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If Toronto wants to ditch racism and homophobia, start with Rob and Doug Ford

In the wake of a mayoral debate in which supporters of Doug Ford, the recent doppelganger replacement for the ailing personality cult front man Rob Ford, ranted their homophobic and racist views, Toronto's media has, rather tentatively, begun to question why Doug Ford does not take a stronger stand against the bigots in his midst.

Edward Keenan in the Toronto Star noted of the debate:

One woman arrived at the debate with an unflattering caricature of the Ford brothers, only to have it torn from her hands and crumpled up, she told reporters. Iola Fortino was removed by police after disrupting the debate with a rant. According to other media reports, she proclaimed that Rob Ford “goes to the family cottage during Pride, that’s why we love him. We need Ford Nation.” 

Later in the debate, another proud Ford advocate, who identified himself to the National Post’s Christie Blatchford as Earl Cowan, shouted: “Go home, Olivia! Back to China!” When challenged by the crowd, Blatchford reported, he followed up with: “She’s Chinese! She’s not Canadian!”

 He goes on to opine: 

If Doug Ford objects, he should say so in very plain, direct terms—and not just as an afterthought when asked a question. If he condemns the ideas they’re expressing, he should tell us that rather than simply refusing to “condone it.” If he doesn’t welcome the support of loud-and-proud racists and homophobes, he should explain that, to them and to us. 

Otherwise we might take them at their word when they say they represent Ford Nation, and that Doug Ford represents their vision of Toronto.

Similarly former 2010 mayoral candidate George Smitherman said:

The next time ... we must expect that Doug Ford will stand, shout them down and say 'Take that button off because I don't want your vote if that's your approach to life here in Toronto.

Kristyn Wong-Tam, an openly gay central Toronto city councillor was the victim of hate speech directed at her by a self-identified  Ford Nation supporter. She said:

"...the Fords should set clear rules for their supporters in a code of conduct.
"If you're going to be wearing a Ford Nation T-shirt, then you'd best not be saying certain things because it immediately connects the Ford Nation brand with that type of unacceptable behaviour."
She encouraged Ford and others in the campaign to make a point of identifying supporters who step over the line.
"Otherwise the behaviour becomes normalized and accepted," she said.
"I don't believe that what we're seeing in these random moments represents Toronto values.""

Doug Ford, rather pathetically, somewhat distanced himself from these comments, while still attempting to claim that he and his family had been equally victimized by saying:

“I want to make it very, very clear: I don’t condone that,” he said. “Because I’ve received that in our family but I just don’t bring it to the media’s attention. I don’t condone that whatsoever, I don’t know who it was. But if they want to talk that way, they aren’t part of this campaign,” he said. “It’s very simple.”

While Olivia Chow accepted, rather graciously, this comment and while some are finally beginning to point out forcefully what many of us have been saying for many months now,  the trouble remains that commentators and rival politicians continue to give the Ford campaign the benefit of the doubt and to try to debate and to a degree work with it on the normal terms that campaigns do. 

They are willing, while calling on Doug Ford to disavow to some degree or another his allegedly rogue supporters, to accept the premise that the Fords do not share these views. To accept his crocodile tears as reality. The media is also overwhelmingly willing to do this and has been for a very long time. 

They are wrong to do so.

Both Rob and Doug Ford have been racist, bigoted, homophobic and misogynist in their actions as public servants. They have repeatedly done so. There is no possible way to describe their politics otherwise.

I have chronicled this racist, misogynist and homophobic reality for well over a year since the first scandals arose around Rob Ford's crack use, which I assumed incorrectly when proven would be the end of the mayor's career,  and I continue to be amazed at the layers of obfuscation and double-speak that continue to be laid by the unwillingness to directly confront some salient facts. 

Need a primer on bigotry, racism, homophobia and misogyny? Look no further than the Fords. Time and time again, they demonstrate all four with their actions and comments.

The Fords are celebrity culture writ large in an era of social dissolution. This has allowed them to become a kind of angry populist alternative to the status quo that has all the hallmarks of fascism. Fascism always requires "others" and the Fords and the very large number of their supporters in Toronto have consistently been willing to provide them. We see in the Fords the danger of an era increasing poverty and inequality with a profoundly ineffectual left.

It is time to stop asking the Fords to "do the right thing" and to actually confront them for what they have said and done. No more apologies, no more debates.

The Fords deserve no more legitimate discourse than would David Duke. Toronto should be deeply ashamed of itself. The Fords have been given far too many "chances". It is time that the city and its political class and media stop pandering to these outright racists and bigots. 

Photo via wikimedia commons

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