The Centre of the Universe has been convulsed for days now over the great Rob Ford Doesn’t Have 22 Minutes brouhaha. It’s so insipid, with so much egg on so many faces, it deserves comment, even this far from the Centre of the Universe.
First, some background.
Rob Ford is the mayor of Toronto who seems to be beloved by some, despised by others. From what I’ve been able to gather, he is a bit of a right-winger, so much of one that he had Don Cherry speak at his swearing in ceremony. The Toronto elite is quite appalled that a right-wing idiot is in charge of their World Class City. (Toronto is suffering a severe case of Nenshi envy: they can’t believe that Calgary has elected a hip Muslim, while the Centre of the Universe has Rob Ford.)
The other player in this sorry saga is Mary Walsh, a performer on the long running (19 seasons, which, by the standards of some CBC shows, makes it a youngster) CBC news satire program, This Hour Has 22 Minutes. Walsh plays a character named Marg Delahunty, whose specialty is ambushing politicians. This is apparently considered to be quite funny for some, and by “some” I mean the 0.000001 per cent of the population that watches, or has ever watched, 22 Minutes. Here’s a sampling of some of her work.
Anyway, Walsh (in her Delahunty character) thought it would be funny to ambush Ford at his home as he squeezed himself into his car to take his daughter to school. Here’s the bit as seen on 22 Minutes.
Not particularly funny, but then, very little on 22 Minutes is particularly funny. But things get absolutely hilarious off screen. Ford, apparently terrified by a middle-aged woman with a microphone, went into his house and phoned 911 in a profanity-laced, panicky call. He apparently got really angry when the police didn’t respond, and phoned back with one of those “do you know who I am?” calls, only with plenty of F-words.
Things got even more complicated when a CBC report claimed that Ford called the 911 dispatchers “bitches”, which was later refuted by Toronto’s police chief. This, of course, gave CBC haters (that would be anything owned by Quebecor) a chance to turn on the CBC for its inaccurate report.
This bit of silliness has led to lots of chatter amongst the Toronto chattering classes. Some people feel Ford overreacted, and there was no excuse for profanity. Others feel the CBC stepped over the line in invading a politician’s privacy.
Well, guess what? They’re both right.
First, Ford’s reaction was incredible. Was he in actual fear for his life? It’s entirely possible that he had no idea who Mary Walsh is (I would generously say 98% of Canadians couldn’t identify her either), but clearly this was something for TV. A politician with an ounce of common sense would play along, and the whole thing blows over. Calling 911 just solidified the views of many that the man is an idiot.
BUT… 22 Minutes did step over the line. Politicians do have a right to a private life, and accosting a politician outside his home on his way to work is an invasion of his privacy. Politicians, particularly high-profile ones like Ford, live life in a fishbowl. I think most Canadians believe our politicos deserve to be left alone while they’re at home. Politics is a bad enough business without being accosted outside your own home.
So, there’s plenty of egg to go around. Ford panicked and looked stupid, and Walsh overstepped an invisible line. And all this over a lousy 3 minute bit on a show hardly anyone watches.