When’s The News Not Fit To Print?

OK, so somebody’s going to have to bring me up to speed on this. With no journalistic background and even less of one in ethics, I’m a little unclear as to why Mayor Ford being filmed fast food shopping isn’t newsworthy? If a news organization thinks it’s important that they have reporters dutifully show up every Monday to record his weight, why isn’t it part of the story if he’s seen visiting the dead colonel?

Who decides what’s out of bounds or not news?

We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke have, for some time now, made little reference to the mayor’s weight. During the 2010 campaign we tried rationalizing the use of pithy turns of phrases like ‘fat fuck’ as referring to an attitude, a state of mind and not a physical attribute even though it was. Conceding the point that we were treading choppy waters with that, and knowing that we wouldn’t hurl such an epithet at anyone in person no matter how much we might dislike them, we ceased and desisted.

I’m not sure we even ever referenced Cut the Waste Waist, his crass political stunt concocted, I imagine, in an attempt to distract us from the mayor’s 2012 troubles. Ignore it and maybe it’ll go away, was our thinking.

But as the budget chief — himself quietly going about the business of shedding pounds — likes to say, you can’t suck and blow at the same time. If the Fords are looking to generate some goodwill by their weight loss campaign, burnish the mayor’s image as just another little guy struggling with a battle of the bulge, they can’t dictate the terms of coverage. In our drive to ignore this whole issue, we’ve regularly fought the urge to write a post labelling Cut The Waist Waste as the worst PR idea since the fictional boss, Mr. Carlson, of the fictional radio station, WKRP in Cincinnati, decided to give out free turkeys at Thanksgiving by throwing live ones out of a helicopter. “As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.”

So much downside. Why risk it, we thought to ourselves.

And so the mayor endures further public scrutiny and embarrassment, any private misstep quite possibly caught on camera and broadcast for the world to see. His brother-councillor, Doug, the seeming architect of the gimmick, jumps to the mayor’s defence, decrying the very media intrusiveness he was looking for in the first place (“I couldn’t take a candy out of a candy dish at one of the buildings on Bay St. before somebody called the media by the time I got downstairs and said they saw me taking candy”), while making sure everyone knows he, at least, is on track to meet his weight loss target. “Anyways, at the end of the day I’m hitting my target. Fifty pounds. That’s it. Rob? It might be a little tougher.” How tough? “(He’ll do it even) if I’ve got to get a piece of duct tape and stick it across his mouth, put a little hole in there for a straw,” said Doug Ford.

How’s that for having the mayor’s back?

What was once an unbelievable turn of events, a political tidal wave, soon devalued into a farce and has now bottomed out into a sad fucking spectacle.

It’s no longer a question of whether or not Rob Ford is fit to be mayor of Toronto, the answer to that should be painfully obvious, but whether or not he even really wants to be mayor. There are perks to be sure. His view and words, regardless of merit, have to be taken seriously and not just simply laughed off as they were when he was a councillor. He gets to meet dignitaries like Don Cherry and sports teams.

But what happened to the days when you could just slip out for some chicken and nobody gave a shit? Or miss council meetings and most people were relieved rather than upset about it? And the Pride Parade! Why won’t everybody just stop asking me about the Pride Parade?!

Because you’re the mayor of Toronto, sir, and it’s 2012.

If things had broken the way he wanted, Rob Ford would now be a sports broadcaster, moving into that career after retiring from professional football. He’d be doing something he actually enjoys. Instead, he’s stuck being a mayor. Why? It’s impossible to tell. All we know is that nobody’s happy about it including, it would seem, Mayor Ford himself.

Maybe it all just seemed like a really good idea at the time, taking a run at the top job. If he won, he’d clean up the mess he was convinced City Hall had become and make a real difference. How hard would that be? What could possibly go wrong?

I think that’s why his trip to KFC during a very public weight loss challenge is in fact news. That he thought it wouldn’t be. That he thought there would be no implications, no consequences to those actions. So what? So I cheated on my diet a little. What’s the big deal?

The big deal is, the mayor and his brother made a big deal of trying to lose weight, tried to play politics with it, use it to their advantage. What could possibly go wrong? The fact that they didn’t think through what could possibly go wrong speaks volumes about their decision making process. There seems to be an inability to consider the implications of their actions. Of course, people would start watching what they ate. Of course, someone would snap a picture if they saw the mayor eating fast food, his brother eating candy.

To think otherwise, to be surprised that it happened and offended that somehow it’s ‘news’, well, is news itself. It means that the mayor of Toronto and his closest advisor, Councillor Doug, operate purely on a rash, reckless level. Hey! Here’s a good idea. Let’s run with it. There’s no sober second thought. No long term contemplation. No reflection. This just feels right. Let’s do it.

That’s news Toronto needs to know.

hungrily submitted by Cityslikr

Our Cancerous Campaign

I write today in soothing tones like those of the 1970s FM DJs, all smoky and silk, in hopes of ratcheting the shrill tone of the mayoral campaign down a notch or two. It has been all vitriol, spouting nothing but contempt and vilification. Yes, some of it is unfriendly fire between candidates as one might expect especially from an uninspiring brood of candidates who lack anything close to resembling a forward thinking vision for the city.

But much of the ugly, mean-spirited rhetoric has been directed at the very body the mayoral hopefuls are vying to lead: the municipal government itself and all those who Tend to the Garden of Its Upkeep (the title of a never released ELP album from the late `70s). The bureaucracy, in other words. The allegedly ‘corrupt’ council. City workers who have the temerity to inconvenience us and go out on strike. Oh sure, Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone, the standard bearer of incumbency, does chime in with the occasional dissenting peep, peep, peep of ‘This isn’t Cleveland. This isn’t Detroit’ but it’s usually lost in the indignant jeering of his rivals calling for a jihad against those making our lives miserable. Entrenched and self-serving civil servants and career politicians.

Vote for me because I hate the institution of democratic governance as much as you do!

Never mind the bent, twisted logic of that sentiment and please ignore the results of electing the practitioners of such political thinking (the disastrous presidency of George W. Bush, the diminution of Ontario under the Harris-Eves-McGuinty rule, Stephen Harper’s full frontal assault on the state currently underway), when we’re angry we have a tendency to favour politicians who mirror our distrust and dislike of politicians. And nothing eggs on our ire toward politicians more than hearing about the kind of salaries they enjoy and the perks they wallow in. They make how much?! That’s unbelievable, outrageous, harrumph, harrumph, harrumph…

It’s a funny dichotomy. We extol those in the private sector raking in much larger sums of money per annum and enjoying far more luxurious perks. They are the titans of industry, we say. Creators of jobs (although not so much lately) and floaters of boats everywhere (again, not so much lately). Making a success of yourself in business is the height of accomplishment. Toiling away in the bowels of government, well, clearly you’ve settled and should consider your life wasted.

It is an odd case of self-hatred. Shouldn’t we encourage our best and brightest to throw themselves wholeheartedly into the business of government? Wouldn’t that make for a better society? Instead, we shower praise and riches on those who package our middle class aspirations overseas and make monstrous returns for their investors. When business is paramount, government is seen as nothing more than an irrelevant impediment.

So here we are, cheering on millionaires and the well-to-do, telling us that they’ll improve our lives by dismantling the very apparatus that paves our roads, brings us water, maintains peace and order (on most days). Not only that, but they’ll happily do it for cut rate prices! Rocco Rossi pledged to slash the mayor’s salary by 10%. Rob Ford, George Smitherman, Joe Pantalone and Sarah Thomson have promised to freeze their pay if elected in October. Hell, Ford could probably seal the deal and become this city’s next mayor if he promised to do the job for free.

All this in the face of a recent report suggesting that, in fact, the position of mayor in Toronto was under-valued, remuneratively speaking. No matter. A politician should not be concerned with niggling things like pay, pension or their financial future. At least, according to Rocco Rossi.

“Politics is a high calling, but it should be a time of service, it’s not a career, and the moment you start looking at it as a career, that’s when people start worrying about the salary, the pension and the benefits, as opposed to serving the people,” Rossi said.

So, only the selfless and those that can afford a life in politics need apply. Or, to steal a phrase from business parlance, you get what you pay for.

sedately submitted by Urban Sophisticat