Rob Ford: master of the comedic pause


The pause, I think will prove to be the prefiguration of what the second video the police claim to have is: it’s him, buying drugs, I’d bet the farm. The whole scene is part of a scenario being played out: the cops have him on video, scoring; the question is a plant to remind him that this is the case (I’m quite sure the cops have showed him what they have); the council has asked the police to not lay charges or start a more public investigation, in the hopes that Ford will leave office first (at which point it can be ex-mayor Ford, and not a mayor being charged; and the pause is Ford weighing these issues, knowing as soon as all this comes out, this tape will be the one people will refer back to. Given that there’s been no focus on the idea that he bought drugs before this, I don’t see how else to explain the odd tone and played-out quality it has.

I think this should bring an end to the not at all helpful “laughable bumbelfuck” trope that Boing Boing has attached to Ford. What is playing out is not at all in that category, with potential involvement of drug gangs, the police undercover unit, murder, disappearances, extortion, graft and god knows what. Every time I read that as a Torontonian, I feel a wave of anger towards Boing boing, for their tone-deaf unhelpful persistence. It’s patronizing, and makes you look like the consequences are less important than the amusement you get out of this terrible story. If nothing else, there really is some room for empathy for a very messed up guy, from a deeply dysfunctional family, with probably a somewhat lower than average set of abilities to deal with an awful situation which is not entirely of his own doing. I really loathe Ford the politician, his clan, and for the most part his party. But 'laughable bumbelfuck" is not the way to describe it.

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What does he need to do to get removed from office? Kill and eat a baby on live television?


This Hour has 22 Minutes did full episode on Rob Ford last night:

A good review of the, ahem, highlights of Ford’s career.

Hey, I just realized that 22 Minutes will be starting its 22nd season next year!

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The sympathy I have for people who get elected to high public office and then happily, knowingly, cynically abuse that station is zero.

In Ford’s case he should have resigned immediately he was forced to admit smoking crack while in office. His complete lack of self awareness and his determination to hold on to the role is worthy of every ounce of ridicule that can be laid upon him. Laughable Bumblefuck indeed. It’s generous.

Fuck sympathy. If you want my sympathy lets talk about the Philippines.


This bully gets none of my sympathy. I do understand your point that this is actually a serious situation and making light of him and his situation does not do justice to victims of his crimes.

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So you read my post, and what you got out of it is I’m sympathetic to Rob Ford? The issue is this: there is no mechanism to protect the people of Toronto from out of control governance. It has little or nothing to do with Ford, but it is exactly what the Harris government intended – Toronto should be ungovernable. Toronto is a city in stasis, it cannot adapt, it cannot build new systems, it has a transit system from the 80’s, it cannot control development. Mayor Ford is an expression of that, not a cause of it – this is how Toronto has been for 35 years, and amalgamation has made it worse, but not changed the basic character of the city.

Laughable Bumblefuck – a stupid, frattish term anyway, redolent of the bullying mentality that’s supposedly just Ford’s purview – is a stupid personalization of the city’s problems that are systemic, permanent, disastrous, criminal, corrupt. Continuing to pretend that Ford isn’t an extremely popular mayor, profoundly representative of what Toronto fundamentally is, is just hiding from reality.

I think that sounds really reasonable. But I’m left wondering if you read your post?

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More than one thing can be true: Toronto is not an ungovernable mess because of Rob Ford; Rob Ford is an idiot, a criminal and a danger to society; Rob Ford deserves our empathy (not sympathy, by the way).

But reducing it to just one of these – any one of these – is to miss the complexity of the situation. If it was simple, it would be fixed quickly.

Final note: the oppositional attitude to Ford is what is keeping him going. Making him a pathetic figure robs him of his power, but every step of the way in his career Ford has relied on the angry downtowners as the reason the suburbs should support him. Which the do. This attitude entirely plays into his camp. If you do run him out of town with anger and outrage, you’ll see him or his next avatar return with the same program of outraging the downtown “elites”.

What is that, some kind of threat? Why are you policing speech that is critical of Rob Ford? Who do you represent exactly?

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Yeah I noticed you used the word empathy, I changed it to sympathy because the idea that I could in any way empathise with that guy is insane. The world he lives in is completely alien to me.

Look, I take your point. I’d just say that Toronto isn’t the only major city in the world with financial and infrastructure issues. It is managing to distinguish itself quite handsomely on the score of continuing employment of a deluded power crazy drug addled criminally implicated Mayor, though. That’s a problem that can be fixed, right away.

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You don’t seem to understand the difference between the two words.

No, I can’t put myself in Ford’s place and understand and sympathize with his emotional state. I am not an authoritarian bully and never have been nor can I understand how anyone could treat people the way he has or be the extreme hypocrite he is.

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look at it this way: Ford is what Nixon was: a man of huge failings, whose internal drive to overcome humiliations has placed him exactly where he should not be. Having made attaining that position the central aspect of his identity, giving it up is akin to consigning himself to non-existence. Ford faces the greatest humiliations if he quits from his family, and the greatest humiliations if he stays from the world.

Most people have experienced a situation where a seemingly impossible choice faced them, where doing what you should do went against what they had strived to attain. I can empathize with Ford’s situation of having not fitted in in the powerful and wealthy business his family owned. That’s why he’s in politics. He did that because he “didn’t have a passion for labels” (!) as his brother put it. And so having done this to create a situation where his family would respect him, he can neither move forward nor back without giving up one of the two most important things in his life. Yes, I can empathize.

I get that you want this to be TV with bad guys and good guys. It’s not. Ford is a monster, but so was Macbeth, so was Walter White. The reason Gilligan’s and Shakespeare’s characters are compelling is that their evil is motivated in ways that are comprehensible.

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Very well put.

Nope, not buying it. No one made him humiliate and denigrate others. Boo hoo, he didn’t fit in with his rich family so he shit on others to make himself feel better. Sorry, he is getting some of what he deserves, humiliation.

Luckily for him he will probably get to avoid the jail time millions of others have suffered for doing much less damage to others than he has. Jail time which destroys people and families.

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Wow. Talk about first world problems.

So you read my post, and what you got out of it is I’m sympathetic to Rob Ford?

You are still transmitting this fairly strongly.

Note: sorry, I clicked the wrong reply button, so this is more aimed at Tacochucks, but refers to what you said too.

As I said, your capacity or empathy is probably pretty minimal. I don’t know if you are old enough to remember Nixon’s resignation, but I certainly do. And the reason that I drew the parallel between Ford and Nixon is that they are genuinely closely related, for the reasons I gave, and one could go on from there.

The thing is this: the Nixon story has proved to be not only more important, but more comprehensible, in the intervening years when Nixon has been seen in human dimensions. It turns out that applying empathy to the person of Nixon reveals more about how politics really works than painting him as a cardboard demon.

The revilement of Ford is nothing, of course, compared to that of Nixon. But as it has turned out, it was not revulsion that got Nixon out, but constitutional process. Faced with the likelihood of being impeached Nixon resigned. It certainly wasn’t because he was hated – Nixon, like Ford, used the hatred of groups he had no respect for as the fuel for his career. In brief then, the hatred you feel for Ford plays no real role, nor should it: politicians should not be turfed out because they enrage people, but because of the process of justice. This is what should happen with Ford.

The points that are missed in the anti-Ford campaign is that first, those in favour of him, even now, are probably far greater than those against. He is a very popular mayor, just as Nixon won with a huge margin. I hate Ford’s guts, but I’m not blind to the realities of Toronto, a city where the manipulations of the Harris Tories made the downtown culture a marginal aspect of the larger city. Second, when you direct this much hate without empathy against people like Ford or Nixon (kind of weird that pairing), you turn politics into a separate level of activity from normal human endeavor. This is what justifies statements like the one you made about “The sympathy I have for people who get elected to high public office and then happily, knowingly, cynically abuse that station is zero.”

You actually play into a very misleading and ultimately disempowering idea of politics by assuming that politics comprises a separate morality and a separate humanity. What Nixon tells us (and you apply this to LBJ, Theodore Roosevelt, Lincoln, Hitler, Mandela and many others) is that politics are oddly susceptible to human foibles: the vast majority of politicians may rise through cynical and predictable paths; but there is a class of person that can move rapidly and directly to power in ways that have everything to do with their human dimension. Ford is one of those, and that is what makes him very dangerous indeed. What the results will be are not predicted by the path, as the diversity of that list should show.

You miss the point again when you say, “Boo hoo, he didn’t fit in with his rich family so he shit on others to make himself feel better.” That’s not what happened. Ford, and arguably his handlers, understood better than any other Mayoral candidate what the real desire the greatest number of Toronto voters wanted, and gave it to them. That’s how he got elected, which is what I was talking about. What bubbles up from what you say – and I’m assuming here you’re a Torontonian – is an inability of downtowners (of which I have been one for almost 30 years) to accept that the real meaning of amalgamation and the megacity is that they are no longer important. Their values are not the dominant values of the city. Ford’s mess arises from the fact that he comes from Etobicoke, a place where things aren’t just Starbucks and The Drake and MOCCA and Trinity Bellwoods and cute charcuterie boutiques. It’s messier there, and Ford is one messy fucker.

And that’s Toronto.

Addendum: the most important thing about Ford is he is revealing the most important things about Toronto to us. Without this, downtowners would still feel they were the representatives of Toronto: without this, the suburbs wouldn’t have understood their real power in Toronto. And none of us would have understood that the megacity is a giant trap set by the Tories to be completely ungovernable, and ultimately doomed.

Who said I hated the guy? I think he is ridiculous. I think he’s pitiful, but any pity I might have for him is tempered by the damage he willingly does by continuing to hold office.

I’m pretty confused by your argument at this point, your first jab at me was for misinterpreting your post as calling for sympathy for Rob Ford, then you’ve gone on to write a few 1500 word essays arguing I don’t get how subtle and nuanced the whole political situation is because I’m too young to remember Nixon and Hitler and Shakespeare, and while its not really about sympathy or empathy for Ford, its about Toronto, and I should totally feel more sympathy and empathy for Ford.

I feel like your agenda is hidden, and I didn’t feel like that earlier in our discussion.

I hold public servants in high station to a higher level of moral accountability than the general population, and this is a common view and indeed an important one. I reject your vaguely asserted argument that this is dangerous. Conservatives aren’t somehow buoyed by my ridicule. They are quite naturally buoyant.

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