A funny thing happened on the way to the Rob Ford lynching. The Media became the story.
The hunter became the hunted. The investigator became the investigated.
And the messenger, was caught, red-handed and left-handed, writing the message.
Instead of simply delivering it.
Definitely, a McLuhanesque moment in Toronto media history.
And the messenger became the message.
And the message was,
“Rob Ford should not be mayor of Toronto, though he was democratically elected.”
Firstly, the well-known civil rights lawyer Clay Ruby, and defender of the downtrodden, tried to unseat Rob Ford through legal means by alleging Ford was engaged in a conflict of interest over a $3,150 donation to his football foundation.
Then the Toronto Star team of Donovan and Doolittle tried to force Ford to rehab and out of office, by reporting that they saw an unverified 90-second crack cocaine video allegedly starring Rob Ford.
The Globe and Mail, after 18 months of fruitlessly investigating Doug Ford allegedly dealing in soft drugs in his basement over 30 years ago, was forced to play catch up to the Toronto Star video scoop. And the Globe released a non-story with no identifiable witnesses, 30 years after the fact.
This was not one of the Globe’s shiniest moments.
The Globe’s story was not helped by the Globe editor-in-chief lamely cloaking himself and the Globe in the rather self-serving and vague notion of acting in the “public interest.”
When we in the suburbs knew that the Globe was also acting in its own private self-interest — to sell newspapers and boost its online and print circulation.
All in all, just “sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
Still the Star and the Globe, blindly and stubbornly persisted. Refusing to let a salacious tabloid story die a natural death.
The Globe had 6 of its best and brightest reporters rooting through the divorce documents of a no-name Ford assistant.
The media also gleefully reported on numerous Ford critics on City Council, calling for Ford to come clean, debase himself, wear sackcloth and ashes and throw himself on the pyre of public opinion.
The media further got into the act by reporting that Premier Wynne was considering stepping in and removing Ford from office, for the sake of Toronto ‘s reputation.
Even our own Queen of Letters and Ford nemesis, Margaret Atwood, let out a tweet, “How the Rob Ford Scandal Could Save Toronto”, heard around the world, that is, the Annex. Recommending that Fortress Toronto pull up the drawbridge and keep out the suburban barbarians from entering the inner city.
As if we suburbanites were Barbarians at the Dufferin Gate.
You see Lady Margaret never forgave Ford for preferring french fry over Northrup Frye.
“Let them eat Quinoa,” quoth the Edible Woman.
As a result, Queen Maggie was prepared to lend her considerable name to the de-amalgamation of Toronto from Etobicoke, North York and “Scarberia.”
But notwithstanding the media feeding frenzy, there is incredible pressure on the Fords, from the left, the right and even from US talk show hosts.
Mayor Ford and Doug Ford remained defiant.
Kennedy-like grace under pressure.
And then to the shock and utter disbelief of the downtown media, the raging and rising tide of invective and hate, began to turn.
Contrary to the media’s wishful thinking, and with apologies to the great Yeats:
Things did not fall apart in City Hall or in Toronto.
The centre held.
Mere anarchy was not loosed upon our fair city.
In the downtown media, on Front and Yonge,
In the Annex coffee shops, the Ossington bars,
And the organic stores, on Bloor
The presumption and ceremony of Ford innocence were drowned;
The best ( the Globe) lacked all conviction,
While the worst, (The Star) were full of passionate intensity.
You see in the media’s rush to judgment, their political instincts had become dulled.
We knew in the suburbs, that the downtown media were smugly ignorant of the incredible support that Rob Ford enjoyed.
And that Ford Nation was untouched by the media circus at City Hall.
When Ford’s strong polls were released, the anti-Ford media onslaught was stopped dead in its tracks.
The people had spoken and it was not pretty.
The media was forced to beat a hasty retreat.
Even they realized that they and Premier Wynne had crossed the line in subtly urging an unelected Premier to overturn the will of the people who had elected Ford fairly and democratically in a city-wide election.
In order to save their shredded reputation, the media even turned on Premier Wynne for her proposed anti-democratic intervention in Toronto City Hall.
When the now infamous “crack cocaine video” failed to emerge, the rout and humiliation of the downtown media were complete.
And even de-amalgamation was derided as “segregation by wealth and ethnicity” by a Toronto Grid columnist.Ouch, that must really hurt, Maggie, and all your liberal followers!
Have the Globe and the Star learned their lesson?
The Star, probably not.
The Globe and Mail is still one of the best newspapers in North America.
But if the Globe is Superman, then Rob Ford is Kryptonite.
And continuous exposure to Ford only weakens the Globe.
Also as the excellent Globe reporter Marcus Gee just realized.
It is sometimes useful for a change, to stop drinking the same gluten-free Almond Milk as all his Globe colleagues in the Annex, Danforth and Beaches.
And get out of his downtown hood.
And travel to the strange lands of Etobicoke, North York and Scarborough.
To learn what is really going on in the rest of Toronto.