Rob Ford needs a speech writer
I was never one to go out for politics. As a young adult, I never voted, primarily because I had no idea what was going on. Politics were boring and I never cared to pay attention. Politics—Canadian politics in particular—w ere, quite frankly, never worth following.
Before I continue, it must be said that I don’t live in Toronto. As a citizen of Vaughan—and by extension, Ontario—and as Toronto is the capital of Ontario, Toronto politics nevertheless affect me. In addition, all of the local media I monitor is Toronto based. And the Toronto-based media (as well as some American-based) has recently been abuzz with the antics of Toronto mayor Rob Ford. Has, in fact, been saturated with it this past week.
For those of you who are unaware, Rob Ford has been the centre of much controversy in the past year, with accusations ranging from misappropriating a Toronto Transit Commission bus on the city dollar to shelter the high school football team he coached, to inappropriate use of funds in his campaign, to appearing in public drunk and disorderly, making inappropriate and unwanted sexual passes at partygoers. As the icing on this week’s cake, a video has surfaced, purporting to document Mr. Ford smoking crack cocaine with drug dealers. The owners of the video want $200,000 for the file. They showed it to The Toronto Star who declined to purchase it as they do not pay for news stories. The gossip tabloid website Gawker.com is currently in the process of raising the money for the purchase.
After spending a week in which he remained mum to the media, Mr. Ford finally spoke today in a forty-some-odd second speech in which he made the following statements: “I do not use crack cocaine, nor am I an addict of crack cocaine…I cannot comment on a video that I have never seen or that does not exist. It is most unfortunate, very unfortunate, that my colleagues and the great people of this city have been exposed to the fact that I have been judged by the media without evidence” (Gillis).
Within a half an hour after broadcasting Mayor Ford’s speech on CBC Radio One, a spokesperson from Gawker was interviewed in which he argued that Mr. Ford did not deny any of the allegations. He accused him of pussyfooting around the accusations. His reasoning goes something like this:
1. “I do not use crack cocaine” means he does not currently use crack cocaine. It does not address his use of the substance in the past six months.
2. “nor am I an addict of crack cocaine” means he is not currently an addict because he does not currently use it. Heavy emphasis on the word “currently”.
3. “I cannot comment on a video that I have never seen” does not refute the existence of such a video.
4. “or that does not exist” leaves the possibility open that a video may exist, but not one that Mr. Ford has ever seen.
The spokesperson went on to insist both he and two Toronto Star reporters confirmed the identification of Mr. Ford as the subject of the video.
I did some research on Mr. Ford. Wikipedia reports he completed one year of post-secondary education at Carleton University (Rob). Because I know there is a question about the validity of Wikipedia, I searched other sources as well. The Star reports he quit two credits short of a degree (Rider). Macleans reports the only thing known for sure about Mr. Ford’s post-secondary education is that he attended Carleton between 1989 and 1990 and later attended York University, taking courses through distance education from 1990 to 1991 (Jerema). The implication in all online sources is that he listed his years in attendance at a post-secondary institution on his mayoral application as if to gloss over the fact that he didn’t graduate.
I mention this because I don’t think Mayor Ford’s speech today was a way for him to dance around the subject of whether or not he had a drug problem, or whether, as his recently fired chief of staff, Mark Towhey apparently suggested, he needed to “go away and get help” (Strashin). I think his speech was a denial of accusations written by a man under a great deal of stress who, pressed by the media and his staff to make a statement, neglected to hire himself a proof-reader before reading his statement.
Speaking as a teacher of English who just came from a half-hour discussion in which she tried to explain to a student the nuances between explaining evidence and giving its significance, many people, untrained in writing a series of cohesive paragraphs, neglect to proofread to ensure a connection is made between the point they are trying to prove and their thesis. Consider the following statements:
1. “I do not use crack cocaine nor am I an addict of crack cocaine” – how can you be an addict of crack cocaine if you do not use crack cocaine? This statement suffers from redundant phrases bordering on circular reasoning. “I am not an addict of crack cocaine, nor have I ever used crack cocaine” would put an immediate end to the speculation.
2. “I cannot comment on a video that I have never seen or that does not exist” should have been worded “I cannot comment on a video that I have never seen and that does not exist.” The use of “or” instead of “and”, confusion of conjunctions, is a common mistake in writers who have not studied the English language.
3. “It is most unfortunate, very unfortunate, that my colleagues and the great people of this city have been exposed to the fact that I have been judged by the media without evidence.” This, to me, is further proof that the only thing Mr. Ford is guilty of is scribbling out his assignment the night before it is due without leaving himself enough time to proofread it. What he means, I think, is “It is most unfortunate that my colleagues and the people of this great city have been forced to endure my being judged in the media, considering the media’s lack of evidence.”
Mr. Ford is not trying to hem and haw his way through this accusation as the media contends he did when reporting his educational background. Instead, he rushed his speech, writing it himself without stopping to give it to a professional for editing, and wound up striking the blow that broke the lock on his personal Pandora’s box.
Jerema, Carson. Rob Ford dropped out of university. How dare he? Macleans On Campus. 22 December 2010. <oncampus.macleans.ca/education/2010/12/22/rob-ford-dropped-out-of-university-how-dare-he/> 24 May 2013.
Rider, David. Rob Ford’s confusing university life. The Star. 21 December 2010. <www.thestar.com/news/city_hall/2010/12/21/rob_fords_confusing_university_life.html> 24 May 2013.
Rob Ford. Wikipedia. 22 May 2013. <en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rob_Ford> 24 May 2013.
Strashin, Jamie. Rob Ford fired chief of staff for telling mayor to ‘get help’. CBC News: Toronto. 23 May 2013. <www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/story/2013/05/23/toronto-ford-towhey.html> 24 May 2013.
Gillis, Wendy, Paul Moloney, Daniel Dale. Rob Ford’s video scandal: ‘I do not use crack cocaine,’ mayor says. 24 May 2013. <read.thestar/#!/article/519f793e8e492dd36c1a1-rob-ford-s-video-scandal-i-do-not-use-crack-cocaine-mayor-says> 24 May 2013.
Graphic from http://hcp2010.physics.utoronto.ca/toronto_night_skyline.jpg
About the Author
Elise Abram, English teacher and former archaeologist, has been writing for as long as she can remember, but it wasn’t until she was asked to teach Writer’s Craft in 2001 that she began to write seriously. Her first novel, THE GUARDIAN was partially published as a Twitter novel a few summers back (and may be accessed at @RKLOGYprof). Nearly ten years after its inception Abram decided it was time to stop shopping around with traditional publication houses and publish PHASE SHIFT on her own.
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