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Saturday, May 25, 2013

Rob Ford's whirlwind shows a Toronto media willing to betray the public interest

In the Stanley Kramer movie Inherit the Wind, the great dancer Gene Kelly, in a rare, strictly dramatic role, played a character named E.K. Hornbeck, based on the famous journalist H.L. Mencken. His character delivers a line in the movie that paraphrases another famous Chicago newspaperman named Finley Peter Dunne, whose work, like Mencken's, also straddled the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.

The line is, "the job of a newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable."

In Toronto, Canada in 2013, the newspapers have taken on the exact opposite role. Rather than serving the interests of the public, they have become a bludgeon being wielded by a snobbish elite to crush the democratic will of a city's citizens.

From the time Rob Ford declared his candidacy as mayor in 2010, a media with the conceit that they were the intellectual tribunes of a progressive city pulled out every stop imaginable to prevent a man they considered too déclassé from becoming Toronto's chief executive. Let's leave aside for the moment that very few Toronto journalists come close to being intellectual or that progressive is a term that is in the eye of the beholder.

Trying to sway the public, The Toronto Star printed outright lies about Ford, including libelous accusations of him assaulting a minor. Its columnists went so far as to say, in essence, that only idiots would vote for Ford. Then, when Ford's support remained solid, The Star's editorial board tried to convince other mayoralty candidates to drop from the race and support their chosen banner-bearer, George Smitherman, a former drug-addict who had overseen the waste of hundreds of millions of dollars of tax money while provincial Health Minister.

The Star wasn't alone in its glaring contempt for Ford. Though generally more restrained than The Star, some writers at The Globe and Mail and some at the National Post put their dismay at the prospect of a Ford victory into print.

Despite all that, Ford handily won the election, and that stuck hard in the "progressive" media's craw for a pair of reasons. One is that media players like to think how influential they are, and the election was a fierce blast of cold water that woke them up to the falsehood of that presumption. More painful was the bitter shock that their sophisticated, urbane. "world class" city was going to be headed by a sweaty populist who actually was more interested in the opinions of the man-on-the-street than those of the sanctimonious editorialists at One Yonge Street.

Suddenly, the special interests of the arts community, the unions, and the social engineers were no more important than that of John Q. Public. As far as the media nabobs were concerned, that could not stand and no rules or standards would keep them from undoing it.

Rob Ford was stalked, harassed, bullied, libeled, defamed, and subjected to standards and scrutiny that no politician in the western hemisphere has ever faced before.

But none of that was intended to serve the public interest. It was only to feed the vanity and conceits of a hypocritical, self-obsessed media class and their cronies.

As a number of people have noted, The Toronto Star violated basic ethics and journalistic standards to spread a story about Rob Ford that is based on hearsay from thoroughly disreputable sources. Today The Globe and Mail did the same, dredging 30 years into the past of Ford's brother, Etobicoke Councilor Doug Ford.

And for whom?

The same media for years buried a report of Jack Layton's being caught by police during his visit to a hand-job parlour that occurred while he was married and a City Councilor. But he was a media darling, so they colluded to keep it quiet until the Toronto Sun finally published the story. And then journalists from The Star and others tried to discredit it or say it was not relevant.

There are worse stories then that about Jack Layton floating around regarding some of his activities in the 1980's and 1990's. But he has a family and it would not be in the public interest to publish them. What matters most about a public servant is how they serve the public. Like Ford, Layton had his personal failings, but like Ford, as far as his public service was concerned, he behaved honorably. But where the media turned a blind eye to Layton's foibles, Ford's are magnified into firestorms.

Much of Toronto's media is behaving like reprehensible hypocrites. What tales might emerge if one was to dig 30 years into the past of left-wing councillors like Adam Vaughan and Kristyn Wong-Tam, one wonders? We know what one finds when looking into the past of The Toronto Star's last anointed selection for mayor, George Smitherman, and it's worse than anything of which Rob Ford was ever accused. But Smitherman got a free pass from The Star because he represented their values, where Ford faces an onslaught because he is an affront to them.

Toronto's public elected Rob Ford to do a job, and Toronto's media has shown there is no depth to which they will not sink in order to undermine him and prevent him from doing it.  But make no mistake about it, the interests The Toronto Star serves are not those of the average Toronto citizen.

1 comment:

Pyrodafox said...

It is convenient that the drug dealers who possess the alleged video have disappeared, is it not?