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Rob Ford and the Banality of Excess
Michael Kolberg: "Watching Rob Ford in office is like unlimited access to free Internet porn"

Image: flickr

Watching politics is fun. Just ask Jon Stewart or Rick Mercer. There are winners and losers. Watching politics is almost like watching sports but the real life consequences make it even more exciting.

Rob “The Polarizer” Ford has turned city council into a spectator sport in Toronto. Rogers TV’s online feed of city council meetings has been drawing more eyeballs. The mayor’s hi-jinx has provided city hall watchers with an endless stream of drama, comedy, and tragedy — in a word — entertainment. But the same old song and dance isn’t doing it for me anymore.

In one week Mayor Rob Ford has threatened to beat up a pesky reporter, celebrated World Press Freedom Day by refusing to take questions from reporters and again snubbed the LGBQT community by declining to attend a flag raising ceremony. Plus, the supposed agenda setter can barely rally five votes in council for something as un-sexy as zoning and planning policy reform. Under different circumstances, any one of these events might be worthy of hysterical headlines, resignation demands or lame-duck prognoses. But under Ford at this point it’s all just par for the course. The gaffes are starting to blur together.

Watching Rob Ford in office is like watching the hit Indonesian action flick The Raid: Redemption. Each sequence is an unbelievable, jaw-dropping display; you didn’t realize a person could do that. But the hits come so hard and so often that by the time you’re half-way through, you’re yawning, glancing at the exit asking, “Are we done yet?” Call it the banality of excess. Rob Ford is 500 channels with nothing on. Rob Ford is late night YouTube surfing. Rob Ford is unlimited access to free Internet porn.

Mayor Ford’s stubborn refusal to compromise with his city council opponents — whether principled or pig-headed – means debating the facts is futile. The mayor cannot be persuaded. The result is that the focal point of any political debate becomes, “Do you like Rob Ford?”  This makes for a lousy debate because everybody knows their answer by now.

Some feel Ford’s tendency to land himself in hot water gives him an everyman charm. Others think he’s straight up embarrassing. Either way, at first glance, these opinions make for a good story. But a story needs an arc and Rob Ford’s administration is a flat line. He refuses to admit defeat or adapt his style. More of the same behavior yields more of the same result. By the force of his gaffe-prone personality, he’s highjacked the Tale of Toronto and turned it into the Rob Ford Story.

If you hate Rob Ford it’s easy to believe he threatened to beat up Daniel Dale. If you love Rob Ford it’s easy to believe The Star is harassing him. If you hate him it’s easy say he’s a homophobe, if you love him it’s easy give him the benefit of the doubt. If you hate Rob Ford he’s trying dismantle the very fabric of our society. If you love him, he’s standing up for the little guy. If you hate Rob Ford, LRT good. If no, bad.

Politics are fun to watch because it gives you an excuse to talk about ideas, values and philosophy. Politics are fun because it lets you dream and make a case of what you think your city should be. These days in Toronto it seems the only question we’re actually debating is whether or not we like Rob Ford. And I’m bored.


Michael Kolberg is a writer/comedian who writes for Toronto Standard. Follow him on Twitter at @mikeykolberg

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