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Rob Ford And Attack Ads: 

Made For Each Other

Rob Ford has become the star of not one but two attack ads of late, ushering in a new era of the controversial tactic cracking Toronto municipal politics.

By Susanna Kelley

It just had to happen.


Rob Ford and attack ads. 


When you think of it, they go together like bread and butter. They just seem made for each other.


And "Toronto's-Crack-Smoking-Mayor" - a phrase that rolls off the tongue of US networks and talk show hosts as if it's just one complete run-on word now - has cracked a couple of new markets, emerging as the star of not one, but two political attack ads in the last while.


First, he appears as a poster child for the politician from hell in an American attack ad George Demos, Republican Congressional candidate in December:


And now, this weekend has seen Mr. Ford featured in what is perhaps the first attack ad in a new campaign market: Toronto municipal politics.

This ad has been posted on YouTube:


The municipal ad comes as Olivia Chow nears her campaign launch and John Tory considers jumping into an already crowded race with declared candidates Mr. Ford, TTC Chair Karen Stintz, David Solnacki and veteran councillor Norm Gardner.


Considering what the ad could have been about - the allegations that Mr. Ford arranged the jailhouse beating of his sister's former partner, admitted crack smoking and smoking marijuana, alcohol abuse, lewd references to his sexual preferences and a domestic assault arrest - the ad is pretty mild.


But it's early days yet.


We don't know what may come later as the campaign heats up.


No one is taking credit for producing the ad but there is furious speculation about who put it out - everyone from other campaigns, as yet undeclared campaigns (Ms. Chow's or Mr. Tory's) to angry Tories eager to ensure Mr. Ford loses so they can put up someone more credible.


The ad is an exact reprise of what was considered one of the most successful attack ads in Ontario political history - the famous Lyn Macleod attack ad used by the Tories in 1995. It featured the exact same constanty changing weathervane as a symbol of Macleod's alleged flip-flops:



The so-called "Mike Harris Whiz Kids" (the same group who, decades later, is gearing up to run Mr. Hudak's campaign for Premier in the next election) had gone down to the U.S. to workshops run by the publication Campaigns and Elections, learned about attack ads, and brought them to Ontario politics in the 1995 campaign.


They've been with us ever since and used by all parties.


They are offensive ad hominem weapons that reduce complex political policy to 5 second impressions, meant to use emotion rather than reason to defeat a candidate, picking only a couple of impressions to lock in votes rather than educate. 


In other words, they degrade our democracy.


However, it looks like they are here to stay and Rob Ford is one of their biggest stars, as he is, as a Liberal candidate in the 2011 election said to me, "the gift that keeps on giving."


Mr. Ford is his own worst enemy, of course.


But he is making the job of his opponents as ridiculously easy as taking candy from a baby.

About Susanna Kelley

Susanna Kelley is Editor-in-Chief and Queen’s Park Bureau Chief for Ontario News Watch. A veteran political and investigative reporter, documentary-maker, host and media commentator, Susanna oversees and has final editorial control over all news production at Ontario News Watch. Susanna has reported for the CBC, the Canadian Press and served as Queen’s Park Bureau Chief for TVOntario for 13 years. She has also hosted a number of documentaries for CBC’s The Current, CBC Radio News and TVOntario’s Studio 2. Passionately dedicated to excellence in political journalism, and having covered both Parliament Hill and Queen’s Park, Susanna believes quality political reporting is essential to a healthy democracy. You can find Susanna here: @susannakelley
Posted date : February 04, 2014

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