Toronto Mayor Rob Ford

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford

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There has never been a political figure in the great and powerful city of Toronto whose personal life has been more scrutinized, observed, and brought into question by the media and citizens more than our great mayor Rob Ford’s. If there ever was, I feel very sorry for them. That being said, one could argue that this unparalleled observation of Ford’s personal doings is completely presented. Rob Ford has made a mockery of himself and more importantly, the city that he supposedly leads, if only with a fist made of a cheap wood with a venire. At first, it looks very appealing, constructed with overly ambitious promises and an image devised by clever publicist, but as we begin to see its true contents, we discover that it was built on very weak, cheap, and fake grounds. The great Greek philosopher Plato once said
“In politics we presume that everyone who knows how to get votes knows how to administer a city or a state. When we are ill... we do not ask for the handsomest physician, or the most eloquent one.”
One could theorize that Rob Ford was elected based on empty promises and because he knew how to sway the people. An argument could be made however, that no matter how you feel about the degree of competency one possesses regarding their professional occupation, one’s personal life should never be brought to the eyes of other people in an attempt to improve or slander people’s opinion of other people in such a way that it would jeopardize or improve their professional lives and careers. Even more so when a person is viewed as important or significant in the public eye, such as a political leader of a major metropolitan city, like Mayor Rob Ford. This could certainly be viewed as an unfair advantage or disadvantage, depending on the situation. In Rob Ford’s case, it would be viewed as a serious disadvantage. In the extreme case of Rob Ford, these personal details include drug and alcohol abuse which could have a long term psychological impact, immature, foolish, and inappropriate acts in public, and actions that would make him seem to be somewhat of an unpredictable loose cannon, so to speak, both in the workplace and after hours in the general public. It could also be argued however, that the aforementioned information should be considered void on the grounds that one’s professional performance should not be based on conduct in public, but rather purely and solely on results which, in Rob Ford’s case, are present and palpable.

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One could even argue that the media is simply milking the “Rob Ford is Bad” angle because there is just nothing else to put on the newsstands. From a philosophical point of view, this is a very interesting topic. There is a great abundance of arguments both for and against Rob Ford, as well as many ways that the ideas of the great philosophers through time could be related to this issue.

If most Torontonians or even people who have observed this absurd Rob Ford scandal from a far could choose one word to describe him, it would probably be unpredictable. Even Ford’s most vigorous supporters, however sparse they may be, must agree at least somewhat that Rob Ford is at times completely unpredictable and even volatile in his actions. In recent times, Rob Ford never failed to concoct a seemingly impossible way to shock and surprise observers near and far by digging himself deeper in a hole of apologies and misconduct. Just when we thought he had been to his lowest point, he seems to find a way to go even lower. He managed this incredible feat by being unpredictable and doing things that people never thought a political would even attempt. He always pulls it off with ample gusto and shock value and, like a good edgy sitcom, always leaving viewers hungry for more. For a while, we almost couldn’t wait to watch the evening news and find out what our great Mayor Rob Ford had gotten himself into today. Consider this passage from an article published in the Toronto Star published on Thursday November 14, 2013 by staff reporter Jane Gerster entitled Rob Ford vows to sue, stuns city with oral sex comment.

“But it was his comments about allegations in court documents released Wednesday that he had claimed to have been intimate with former policy adviser Olivia Gondek that stunned reporters. ‘It says I wanted to eat her p**** and I have never said that in my life to her. I would never do that. I’m happily married and I’ve got more than enough to eat at home,’ he said before heading up to council.”

This unseemly disgusting display of vulgar language and utter disrespect for his fellow co-workers shows just how much of a loose cannon Rob Ford really is. Ford is in a position of power and should adjust his behaviour accordingly to reflect the city that he represents. He has instead demonstrated in many incidents such as the aforementioned that he may not be able to be able to control himself and govern his own behaviour. Perhaps then, one could argue, he may not be able to handle a position of such importance and responsibility, as well as one where this behaviour is not only completely unexpected but unacceptable. One could argue that his struggle with drugs and alcohol, one that was made extremely public and was shrouded in lies and deceit, could have inflicted serious psychological damage on our great mayor.

Step back for a minute and conjure up, in your mind, a person abusing alcohol and serious drugs such as crack cocaine. This may bring forth somewhat disturbing or unsettling images of a person dangerously underweight, on the street working day to day, or night to night in many cases, just struggling to survive. Their bodies laden with visual evidence of said abuse such as scabs, needle piercings, and so forth. I will spare you any more disturbing details, because by now you certainly get the very disturbing picture. Generally, people in this unfortunate situation are struggling so mightily to keep their own lives from sinking in to the abyss and become a statistic, if you will, of drug and alcohol abuse. We would never in our wildest dreams envision these people in any position of power, much less at the head of one of the greatest metropolitan cities in the world and certainly the country. Not because they couldn’t be competent at their job if they had not stumbled down the unfortunate path of addiction for whatever reason, but because they are clearly not at present psychologically stable for such a huge, taxing responsibility and position. Now, consider Mayor Rob Ford, a man in that exact position. The fact that this situation is reality in the city of Toronto is what really horrifies its citizens. Mayor Ford does not need more confrontational press conferences, he does not need the unrelenting pressure and constant observation and pressure from the Toronto media and its citizens, and he needs to get away from all of that. These are things that could drive any man to the point of exhaustion and possibly even borderline temporary insanity, much less a man abusing these very dangerous and life threatening substances. He could really do without those as well. What Mayor Rob Ford really needs is help. Help to restore his health of his body and mind and help to relinquish his addictive instincts and behaviours because as history shows us, it isn’t easy for anyone, whether that be the drug user on the street or the mayor of Toronto. These substances drastically alter ones behaviour and psychological mindset, and these effects are not easily undone. That’s why places like drug rehabilitation centres exist. These substances change people and as a result, they do things they normally wouldn’t dream of doing like, for example, the aforementioned incident above involving himself and comments to the press about former policy adviser Olivia Gondek, or countless other public behavioural lapses that can easily be seen by going to YouTube and typing “Rob Ford” into the search bar. My point is, before Rod Ford can think of being in a position of any responsibility or even functioning properly in society, he should seriously consider getting help for the problem that he has. When people are sick, they need to get better, no matter what the affliction is. Of course, as Mayor Ford and his supporters would so vigorously argue, that is nobody’s choice but his.

Every Canadian citizen of legal age, warranted or unwarranted, has a right to privacy. Rob Ford is one of those citizens. Rob Ford is in a position of power within a very large and busy city. This would imply an increased degree of observation compared to your average civilian. This does not however, entitle anyone to breach Rob Ford’s privacy, a right. Rob Ford should be able to live his life without fear that a paparazzo is lurking behind every corner, hungry for the latest Rob Ford scoop that would be sure to sell papers faster than fireworks on the fourth of July. He, like the rest of us, should be able to enjoy himself, regardless of how he chooses to do so. No matter how disgusting or inappropriate the activity may be, he has the right to do it if he wants to as a legal adult, without scrutiny from anybody. After all, there must be people enjoying themselves the way Rob Ford does around the country on a nightly basis. They however, are not viewed as bad people because their actions are not documented as Ford’s are. You or I could enjoy ourselves that way too without having to fear the scrutiny that Ford would endure because we are not in the public eye. Why then, is it fair for us to hold Ford to a higher standard than ourselves, at least in terms of what he does after work hours and on his private time? Consider this snippet taken from a CTV article published by Andrea Janus on November 13, 2013 about Ford’s colleagues recalling incidents of misconduct, occasionally involving intoxication.

‘“Dwyer text messaged Nejatian and told him that Mayor Ford was not driving properly,” the document said. “Dwyer said that Mayor Ford was impaired, driving very fast and that she did not know where she was going. Dwyer was scared in the vehicle.”’

While these alleged activates would be illegal, judgment should be left up to law enforcement, and not to the nosy citizens and media of Toronto. We as responsible citizens must step back from fallaciously partaking in the “Bash Rob Ford” bandwagon and consider how it would feel to be in his situation. That type of constant stress and scrutiny can very quickly compound and metaphorically crush a person. A number of us would attempt to relieve this stress by abusing substances such as Ford has, which of course would only create more scrutiny and on and on the cycle goes. We must take at least partial responsibility for creating the cycle and allowing and accepting the infringing of Ford’s privacy he is entitled to. Of course, who is responsible for delivering the information to the masses? The media.

“Everything is good as it comes from the hands of the Maker of the world, but degenerates once it gets into the hands of man” – Jean-Jacques Rousseau

The media and citisenz of Toronto have appeared to adopt the exact reverse philosophy this quote implies. Instead of glorifying their leader, everything Mayor Rob Ford does is seen as bad, whereas if a normal person not in view of the public eye did the same things Ford was doing, they would not be nearly as scrutinised by those around them as Ford has been. The media is charged with delivering an honest view of issues that they feel are important to people. Far too often however, the media decides to put a little “spin” on their articles, stretching the truth to make the story more interesting. They also know how to manipulate the reader. The Rob Ford debacle sometimes resembles a reality television program where the objective of its producers is to display as much drama as possible, no matter how trivial, because they know that humans by nature seemed to be hooked to drama. Reporters, like television producers know that it is very hard for people to resist gossip and drama and therefore they know that if they include drama into their reporting, it will sell a lot more papers. And what better place to find drama than the bumbling mayor of Toronto who constantly undercuts his own credibility with acts of misconduct, as aforementioned. It doesn’t matter if the event has anything to do with Rob Ford’s political career. If it’s drama, the media knows that the general public will feast on it. Therefore, something that might not be considered news in a different situation such as having a little too much fun on a night out on his own expense is reported as serious news by reporters because they know that the popular thing to do right now is bash Rob Ford whenever he is not on his best behaviour. They know this is gossip, but they know that at the end of the day they have found a proverbial gold mine in Rob Ford because people will accept anything remotely negative they hear about him as news and will continue to bash Ford. The citizens and media of Toronto have brainwashed themselves into a hypocritical state of mind regarding Rob Ford. If anyone else for example were to get intoxicated at a party on the weekend this would not be seen as news or even as abnormal, just someone enjoying themselves a little too much, which everyone does from time to time? We basically expect perfection from Rob Ford, while at the same time knowing that no human is perfect. He does things he shouldn’t do, but so does every single one of us. The only difference is, Ford is seen as a monster for doing them, where as we are just seen as imperfect humans. Yet the media continues to bully Rob Ford for the sake of selling papers. Consider a point made in his letter to the editor of the National Post published on November 15, 2013. Reader Frank Casey of Calgary writes

“The media, in the finest traditions of Britain’s gutter press, has since had a field day and Mayor Ford has been effectively convicted and destroyed, but without any pretense to due process or even fair play. If Torontonians need to be embarrassed about something then this, rather than anything Mr. Ford may have done, should top the list.”

We as responsible citizens should step back and consider the fact that we are being manipulated by the media to believe Rob Ford is a monster when in fact, just like the rest of us, he’s only an imperfect human and humans always make mistakes. The constant reminder of Ford’s imperfections has caused a perceived lack of trust between Ford and his colleagues and citizens, and their confidence that he can do his job competently.

In general, let alone in politics it is very difficult to trust someone when you don’t respect them as a person. It is also very difficult for someone to gain regain trust once it is lost. Especially if it is someone that is supposed to lead hid people fairly and honestly. At the heart of the criticism of Rob Ford is an issue that even his most fierce supporters can’t deny that was just plain wrong for anyone to do. In May 2013, the Toronto Star published an article saying they had bought a video tape that contained footage of Ford smoking crack cocaine and using profanities. Needless to say, this was a huge scandal and everyone anxiously awaited Ford’s response to these aggressive accusations. Over the next few months, pictures were released, however they were inconclusive in determining whether Ford was partaking in substance abuse. A Maclean’s Magazine article published on November 5, 2013 by Nick Taylor-Vaisey states that on May 26, 2013 and several times thereafter, Ford, as well as his lawyers and associates denied the accusation that he ever used the drug. Many were skeptical of Ford and his party, but interest very gradually faded to the background, although never fully disappearing. Then, on November 5, 2013, after a barrage of documents and other evidence was discovered and released in recent days, Ford formally admitted to having smoked crack cocaine. A Toronto Star article written on November 5, 2013 written by Daniel Dale recounting the press conference in which Ford confessed to drug abuse states that Ford does not plan to resign. It is bad enough that the Mayor of a major city has abused a very serious and harmful drug. That was not even the worst part, however. The thing that really angered and upset Torontonians was the fact that Ford had repeatedly denied using the drug, even going so far as to call the credibility of the reporters who broke the story and those who did not support him into question. By explicitly lying multiple times to the media and citizens of Toronto, as well as observers around the world, he showed a grave lack of respect for everyone he tried to deceive. He also, as a result, has made himself and the people of the city into somewhat of a laughing stock for observers abroad such as countless late night talk shows to poke fun at. Rob Ford had disrespected and humiliated and entire city, a city that he was elected by the people to lead with honesty and integrity. To quote Karl Marx,

“The oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class are to represent and repress them.”

It would appear that Ford has somewhat adopted this philosophy. By lying to the people he leads, he implies that the power the voters think they hold is actually an illusion, and the leaders they elect are actually repressors. He implied that we are inferior to him and therefore he does not have to show us the same respect as he would to someone he considers his equal or superior. So, nobody can really be blamed if they have lost trust in Ford, because he brought it entirely on himself. However, one could also argue that Ford has done some good for this city and that is why Ford’s approval rating actually wasn’t badly damaged despite this disastrous scandal.

Mayor Ford’s supporters, it would appear, are very perseverant people. A Toronto Sun article written by Don Peat published November 22, 2013 stated that even after Ford admitted to having lied about crack cocaine use, his approval rating remained relatively unchanged hovering in the low to mid 40 percent range. This is because, according to the aforementioned article, Ford’s supporters have generally adopted a stance of “There is your personal life and all the crazy stuff that you do – and for sure he’s got some crazy things there – and then there is what you deliver on your job.” Basically, they feel that he should purely be judged as a mayor by how he has performed as a mayor, and not by things he does on his own time. Ford has always fought for the little man by doing things such as trying to lower and maintain taxes and improve public transportation. In a National Post article written by Natalie Alcoba on November 25, 2013 stated that Ford stormed out of a budget meeting telling reporters that

“It’s embarrassing that the people of this city have to pay over 2.5% in property taxes when we had it locked in at one and three quarters. That is absolutely atrocious.”

This exemplifies how passionate Ford is about his job and his mandate to fight for and protect the working class person in Toronto. This is why Ford’s supporters have waivered even the most devastating publicity storms and accusations involving his personal life, because they feel that no matter his personal activity, he works hard and fights for the good of the city every day, even amidst constant scrutiny and distractions.

Rob Ford is a very polarizing figure. Love him or hate him, there are obviously multiple arguments for both having Ford removed from office and fighting for Ford because he is being wrongfully treated and unfairly judged. Rob Ford has done a lot of pretty bad things, even broken the law. Then again, so have a lot of us, yet we are not subjected to nearly the same scrutiny he is. However, Ford is held to at least a slightly higher standard than most people because he is the leader and political face of a city, a very large and important one at that. At the end of the day he was elected by the voters of Toronto to do a job for this city. Whether he has adequately preformed at that job is up for debate, but it is a bit unfair to associate job performance with personal activities, no matter how bad or wrong they are. It is now once again up to the city of Toronto to decide whether they want Rob Ford to remain their leader. There are certainly people on both sides. Whichever way those people decide to vote, they should do it with an unbiased, philosophical mind that considers both the wrong Mr. Ford has done and the good he has done. They must also consider what it would be like to be in Fords proverbial shoes, and most importantly, view him as an imperfect person, and not a person who failed to be perfect. If voters come in to the polls with that mindset, then whichever way the majority votes will truly be right and just. That is, after all, what’s most important.

Works Cited

Various. "Quotes About Politics." Web log post. Good Reads. Various, n.d. Web. 12 Jan. 2014.
"Rob Ford Vows to Sue, Stuns City with Oral Sex Comment." Editorial. Toronto Star 14 Nov. 2013: n. pag. Toronto Star, 14 Nov. 2013. Web. 12 Jan. 2014. .

Janus, Andrea. "Staff Allegations against Rob Ford: Cocaine, Suspected Prostitutes, Drunk Driving." CTVNews. CTV News, 13 Nov. 2013. Web. 12 Jan. 2014. .

Casey, Frank. "Today’s Letters: ‘Rob Ford Is the Guy Being bullied’." National Post[Toronto] 15 Nov. 2013: n. pag. National Post Full Comment Todays Letters Rob Ford Is the Guy Beingbullied Comments. National Post, Paul Russel, 15 Nov. 2013. Web. 12 Jan. 2014. .

Taylor-Vaisey, Nick. "Rob Ford’s History of Denying Crack Use." Macleans 5 Nov. 2013: n. pag. Macleansca Rob Fords History of Denying Crack Use Comments. Macleans, 5 Nov. 2013. Web. 12 Jan. 2014.

Dale, Daniel. "Rob Ford : 'Yes, I Have Smoked Crack Cocaine.'" Toronto Star 5 Nov. 2013: n. pag. Toronto Star, 5 Nov. 2013. Web. 12 Jan. 2014. .
Peat, Don. "Mayor Rob Ford's Popularity Holding Steady, New Poll Shows." Toronto Sun. Toronto Sun, 22 Nov. 2013. Web. 12 Jan. 2014. .

Alcoba, Natalie. "Rob Ford Storms out of Budget Meeting as City Unveils Plan to Hike Property Taxes 2.5%." The National Post [Toronto] 25 Nov. 2013: n. pag.National Post News Rob Ford Storms out of Budget Meeting as City Unveils Plan to Hike Property Taxes25 Comments. National Post, 25 Nov. 2013. Web. 12 Jan. 2014.
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