Rob Ford… a Phenomenon or a Media Genius?

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By Lucia Lecuna

Today I ran onto Rob Ford near Toronto City Hall. When I realized that it was really him, I tried to think of a question that would give me the chance to have a brief conversation with him. As always, he was surrounded by people who I assumed were his collaborators. For me this was a trigger, it reminded me of the situation in Venezuela.

This man, who has captured my attention for his constant front page presence in all the media in Toronto, and also in some nationwide media, seems like a Chavez-media phenomenon.

Let me explain – by 1998, when Hugo Chavez ran and won his first presidential election, there was not a single conversation, positive or negative, where this man was not the main character. Almost immediately all the journalists, followers or not, listened to their editors and began to write about his “new” proposal. His strategy, which I felt was simply a political opinion that was so well carried out, not only did he win the elections, people believed in all he said, never questioning whether it was the truth or fabrication. They still believe.

I have learned that Canadians, at least most of them, have a huge issue with lies or more politely put, fabrication.  So do I, but here in Canada, it seems that the “lies” or fabrications are not going to be the trigger for the next elections. From my perspective, I don’t agree or like the way Ford manages his life and his political responsibilities. I support the City Hall decisions and applaud those who made them. I chose this Country because a strong legal system exists to be followed, I can only hope that one day, Venezuela will follow the Canadian example.

So, as a newcomer I try to learn about the rules, the idioms, nuances and idiosyncrasies of the English language. I listen, I listen carefully to people talking in the food court, in the bus or on the train, and I hear young people saying things like; “it’s ok if he parties… who doesn´t?”, or “I´m pretty sure he is not the only one who has tried a few relaxing things, at least he is like us”. I wonder if I really understand what they are saying.

I won’t get into the ethics or morals today, because it really worries me. I will focus on the popularity of this incredible media man.

The way I see it with Ford, is that he is getting free advertising every time he is on the front page. You might like him or not, but one thing is for sure, you know what he did today. My encounter with him was a casual walking by, so for me, even if I already have my personal assumptions about him, he seemed accessible. As a politician, he nodded at my husband… not at me… I don’t know why he didn’t acknowledge me, when we made eye contact first… but, I don’t really care.

As a new immigrant, I still have half of my belongings in boxes, and we are just starting to get to know people in Canada, so I really shouldn’t criticize my colleagues in the media. I can only share what I lived through during 14 years of the Chavez kingdom. I hope never to see something similar happen here in Canada.

Politicians need the media and any kind of public exposure is valid for them. Statistics show that they actually have mixed feelings about journalists, often because most are free souls who don’t always obey their editors. They usually like to research more than what is easily found on the surface. While politicians are humans, we expect much more from them because of the responsibilities we give them with our vote.

When I saw the scandals that Ford has been involved with I thought “maybe he just needs a good media relations and public opinion agency”. I recognize that he must have one, they all do. The problem as I see it, is accepting what the experts tell you to do.

I ran from Venezuela dreaming of a new opportunity, a life with freedom and in a country where we could all fit in. I still can’t vote here, but I encourage the Toronto media to focus on other issues of more relevance, and not give free public exposure to any candidate.

Don’t be so ingenuous to think all he does is accidental.  He knows the media is behind every step he takes, and it is helping him meet his objective of being in every conversation.

Lucia is a journalist who can write in both English and Spanish. She is currently in a work placement with Sheridan College.  

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