Thursday, 21 November 2013
The SUN Sets On Rob Ford, King Of All Media
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford (along with his equally lunkheaded City Councillor brother Doug) is literally the most famous Mayor in the world. The Council session that began the process of stripping the Mayor of most of his powers was actually broadcast live to the entire world on CNN, which has to be the first time a city council session anywhere received that kind of coverage. Can New York, Chicago or London say that? We're number one!! So there, take that all you cities with reasonably competent governance. Even San Diego's incredibly disgusting serial sexual predator Mayor Bob Filner didn't get this much press. So after getting a chance to see and hear Ford's bizarre and wildly incoherent ranting talking points first hand the question that most non-Torontonians ask is; "How the Hell did nice polite Toronto elect such an obvious jackass?"
Well, glad you asked. Actually that's kind of a complicated question, not to mention an incredibly frustrating one for those of us who predicted that the Ford Brothers were the barbarians at the gates. I could point out the simple fact that since Toronto was forcibly amalgamated with four suburban cities (plus East York which was not really a suburb) the suburban vote has outnumbered the downtown and East York vote, and Ford's core message of snarling resentment at the "Late' Sipping, Granola Eating, Bike Riding, Corrupt, Socialist, Tax & Spend, Probably Gay, Downtown Elites" plus free subways in the suburbs was a powerful, if sleazy, vote getter. The Fords are the rampaging id of the suburbs come to power. It's a cult of personality not a coherent ideology.
The Fords claim to be fiscal conservatives but the numbers and outrageous and hyperbolic claims they make are almost all easily debunk-able lies. To-wit;
"Rob Ford single-handedly saved Toronto from bankruptcy." ~ False; Toronto was never bankrupt and our bond rating was an excellent A++
"Rob Ford is the first Mayor to balance the budget." ~ False; All Mayors in Ontario must balance the budget by law and they always have.
"Before Ford Toronto had the highest taxes in North America now we have the lowest." ~ False and false. Toronto actually had the lowest property taxes in the region. Former Tory Ontario Premier Mike Harris used to make the same bullshit claim BTW.
"Rob Ford has cut spending more than any other Mayor in history." ~ False, spending is actually slightly up, and this was before his absurd billion dollar subway boondoggle.
"There is a billion dollars in taxpayer waste and I will root it out and stop the gravy train" ~ False; Ford even hired corporate accounting firm KPMG to search for this mythical billion dollars. They didn't find much and instead ended up calling for calling for cutting such waste as libraries, zoo's, museums, housing, and my favorite, the Christmas Fund for disadvantaged kids.
"If we don't get a billion dollars in cuts we will have to raise taxes 30%" ~ They didn't get most of their cuts and taxes did not go up 30% or even 3%
"The plastic bag recycling fee costs families a thousand dollars a month" ~ For a five cent fee? That's about 20,000 shopping bags a month! Just how much frickin' shopping does that guy do? Talk about the munchies.
"I saved taxpayers a billion dollars" ~ Ford's never been able to quantify this claim and it has been debunked in great detail a number of times.
"I won the biggest mandate in Canadian history" ~ Not even the biggest mandate in Toronto history, the two previous mayors, David Miller and Mel Lastman won more than Ford's 47% in their re-elections.
"I promised subways, subways, subways and I delivered" ~ Actually he promised that those subways were going to be free, paid for by private investors that he swore were "lined up" outside his office just waiting for the green light to start digging. Turns out they don't exist so now we are on the hook for a subway vanity project that will cost more than double the previous transit plan, cover half the distance and take twice as long to build and which will only serve areas in the suburbs with population density too low to actually break even. Because you know; "Respect for Taxpayers".
"LRT's are streetcars (or even "trolleys")" ~ No they aren't damn it! They are LIGHT RAIL TRAINS. Just like subways except they are above ground for much (although not all) of their route. Do you hear me? NOT STREETCARS!! They are no more affected by the snow than the those parts of the existing subway network that are above ground, like the entire route from Victoria Park and Warden Woods (where I grew up BTW), and how often are they shut down for snow? Almost ever; that's how often. Unless the power cuts out, and that can, and has, happened even with the those nice shiny subways. Oh and by the way you know those street car-like things you see in San Francisco? Those are trolleys. Are we clear on this?
"But subways last for a hundred years" ~ This is both simplistic and irrelevant. The tunnels last for a hundred years (assuming they are maintained, which isn't free BTW) but the tracks and rolling stock still need to be replace every twenty years or so, which also isn't free. Incidentally if we are going to get hung up on this hundred year mark you may want to recall that most of the above ground rail lines that run through the city are actually more than a hundred years old.
"I'm he best Mayor Toronto's ever had" ~ Good Lord.
So the Fords have always been hucksters who pretend to preach fiscal responsibility when they actually market petty suburban resentment. We have a Mayor who openly sneers that subways will only be build in the suburbs, regardless of population density because the downtown core "has too much". We have a Mayor who complains that the downtown core has too many museums, theatres and zoos. We have a Mayor who vowed to rip up the bike lanes and streetcar tracks downtown to make room for more cars. We have a Mayor who, along with his idiotic brother actually complained (and I swear I'm not making this up) that Toronto has more libraries than doughnut shops. Needless to say this absurd claim is laughably untrue, or at least it should go without saying. None of this nonsense can in any way be considered "fiscally conservative" or even responsible. It is however the sort of boiler-plate petty jealousy you hear from ignorant douchebags in Etobicoke. Like the Fords.
The eminent political scientist Dr. Stephen Colbert coined the term "Truthiness" for "facts" that feel as if they should be true even if they aren't and Rob Ford is the master of suburban truthiness. For some reason suburbanites are particularly eager to believe that there is a vast mountain of cash hidden somewhere in the budget that those "downtown elites" have been wasting and if only Rob Ford can find it he can balance the budget, cut taxes and build free subways. It's utter simplistic bullshit of course but that message still sells. At least from the Fords, provincial Tory leader Tim Hudak has been slavishly pedaling the same talking points and slogans with fiendish single-mindedness with notable lack of success.
So Ford was always a big fat fucking liar even before we knew he he was lying about his rampant drug and alcohol abuse. So how did he get away with this? Well one factor is the media support from right wing cheerleaders like The Toronto Sun, SUN News TV and talk radio where Ford has always been a regular guest. Once he became Mayor radio station Newstalk 1010 even gave the Fords their own radio show after cancelling the previous municipal affairs show hosted by centrist Councillor Josh Matlow who had committed the cardinal sin of being far too staid, sober and even-handed. What an amateur. That's not how you do News. The Fords sure didn't make that mistake. Their weekly show became a byword for shameless pandering, lying, bragging, name calling, childish insults, threats of retaliation against political foes, simplistic talking points, bizzare digressions, inarticulate attempts at humour, and lots of football talk. Seasoned with occasional call-ins from Ford's legions of pre-screened worshipful dittoheads who sometimes actually made Ford sound somewhat reasonable by comparison. No matter what a laughing stock the show was for many people, Ford Nation (trademark no doubt pending) ate it up and the show got decent ratings.
It also gave the Ford's a platform from which to campaign for re-election (even though the 2014 campaign doesn't officially start until the end of January) that his potential opponents don't have. Ford wasn't shy about using it of course. When Scarbourgh Councillor Paul Ainsley, a former Ford ally, decided he could not support Ford's Scarbough subway boondoggle and voted against it Ford wasted little time attacking him on air. Ford also fired off a series of insulting robo-calls to Ainsley's riding. These sort of nasty attacks may be fairly common in America but they are still a little shocking in Canada, especially since the election is a full year away. It just isn't done.
Incidental aside I couldn't figure out where else to put; The producer for the Ford's radio playhouse was one Dan Jacobs whose previous job was as manager of a company that produces bedbug spray. Not sure why I pointed that out but he is now the Mayor's Chief of Staff. That's the third one since he took office. Chief of Staffs I mean, not bug spray makers. As far as I know anyway. Back to our rant already in progress.
Paul Ainsley, never thought of as a high profile Councillor, didn't take this lying down though. He fired off a complaint to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CSBC) making an argument that others had been pondering but not acting on. Namely that Ford and Newstalk 1010 were acting improperly and in violation of the Broadcast Standards Act barring political candidates from hosting their own shows while campaigning, since this gives them an unfair advantage. Since Ford had repeatedly boasted he was "absolutely" going to be on the ballot in 2014 and was clearly using his show to campaign, Ainsley claimed that Ford was therefore required to take a leave of absence until after the election as previous Conservative candidates Peter Kent and Karleen Nation had done in the past. (An aside here, if the media is so liberal why do so many of them become Tory candidates? The names Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin come to mind as well)
Ainsley's complaint to the CBSC was not a serious threat to Newstalk 1010 since the CBSC is a toothless body that does not have the power to actually cancel a show. They can only issue a ruling to require the offending station to issue an apology and air the final ruling. However it was an embarrassment to Newstalk since they still pretend to be a legitimate news body. It would have been a bigger embarrassment if the CBSC had actually ruled in favour of the complaint, which there was no guarantee of since the election campaign doesn't officially start until next January. A copy of Ainsley's well written complaint is below;
PAUL AINSLEY'S CBSC COMPLAINT LETTER;
It turns out the complaint will be moot since after the Ford Circus Geekshow became too much of an embarrassment for Newstalk 1010, good ratings or not. After a week in which Ford admitted to smoking crack, being a heavy binge drinker (to say the least) and drunk driving, after lying about this on air for months and calling the media "maggots" for bugging him about it. And after brother Doug Ford issued a blustery demand that the Police Chief and a Police Board Member step down or be investigated for unspecified improper acts. And after both Fords made veiled threats to out other Councillors and media for their alleged drug use. Newstalk finally decided enough was enough and cancelled the show. Of course they didn't say it that way, instead they issued a press release which blandly stated that Newstalk and the Fords had "mutually agreed" to abruptly end the show with less than a week's warning. Sort of like how Charlie Sheen and Chuck Lorre mutually decided that Sheen would rather hangout with skanks than be on Lorre's hit TV show.
So Newstalk decided, however belatedly, that having the bloviating buffoon show that is The Ford Follies was not up to their journalistic standards. But it turns out that there is somebody with much, much lower standards than even talk radio. Cue SUN News.
SUN News (aka FOX North), shameless in it's role as Pravda for the Conservative Party and a stubborn cheerleader/enabler for Ford, wasn't going to let this opportunity slide, no siree. Less than a week after Newstalk pulled the plug on Ford's radio show Sun News announced that they would be giving the Fords their own TV show to be called, wait for it, "Ford Nation". This did not come as a total surprise of course.
SUN News has become increasingly desperate in it's attempt to secure itself as Canada's version of the powerful FOX News in America. Since going on the air during the last federal election the station has been a ratings disaster, averaging a pathetic 20,000 viewers at peak times, and less than half that at off peak times, and those figures are actually nationwide. That is literally less than a local community radio station. They lost their over-the-air free TV signal soon after starting up when it was discovered that they hadn't waited to get permission from the CRTC before rushing to air (they are apparently applying again for that signal). A flailing SUN News ended up crawling back to the CRTC and demanding "mandatory cable carriage", a system that would have forced all cable subscribers to pay for the channel whether they wanted to or not.
Of course SUN News had spent the previous years viciously attacking artists and musicians who get art grants and waging a jihad against the CBC for it's taxpayer subsidy so more than a few people were more than a little outraged at the blatant hypocrisy of SUN News' attempt to mooch off their cable bills. Thousands of them wrote to the CRTC to tell them so and SUN News had their application shot down.
SUN News originally swore they would be forced out of business without mandatory carriage but months later they are still around, not that anybody watches of course, and desperate for a right wing media hero, so lo and behold The Worlds Most Famous Mayor is suddenly available. Newstalk 1010 may have discovered a few journalistic scruples but the deep thinkers at SUN News know that scruples and integrity are for for pussies. So this last Monday the Fords took their traveling freak-show to it's new home in the SUN.
So how'd it go? For two hours the Fords, along with smug and smarmy SUN News host Ezra Levant brought their greatest hits;
The media are persecuting him, again. Especially the Toronto Star who are worse than the paparazzi who killed Princess Di.
Ford has saved a billion dollars and "the left" are out to get him for it because, just cuz.
He's quit drinking so there, back off.
Rob Ford brags he spends two hours in the gym every day, which seems a little unlikely unless Jim is the name of his crack dealer.
Jack Layton hung around with hookers and Justin Trudeau is a pothead. So there. Doug Ford calls for mandatory drug tests for all government officials. Because you know, "smaller government". Rob Ford offers to take one anytime. I'm picturing a TV set with a giant monitor showing the results after a drumroll. We could have a pool, like the Lotto.
Ford is the only honest politician in Canada. I bet his Tory friends Harper and Hudak love hearing that BTW.
Ford brags that he has never missed a day in council which is of course not true.
Ford whines that he lost his football coaching job (that he regularly skipped out of meetings for) because of "politics", because everybody knows that alcoholic, rage choked, crack heads make the best coaches.
Ford brags that he's saved more taxpayer money than "any Mayor in history" but as usual he of course can't explain how. Probably because it's total bullshit.
Ford claims that those dastardly leftists of council are spending $500,000 on studying bike-lanes which is another lie but who's counting? Certainly not the Fords, or anyone else at SUN News, which is supposed to be in theory a NEWS organization.
Ford boasts that he has "built subways" even though a single shovel hasn't been in the ground yet. He doesn't point out that he promised numerous times that these subways would be built for free. They are actually going to be at least a billion dollars more than the previous mixed use plan and will cover half the distance and will take twice as long to build. Granted I am no accountant but I am pretty sure that a "billion dollars" is a tad more expensive than "free".
The Fords complain that the Police wasted tax dollars investigating the Mayor of Toronto for petty things like; smoking crack, buying crack, driving drunk, hanging out with drug dealing scumbags, paying the utilities on a crack-house, using said crack-house to make campaign phone-calls, using his tax payer funded staff to run the simplest of house-hold errands, loitering about in gas stations and school parking lots where he exchanged brown envelopes with a known drug dealer, employing said known drug dealer as a driver, apparently employing said known drug dealer to obtain that crack video (this is sometimes known as "extortion" and "obstruction of justice"), assaulting other staff members, urinating in a school parking lot and a bunch of other activities that normally belong on "Cops". Because you know; "Respect for Taxpayers"! Remember when Conservatives used to be all about "Law and Order" and "Personal Responsibility"? Me neither.
It's nothing we haven't heard a thousand times before. And as always delivered with that grating, hesitant monotone and the vague glassy eyed stare that shows that Rob Ford ain't no elitist like those commie fags Trudeau and Miller. Appalling as it was, it was also of course a huge ratings success, getting a reported five times larger audience than SUN News ever gets for any other show. "Ford Nation" was the “biggest night ever for Sun News, by a country mile,” according to SUN News president Kory Teneycke. The show's ratings attracted "155,000 viewers for its first airing, 45,000 more during a Western Canadian repeat and was downloaded an additional 65,000 times from the network’s website", he said. These are by far the biggest SUN News has ever gotten. So naturally SUN News announced the two days later that they were cancelling the show.
Wait; What, You ask? Did SUN News suddenly discover that allowing an admitted crack smoking, drunk driver and liar to use the airways to lie and hurl insults while running for Mayor might be considered unethical, not to mention undignified? Ha Ha; You're funny.
This is SUN News after all, the proud home of "Freedom Fighter" (seriously, they actually bill him that way) Ezra Levant and his race-baiting smear campaigns against Roma and Aboriginals. The equally proud home of the Holy Taxpayer jihads against the CRTC, the CBC and arts groups. Notwithstanding their own history or getting millions of dollars every year from the same sacred Taxpayers in the form of government subsidies. Not so proud that they actually want you to see any of this of course, if you try to search Youtube for back episodes of Levant's jawdropping racist attacks on the Roma. The Police actually investigated that one for Hate Speech and SUN News had to belatedly put out a half assed apology, months later, as they were going in front of the CTRC. Or try and search for Krista Ericson's insane ambush of award winning dancer Margie Gillis in which she demanded, on behalf of the Sacred Taxpayers and The Troops, that Gillis return Arts Grant money she had gotten. That one generated the highest number of CBSC complaints in history. Or Ezra Levant's previous ambush of some indie band who also got a grant which resulted in the shell-shocked band's grovelling apology and actually returning the few thousand dollars, just in time for SUN News, through their parent company QMI, to get their annual multi-million dollar taxpayer subsidy. You can try and find these clips but you won't since whenever anyone tries to post them on Youtube SUN News, a "crusading" media organization dedicated to accountability for Unions, Native Councils Arts Groups and non-Tory governments, has their lawyers file bullshit copyright complaints to have them pulled. When the CBC reported on the millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies the anti-subsidy SUN News gets each year, SUN News threatened to sue for libel, but then didn't actually file any suit. (The Fords have done the same thing several times BTW). So while they are not quite proud enough to have their sleazy "reporting" scrutinized, they were certainly proud enough to air it in the first place. Especially if it gets ratings, which the Fords clearly got. The network’s previous record was 100,000 viewers, achieved when the network had the exclusive rights to the charity boxing match between future Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and soon-to-be-disgraced Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau in which Trudeau pounded the living snot out of the arrogant Brazeau much to the horror of the assembled Tories.
But it turns out that The Fords are truly incompetent at being media pundits. I don't mean because they are shameless liars, that's not an impediment to be a pundit of course, especially on SUN News. No it turns out that even after a few years of radio experience they are so inept that according to Kory Teneycke "taping the two-hour show took five hours, and it required another eight hours to edit". That's less time than it takes to do the "Tonight Show". So if you were wondering just how much editing it takes to make Rob Ford sound like somewhat less like a drunken, babbling idiot now you know. According to Tenyecke 'The Fords are “great TV but not necessarily great TV hosts”. Well he's certainly right about the second part anyway. Even some at SUN News couldn't resist taking shots at The Ford's wooden and glassy eyed performance with Sun News anchor Sneha Kulkarni writing in a Monday night Tweet, “Rob Ford really needs to stop looking at the table…”
Unfortunately spending an entire day on a single show means that SUN News, already a huge money loser, would end up losing even more money on the show no matter what the ratings were. This problem was exacerbated by the reluctance of some advertisers to associate with "Ford Nation". Canadian Tire for one publically insisted that their ads be pulled and the Ford Motor Company, Iceberg Vodka and even his beloved Toronto Argonauts has been particularly vocal about not wanting to have anything to do with "Ford Nation". Even actor Harrison Ford took pains to clarify that he is not in fact related to Ford Nation.
Keeping up a brave face Kory Tenyecke blithely denied that skittish advertisers had anything to do with the show's cancellation and even seemed to deny that the show was actually cancelled at all saying; "I’ve been clear both with them and the media, our commitment was for one show and then we’d see how it’d all come together.” If he means by being "clear" that he never publicly said anything like this beforehand, then yes that was perfectly clear. He also said that the Fords would definately be back as occasional pundity commentators.
Losing their radio and TV shows now denies the Fords the ability to go over the heads of the "Liberal Media" which is a real problem for their political futures. They have been all over the American media lately but they will inevitably get bored with our freak-show and move on to one of their own.
This triumphant one episode run has been lauded by some as the "shortest TV series ever" which is not technically true. For the record that honour is actually held by a late 1960's comedy show called "Turn On" which was so odd, scatter-shot and offensive to some that in some markets it was actually cancelled in mid show. Just thought you'd like to know.
After this was originally written Rob Ford went on a TV on the cable access Vision TV Chanel show hosted by former Media Baron and convicted fraudster Conrad Black for a fawning interview. Vision TV incidentally was also recently turned down for the same "mandatory carriage" package that SUN NEWS got shot down for, and has a not unrelated need for ratings. Anyway during the mutual right-wing persecution makeout session Ford snickeringly implied that Toronto Star reporter Daniel Dale was a pedophile. Dale quickly threatened a lawsuit for libel and the Fords just as quickly doubled down and insisted that Mayor MacCheese would "stand by everything he said. Since Ford has regularly threatened critics, especially The Star, with lawsuits and then backed down he probably thought Dale was bluffing. Bad move. Dale has since filed a libel suit against Ford and Vision TV (but not Black). Ford would later offer a half assed apology in which he blamed others for misleading him, blamed the media for "taking my remarks out of context" and denied implying what he clearly implied. Dale refused to accept this non-apology apology and is continuing the suit. The usually not controversial Vision has wisely kept quiet but not our intrepid "Freedom Fighters" at SUN NEWS. Naturally the Toronto SUN immediately published an editorial by Fordista Joe Warmington in which he expressed his opinion that Ford had nothing to apologize for and blamed Dale and The Star for "Piling on". He ended on a triumphant note stating that since Ford was the real victim he could play this for sympathy and get re-elected. Stay classy SUN News. Stay classy.
POST UPDATE UPDATE:
Two days later Ford (who had always insisted he would "stand by every word") made a more explicit apology and retraction to Dale who then immediately accepted it and announced he would drop the lawsuit against Ford. However the lawsuit remains in place against Vision TV.
POST-POST UPDATE UPDATE;
Yes I realize that the Youtube clips of the Ford Show no longer work. That's because once again SUN News (supposedly a media organization with a "fierce commitment to free speech" filed yet another one of their bullshit copyright claims and had them pulled. As they do with any embarrassing footage, of which there is no shortage. I know I could simply delete the now blank screens but I figured I would leave them there as a memorial to, you know, Free Speech.