Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Smell of Communism

Toronto is, I'm sure, becoming more of a laughingstock by the day, and by the time 2014 rolls around I expect the administration of the Brothers Ford to have provided textbooks worth of object lessons for "what not to do" in the world of public relations. The most recent event isn't even that much of a surprise when you put it into a Fordian context... but just because something isn't surprising doesn't mean you expect for it to happen.

On Monday, Toronto city councillor Giorgio Mammoliti, one of my opponents in the mayoral election last year and now a strong ally of the Brothers Ford, opened a new page on Facebook: “Save the City..Support the Ford Administration.” In itself, it wouldn't be newsworthy; people create Facebook pages all the time. What's different about this, though, is that Mammoliti has explicitly set it up from the get-go as a political echo chamber. Only posts that agree with and support the direction Toronto is taking under the Fords will be allowed; posts from "people who are clearly working for a living, and wanting their tax dollars to be used in a particular way." Why? Because Mammoliti is "trying to wean out the typical communist thinker who will be doing nothing but whining."

After all, if you didn't vote for Ford, you don't deserve to have your voice heard. Ford won (with a plurality of a minority of valid electors), so for the next four years what he says goes. Granted, it fits within the letter of democracy, but it savages the spirit of it. The point of leadership is to lead.

But it doesn't matter, not to these folks. Because, you see, there are communists in Toronto. Not only have they smashed open the gates, they're attending all-night deputations at City Hall to speak out against service cuts! Amazing that out of one hundred and sixty-nine speakers, one hundred and sixty-six would thus prove to be communists, but don't worry. Mammoliti and Doug Ford and Denzil Minnan-Wong have determined, presumably through science, that the speakers at the deputations were unrepresentative of Toronto's population and thus their opinions can be safely ignored.

Except for one thing - it's goddamn ideological bullshit. Either Ford's supporters are too lazy or self-interested to go down to City Hall to support their leader, or... gasp... Ford's supporters supported him because "no service cuts" was the core of his platform. The political doublethink here is amazing, if also disgusting. So, magically, people who oppose the Ford administration's current priorities, who want Hizzoner da Mayor to live up to the commitments he made on the campaign trail, become communists... and who ever cared about what a communist thought, anyway?

This is what Giorgio Mammoliti sees when he sleeps, presumably; only Ford stands between Toronto and this.

To me, this is just another example of how hopelessly out of touch this administration is with the modern day and with people of my generation and after. Rob Ford is forty-two and Mammoliti is fifty; I can understand that when they were growing up, in those heady days of the 1970s and early 1980s, Canada's popular culture was vastly influenced by the Cold War and the idea that communists were the bad guys was a given. They grew up surrounded by the threat of war, with the idea that the Reds over the horizon were just waiting for an opportunity to nuke the hell out of them.

Today, it's vastly different. I don't remember the fall of the Berlin Wall, the effective end of the Cold War; I was six years old at the time. By the time I started becoming really aware of the greater world during Operation Desert Storm, the Soviet Union had less than a year of life left to it. It's been twenty years since there's been a Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and for an increasingly large segment of the population, communism is effectively irrelevant. It's something people learn about in school. Communism doesn't keep Canadian sunseekers from the beaches of Cuba, it doesn't hamper the flow of trade between Canada and the People's Republic of China, and North Korea is almost as much a monarchy as it is communist. When Mammoliti says he's not going to be accepting comments from communists I have to laugh, because it's meaningless.

It still has an effect, though. It legitimizes polarization. It demonstrates that the administration is concerned only with its supporters, and that it does not care about those who disagree with the direction it's moving in. Which is a problem, as the government of the City of Toronto is supposed to represent all Torontonians. It poisons political discourse in the city, and it makes me thankful that I was able to escape to British Columbia when I did. I mean, were there ever any city councillors during the Miller years who dismissed their opponents as fascists or Nazis? Mammoliti is doing the same damn thing right now.

Speaking of the Soviet Union, though, there is a very good Russian term that deserves to be brought into this, I think: nekulturny. Literally translated it means "uncultured," but like many insults there's a hell of a lot more oomph packed into it, and so far as I know it is one of the strongest insults available in the Russian language.

If Mammoliti can smell communism, it's only because he and the Fords - since if they really didn't agree with his direction, they would've come down on him by now - are simply nekulturny.


  1. I am only 38 and I grew up in that time, and trust me only crazy people see Commies around every corner, most of us grew up and realized that the threat was magnified by the USA and that those communist not only don't exist anymore, but were never the threat that they were made out to be. It is ridiculous that Mammoliti is using that as an excuse and that he also seems to have made a whole new definition for it.

  2. I am 48, and there is no way you can pin this stupidity on age. Although I grew up in the shadows of the Cold War, saw the nuke fears in the 80s, watched in awe as glasnost was implemented and the Berlin wall came down, I do know that this rhetoric is old and outdated, as do most of my age peers who read and stay informed. Only the truly ignorant talk this way, and clowns like Mammy and our mayor are bozos of the first degree.

  3. I wasn't trying to say "they're stupid because they're older than I am" - apologies if I came across that way. It's just that I would have a lot more difficulty imagining a politician of my generation using a term like "communist" with a straight face in a context like this.

  4. I support Rob Ford's anti-communist policies. What T.O. needs right now is a red scare to divert people's attention away from more important issues. Just sit back and imagine the Ford Brothers racing around in an orange Dodge Charger doing all sorts of crazy stunts and jumps while they outfox stupid communists. But then you say that Rob Ford is 42. That sends my head spinning. Im not saying our mayor is ugly or anything but I thought he was like 55. When Im 42 put me on an all vegtable diet and make me jog.