It was like stepping into a dream.
That’s precisely how I felt when I arrived at Toronto City Hall, after taking a slight detour on my way to pick up my niece from daycare. I had 90 minutes or so to spare, and as a Torontonian who had already been veraciously following all the sordid details about Mayor Rob Ford’s slide into oblivion, I just wanted to get a close up look at the spectacle.
And to me, Rob Ford was only half the spectacle. Of course he was the shameless half, the half too preoccupied with his own survival to really mean those dozen apologies he has delivered. The other half is comprised of Ford Nation, the media and a select few who have allowed their hatred for Ford affect their own behaviour. A couple of the people who make up the latter group are city councillors who are the loudest critics against the mayor.
Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, a probable mayoral candidate, has been in front of as many cameras as possible, including the one in council chamber where he feigned victim status by accusing Ford of standing too close to him. Minnan-Wong, by placing himself inside the crux of this fiasco, the crux being Ford’s bad behaviour, blatantly attempted to find opportunity inside a crisis, perverting the old Japanese proverb by harvesting that opportunity instead of remaining focused on the job at hand; removing a man from the helm of a city who clearly doesn’t deserve the responsibility.
So when I entered City Hall and made my way up to the mayor’s office, I immediately began to witness the sideshow, this time from certain members of the public and the media itself. In short, Toronto is witnessing the Americanization of the local and national media through relentless badgering and a rugby-like environment outside the office doors of Mayor Ford. 20 or so journalists and camera operators are on constant guard here, their ‘questions’ laced with giddy frustration and pointless volume as the mayor waddles from his office to the elevator. Immediately I am befuddled as to why there is no roped off areas for the press, the feeding frenzy a direct result of the free-for-all environment most people would consider counter-productive. In short, it’s chaos.
So, without media accreditation or any real reason for being there other than morbid curiosity, I stood with the media, a couple of Ford supporters and a few exceptionally angry Ford detractors and waited for the mayor to emerge.
One man shouted the phrase ‘Crack Nation’ over and over again. I tried telling him to be quiet but there was no stopping him. Another woman was shouting her support for Ford, a strange thing to witness given the sheer volume of shady information we now know about him. Then, when he finally did walk the carpeted plank between his office and the elevator doors, the media swarmed. On-air hosts battled for good positions, walking backwards and yelling out random and often cynical questions about crack, his wife and alcohol. Amazingly, even some members of the media began to heckle the mayor, a caveat not lost on sensible folks or slimy pundits like Ezra Levant.
Two velvet ropes. That’s what is missing from this embarrassing spectacle. With them, the frenzy could at least resemble something productive. Without them, the spectacle marches forth and offers no compliments for any of the participants. I’m not familiar with municipal guidelines regarding public access to City Hall corridors or the mayor’s office itself, but when a scandal like this happens, it seems logical to organize the media and place them within arms reach of the mayor but far enough away so he can walk to an elevator. Crazy idea, I know, but the alternative is proving to be the gasoline needed to keep the fire stoked.
And while it may be tempting to extract sympathy for Ford due to this new tabloid-like frontier, the more logical position is to recognize how his stubborn disposition has played dominos with the ethics and behaviour of everyone inside the bubble. Good luck, and go find some velvet rope already.