Published on: 12/4/2013 11:09:27 AM Print | Font Sizes:  Normal Text Large Text

Why it is not just about Pamela, Mike and Rob

By: Michael Atkins

Michael Atkins, President, Northern Ontario Business,
Michael Atkins, President, Northern Ontario Business,

It’s hard to avoid the question of Rob Ford wherever you live in this country. He brings a larger than life “wince” seldom achieved in this highly contested category of public service. 

He can take you from rage to compassion in an afternoon. He is more real than “reality TV” because he is not doing it for the money.

That said for all the “earned media” of this brand, from the Fifth Estate to Jon Stewart, Rob Ford is not really the story. We are the story.

Rob is just being Rob. From all accounts he has always been a hard-drinking bully, economical with the truth, and yet childlike, sometimes endearingly so.

He has just taken his act to what the sports fraternity refer to as “a whole new level.”

Rob’s primary nemesis, the Toronto Star, is having its own problems; namely the disappearance of its business model. As a last ditch effort to save itself from decay it has turned to a very aggressive investigative journalism strategy (which seems to include buying videos from sketchy sources) that has done more harm to the Liberal Party of Ontario (read Ornge and the power plants) than Rob Ford.

The Star fully understands readers, not advertisers, are going to save its bacon and it must therefore generate compelling content to convince people to buy digital subscriptions (just 99 cents a month to start) in the Digital Age.

It is edgy (although I think generally to be applauded) and somewhat desperate. We live in discombobulating times.

Two months ago, in one of the most shocking videos ever seen in Canada, a Toronto policeman shot a young man to death with nine bullets. Sammy Yatim was holding a knife on an empty TTC street car and appeared not to be an immediate threat to anyone.

After he was murdered, a policeman Tasered his body, presumably not knowing he was being videotaped at the time.

One can only imagine why a police officer felt it important to Taser an 18-year-old boy dying, or dead, with a body full of bullets.

Shortly thereafter, the Province of Ontario decided to open up the distribution of Tasers to police forces. Shortly after that, Toronto police chief Bill Blair asked to buy 184 new Tasers for his force. So far the Police Services Board has declined the request.

Contemporaneous to the Toronto activities, the national government of the land is embroiled in an extraordinary controversy where the chief of staff to the Prime Minister writes a $90,000 cheque to solve a political problem for the Prime Minister and then gets fired for his generosity when it becomes apparent the Prime Minister’s Office should not be bribing senators to admit guilt for actions they believe were recommended by that very office.

The Prime Minister knew nothing of this of course. And so after a few weeks of drama three Tory fundraisers are without work this week although they do apparently have special health-care coverage and at least one had their legal bills covered by the Conservative party.

The question of the bribe is now in the hands of the RCMP.

A little north of the city of Toronto, in Markham, a young man named Matt Johnson, who is still attending York University, made a film. It is about being bullied and about taking revenge by planning a school shooting.

It is called “The Dirties” and if you can believe it, it starts as a comedy. It has gathered rave reviews because it is funny, tragic and frighteningly real. It explores the fear, the violence, the helplessness and the rage that envelops many of our kids in their high school setting. These kids have seen everything including a video of their stupefied drugged-up mayor hanging on to a gang member subsequently shot to death for reasons unknown. Nothing is startling.

The mayor remains a hero to tens of thousands as he has successfully portrayed himself as the victim of a newspaper struggling for survival.

Is it any surprise many of our schools are filled with bullies and victims when auditing the behavior of our public figures?

No, it’s not about Rob Ford. It’s about us. It’s about a society that is having a nervous breakdown.

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