an us-versus-them (them being the downtown pinko kooks) division that he can use to further his interests. His interests not the city’s. Thereby making the public consultation process for the service review less of an open forum and discussion to hear all views and more of a partisan pep rally.

But it was the timing of the Sun’s cover that really drew my attention to it. On the very day of its appearance on the newsstand and in curbside boxes, the mayor was attempting to quash requests going before the Compliance Audit Committee to have his campaign financing examined. His bid to proceed with the privatization of waste collection west of Yonge Street was headed to debate at City Council this week. The city had decided not to appeal a court ruling that ordered a by-election for Ward 9 that would take Ford foe Councillor Maria Augimeri off the council playing field until later in the summer and quite possibly install another rabidly pro-Ford member at council.

A rough and tumble patch is looming for Mayor Ford and it just struck me that the Sun might be trying to marshal the mayor’s supporters to his defense. Setting aside the most obvious argument about if this is something a so-called newspaper should be doing – the Sun is as relentless in its attack on politicians and institutions that don’t share its reactionary views as it is in supporting those that do – it is more disturbing for its promotion of a cult of personality. The mayor and his ‘nation’ aligning against the dark forces of opposition. You’re with us or you’re a’gin us.

Now, I hesitate to float the word ‘fascistic’. It comes loaded with all sorts of connotations of Nazis, brown-shirted thugs and the Holocaust. Even divorced of that imagery, to label a municipal politician as a fascist is all sorts of over-reaching and, very possibly, trite. But there is a tendency in this administration and the press that slavishly backs it to exhibit elements of fascism, none more so then this appeal to a ‘nation’ of followers. It end runs reasoned debate or discussion. It’s all about gut instincts and visceral emotion. To disagree or oppose is to reveal yourself as a foe, a pinko, a kook.

It’s interesting to go through a full definition of the meaning of fascism. Take Dr. Lawrence Britt’s 14 Characteristics of Fascism for example. Again, much of it is focused on national government with aspects concerning the military or religion that are beyond the control or oversight of municipal politicians so is not applicable. Yet, some of the points are disturbingly relevant to what we’re watching unfold here.

“Powerful and Continuing Nationalism”. Ford Nation. “Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause”. Bureaucratic fatcats. Pinko kooks. Union thugs. “Controlled Mass Media”. Obviously that’s beyond a mayor’s control but Dr. Britt talks about “sympathetic media spokespeople and executives”. Think about how Mayor Ford has frozen out the Toronto Star because of what he feels has been biased reporting against him. He referred to the Globe and Mail as a ‘socialist newspaper’ in the now infamous Fat Fuck video. “Corporate Power is Protected”. If not protected, it is certainly promoted through privatizing anything that’s not nailed down. “Labor Power is Suppressed”. Replace ‘suppressed’ with ‘criticized’ or ‘undercut’. “Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts”. Two words for you: downtown elites. “Obsession with Crime and Punishment” The mayor’s campaign promise for more police officers. The recent uncontested wage contract.This is not simply name-calling or shrill alarmism about our doomed democracy in the face of the jackboots. It’s about process. About having an open debate on issues and prevailing through persuasion not bullying or trying to gin the system by use of propaganda and cheap appeals to our tribal instincts. Governing by division can never lead to a healthy consensus or a greater good. I refuse to believe that anyone, no matter how misguided they may be, seeks public office for any reason other than that despite mounting evidence that points to the contrary.

submitted by Cityslikr


Ruling Not Governing

April 27, 2011

Nearly 5 months since being sworn in as mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford doesn’t seem so much interested in governing the city as he does laying siege to it. He’s come. He’s seen. Now he wants to conquer.

Having won the election, he’s now got a mandate. No need to seek consensus. It’s all about securing the minimum necessary votes. Anything more than that is pure gravy. You’re either with him or you’re ag’in him.

The latest target in his sights is Maria Augimeri who could face a court enforced by-election due to “irregularities” in the voters list in Ward 9 during last October’s election. “Augimeri isn’t keen on implementing Ford’s agenda,” former Ford deputy campaign manager and chief of staff Nick Kouvalis told the Star last week. “Augimeri votes with the left on most occasions and, if we can replace her with somebody who votes on the center-right on most occasions, that would be a huge victory for the mayor.”

So eager is Kouvalis (and the mayor presumably) to install another Ford ally on council that he’s offered to guide the campaign of Gus Cusimano, Councillor Augimeri’s main rival in last fall’s election. An election Ms. Augimeri won by just 89 votes and one that Mr. Cusimano’s taken to court to overturn to the tune of $70,000 to date. Cusimano may claim not to be a politician but he’s been trying very hard to be one since 1974.

Kouvalis suggested that if the by-election should happen, he’d like to see it framed as a “referendum” on Mayor Ford’s performance so far since Councillor Augimeri has regularly voted against the mayor on key issues. She even had the temerity to refuse to step down from her board member position at the Toronto Community Housing Corporation (along with fellow thorn in the mayor’s side, Raymond Cho) when he went head-hunting after the release of the Auditor General’s report.

Such audacity in the face of the mayor’s wishes makes Augimeri an especially juicy target to try and bring down. Her defeat at the hands of a Ford backed candidate would give a deep green light for Team Ford to proceed apace with their plundering and sacking of the city. It would also signal to those in the “mushy middle” to straighten up and fly right. Failing to fall in line behind the mayor could have repercussions of the negative sort. If nothing else, a by-election would serve as a distraction to an opposing councillor as the mayor heads for some rocky political terrain.

For his part, would-be Ward 9 Councillor Cusimano is already sounding positively Fordian divisive. “People have to decide if they want their councillor to be part of government or on the outside looking in.” Hear that, oh taxpayers of Ward 9? You want your local government working for you, you better get on side. You’re either with us or ag’in us.

It’s not just the precious battlements of downtown pinko elites as represented by the likes of Councillors Vaughan, Davis, Perks, Fletcher or McConnell that are under attack. Mayor Ford seems intent to lay waste to the ground under anyone who doesn’t share (or at least vote in favour of for fear of reprisal) his radical right wing, anti-government views. That includes almost everyone on council except for his brother, and maybe the Deputy Mayor and Budget Chief.

You can see it in the arm-twisting that goes on at council and committee meetings. Written instructions on which way to vote. QB Mammoliti’s thumbs up or down. It’s wrangling not debating. A show of force instead of the power of persuasion. Given the recent setback during the debate over appointments to city boards at the last council session, victory snatched from the jaws of defeat by the mayor on a technicality, and the little contretemps at last week’s executive committee meeting with Councillor Jaye Robinson over citizens advisory committees, it appears some members of Team Ford are beginning to buck under the oppressive weight of his doctrinaire saddle. Some fresh, pliable meat would come in handy for the battles shaping up in the near future.

So I agree with Nick Kouvalis on this. If a by-election does happen in Ward 9, let’s all frame it as a referendum on the mayor’s agenda. Since he’s so frenetically and successfully implemented some elements of his campaign platform, there are tangible outcomes we can look at to judge his performance. He and his designate, Gus Cusimano, won’t be able to hide behind empty rhetoric and trite platitudes like Stopping The Gravy Train and Respect For Taxpayers as the mayor did during last year’s campaign.

So let’s revive the debate on Transit City for those who missed it the first time. Get down to the nitty gritty about the mayor’s replacement plan and point out just how many folks will be ill-served by it. Maybe we can talk about the sudden case of deafness the mayor’s come down with toward the public. Exclusion seems to be how he prefers to operate rather than all that touchy-feely inclusion he promised before being elected. Garbage privatization? Have it. Maybe we can start talking about actual numbers instead of the theoretical ones being thrown around right now. And how about the mayor’s monstrous plans for the waterfront as mouthed by his brother, Councillor Doug? A by-election would offer a perfect venue for a wider discussion of that.

Hopefully, if the city does appeal the court’s decision, an outcome won’t be determined until the fall and if a by-election does happen then, it’ll happen right smack dab in the middle of the 2012 budget debate when the real results of Mayor Ford’s agenda start taking hideous shape. I’m guessing Councillor Augimeri’s stock will rise at that point due to her established opposition to the mayor and challenger Cusimano won’t be nearly as willing to cozy up to him as he is right now. Instead, he just might look fondly back at the time he only lost by 89 votes.

bring it onily submitted by Cityslikr