Ari Goldkind is currently running to be Mayor of Toronto on October 27th. You can learn more about him and his campaign at ariformayor.com
I must confess I am amazed at the degree to which the mayoral election campaign season has not been about Toronto’s issues. I joined this race because I was profoundly concerned about the lack of leadership at City Hall, not only from our troubled mayor and his sinister brother but also from a council that lacks any sense of urgency when it comes to fixing and improving our city. What I have observed is something akin to Kardashian politics; it does not matter what you say, provided you are famous–or, better yet, infamous.
Media owners consistently seek sensational sound bites rather than solid facts. The Ford brothers, it seems, can make front-page news, enter drive-time talk radio, and dictate the structure of debates at a whim, regardless of their scandals, lies, or outright illegal activity. They are masters at the folksy catch-phrase, which they know will echo through the broadcast media at light speed, leaving fact-checkers and actual facts choking and ignored in the dust.
I sometimes feel that the owners of the media–radio, television stations, newspapers and their online counterparts–have a common fear: if the Fords were eliminated somehow from the mayoral race, the meal ticket, the golden egg-laying goose, would be lost forever.
To this, I say fear not, media owners and media shareholders! The Fords and people like them will always be with us. There is no need to sacrifice the integrity of an election—and with it, the economic future of Toronto—in the name of cheap headlines. Look south and observe your mentors. Note how Sarah Palin and Donald Trump continue to tantalize the tabloids and embarrass the general population even though they have shrivelled from political relevance. There is no shortage of space for their stultifying and cringeworthy diatribes.
Even if both Fords were to be stripped of their civic positions in this coming election, their hunger for attention will guarantee their presence on the political landscape for years to come. Like the Octomom, there is no level too far to stoop in pursuit of air time. The Fords will stand out and loom large like a campaign RV in a daycare pickup zone.
When a Mayor can hold a press conference that allows no questions, the public is not being properly served. When a parachuted-in last minute candidate can dictate whether or not a debate will happen, democracy is not being served. When elected officials are allowed to dismiss past crimes and conflicts of interest as unimportant or old news, when they are allowed to remain silent in the face of new crimes and conflicts (racism, homophobia, vandalism of competitors’ signs, to name a few), the media, by its tacit participation, becomes an accomplice.
I would therefore ask the media to give the citizens of this city—the very people who buy the products from the companies you advertize—a little credit. Dedicate some of your journalists’ time and talent to pursuing intelligent facts and debates from candidates who prove they have that intelligence.
There will always be Kardashians on the landscape for the same reasons tabloids—rather than The Economist—are positioned for sale at Wal-Mart checkout counters. People love their celebs. Wealth, power, and daughters all beginning with K. The Kardashians have it, as do Mr. and Mrs. Doug Ford. They are an easy read, an exciting tale.
This mayoral campaign is nine months long! Our provincial election came and went like a shooting star in the middle of it. The UK, a sovereign state with about 62 million more people i than Toronto, regularly concludes their national elections in a matter of weeks.
Frankly, I feel that all that is being gained from this protracted sideshow is a great deal of tabloid inspired eye-candy, which ensures that our city remains mired in a Fox News-style fog of intellectual incest.
When Jimmy Kimmel invited Mayor Ford onto his show in the spring of this year, we all hoped and expected that Mr. Kimmel was mocking Mr. Ford alone. But what if he and his audience are truly laughing at all of Toronto? Is that the reputation we want to have throughout the world?
Media companies, let the Kardashians be the Kardashians. In the meantime, let the leadership of Toronto prove itself through more substantive ways. That’s supposed to be your job.