I had a thought the other day when pondering the totality of the mess that is Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. Moreover, I was thinking about the massive amount of media resources dedicated to covering Toronto’s embattled chief bottle-washer and the fatigue that both the press and the electorate might be feeling come election time, next year. Will anyone have any energy left to care about the election? Will voter fatigue help or hurt Ford’s ambitions for re-election? Will the media still be able to cover the Mayor effectively when he’s done such a good job of setting the pace of coverage over his term?
While considering that, my mind drifted to Harry Potter. Specifically, Harry’s arch-nemesis, Voldemort.
If you’re even remotely familiar with the books or movies in the Harry Potter series, you know that characters are generally reluctant to say the Voldemort’s name; preferring instead to refer to him abstractly as “You Know Who”, “He must not be named”, or “The Dark Lord”. Some magical reason is given for this, of course. If you say His name, He might pop out of the wall and zap you. Or, perhaps saying His name makes Him stronger. Something like that. And, by the time Dumbledore drops Harry off on the Dursley’s steps, I’m sure some of that was true. But you have to wonder how it started? Was there a curse? Did someone write an article in that animated newspaper warning against the use of Voldermort’s name? Maybe, but I think Wizards and Witches just got tired of hearing about the motherfucker every 5 seconds.
Imagine the time before Voldemort was all powerful, and before he’d killed Harry’s parents, and before the Death Eaters got rad, animated tattoos, there must have been a time when Voldemort was just some ultra-conservative quack at the Ministry of Magic with outdated notions about race. He had some followers, he had some detractors, and he hadn’t yet achieved his all-powerful, Ralph Fiennes-mixed-with-snake form, but because he had such extreme views, he probably made it into the newspaper all the time.
(I often find myself wondering what it would have been like to have been in Europe in the 30’s, debating the merits or obvious failing of Hitler’s ideologies. Knowing what we do about the 20th Century’s greatest villains, it’s hard to envision a time when fascism was just another political theory to be discussed, like communism. Anyway…)
So, Voldemort is getting a lot of press and those that oppose him are getting a little sick and tired of it. “Must we wake up every day to some new ranting from that deranged lunatic on the front page?”, they’d ask each other over breakfast. “Isn’t there anything else important happening in the world?”, or “Doesn’t anyone else work at the Ministry of Magic?”. Eventually, the Voldemort Show must have gotten old.
“Here’s a thought…”, said some Wizard over a glass of Magic Beer, “…what if the media just stopped talking about the guy? Do they have to be his pro-bono PR agents?”
“Well,” countered one of his wizard pals, while sipping from his Magic Rum and Coke, “the guy’s news. And the media has a responsibility to report on him. It’s not up to them to decide what is and isn’t news.”
The wizards around the table pondered that for a moment, while the bartender levitated over some Magic Beer Nuts.
“OK,” said the first wizard, “maybe it’s not fair to expect the media to filter out unpleasant noise on our behalf. Sure, the news makes choices every single day about the stories on which they will and won’t report, and of course they’re never influenced in those decisions…but I digress…” He grabs a handful of Magic Beer Nuts and is about to plow them into his massive, bearded mouth, but he pauses.
“What if we just stopped saying his name. We’ll stop talking about him and maybe we can convince other people to do the same. If the public stops talking, he’s stops being news.”
Of course, this plan would have lasted about 10 seconds and then one of the other guys at the table would have to tweet about their groundbreaking decision to stop talking about Voldemort. But the wizard had just pledged, like 10 seconds ago, to stop saying Voldemort’s name. So how do you tweet about someone and not say their name POOF!…”You Know Who” is born.
I could do with a week, month or year without hearing, thinking or saying the name, Rob Ford. I could probably go the whole rest of my life and not miss it at all. But the guy is news and his ongoing bumbling is a big problem for the city.
That said, I do worry about the effect the endless Rob Ford News Tidal Wave will have on the electorate. Not in a traditional, “any press is good press” kind of way, as though all this bad press could really be good for Ford; I think that notion is quite silly. Rather, at a time when the City will need its people most, I can see voter turnout cratering next year. We will all be, quite simply, exhausted.
Everyone who could ever have said a negative thing about Rob Ford will have done it a thousand times over, and for some of us more prodigious Tweeters, tens of thousands of times over. Anyone who supports Rob Ford and hasn’t yet been convinced otherwise won’t be changing their minds. So, what is the next year and a half but a masochistic game of “shouting into the void”?
Changing Voldemort’s name to “You Know Who” didn’t seem to slow down the Dark Lord, and imaging a world in which Rob Ford get ignored won’t change anything either. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good idea to conserve one’s energy. Political writers usually ge the summer off, but with Ford, it’s a relentless onslaught of insanity that would test the fortitude of any journalist. We all need a Ford break, but how does one orchestrate such a thing? Should we take turns?
One can’t reasonably expect the world to stop talking about “You Know Who” (Hell, the world just started), but I think encouraging each other to take a little “me time” away from the Mayor might prove valuable in about 12 months or so. Absent some magic, we’re all going to need our energy.