When the Rob Ford/Mary Walsh story broke, I was waiting to see if and when the story would turn from focusing on Ford’s 911 call and what was said, to Ford’s lack of knowledge of who Mary Walsh is.
(For those unaware, Mary Walsh, of the CBC program This Hour Has 22 Minutes, recently tried to interview Toronto mayor Rob Ford outside his home. The story, as originally reported by the CBC, is here.)
Well, the waiting is over. This morning, I noticed this tweet from pollster/pundit Allan Gregg (@allangregg):
“The real story of the
#Rob Ford fiasco is not what he said on #911 but that he panicked because he didn’t have a clue who Mary Walsh was.”
Of course, there is not much detail in a tweet and Gregg did not link to a blog post or article to expand on his assertion. (He probably thought it was unnecessary.) However, taken at face value, the tweet implies that Ford’s lack of knowledge of Mary Walsh is a more important story that the 911 call, which garnered much of the media’s attention in the days following the incident. (See here, for example.)
The question, then, is why is the lack of knowledge of a television character such a big story? What if Rob Ford doesn’t watch 22 Minutes? What if he doesn’t watch TV at all? I guess that, in Gregg’s view, one would expect that those in public life would be aware of 22 Minutes and Mary Walsh/Marg Delahunty. (I may, of course, be misrepresenting Gregg’s view.)
However, the tweet goes beyond an expectation. It says that the real story (i.e., what we should take away from the whole incident) is that Rob Ford doesn’t know who Mary Walsh is. So what? Why is this important? How many Canadians know who Mary Walsh is? How many would recognize Marg Delahunty if she came powering up their driveway? I have no idea, but I do know lots of people who have never watched 22 Minutes and would not have the foggiest notion who Mary Walsh, Rick Mercer or any of the other cast members are. Does that disqualify them from public office? Would it make them less effective as mayors, MPs or whatever? Who says so?
I have asked myself why I feel so strongly about this, and I guess the answer is that I really hate elitism. I hate the fact that some people feel superior to others based on such arbitrary measures. And it’s the implicit elitism in Gregg’s tweet that set me off. Does the type of wine you drink, the type of TV shows you watch, the type of books you read, the type of music you prefer say anything about your value as a person, or your suitability for public life? Is Allan Gregg better than Rob Ford because he would recognize Marg Delahunty?
The more I write, the more ridiculous this all sounds. But Allan Gregg tells us that the real story of the 911 incident is that Rob Ford has no clue who May Walsh is. Rob Ford should know who Mary Walsh is. He should know because…well, why exactly? He managed to get elected as mayor without knowing who she is. He managed to get elected to Toronto city council three times without knowing who Marg Delahunty is. I guess if people had only known that Rob Ford doesn’t watch This Hour Has 22 Minutes, they would have known that he is not good/smart/sophisticated enough to be elected to public office and they would have elected someone else. Right.
In case you think I am writing this because I am a conservative or anti-intellectual, I am not. I am a liberal, born and bred. But if there’s one thing I really dislike about many liberals, it’s their snooty elitism. As much as there is to dislike about the Tea Party movement in the U.S., I find it refreshing that people exist who don’t care about what the elites think, don’t believe something just because someone tells them they should, and don’t give a crap what’s written in the New York Times or what someone says on NPR.
Look, if you don’t like Mayor Ford’s policies, say so. If you think he’s doing harm, write about it. Mobilize people so that they will turf him out next election. But don’t try to tell me that the fact that Rob Ford doesn’t have a clue about Mary Walsh is important in any significant way.