The strange tale of Toronto Star reporter Daniel Dale’s altercation with Rob Ford keeps escalating (as does our vicarious embarrassment for all the involved parties). Newspapers are drawing up comprehensive maps of Ford’s Etobicoke neighbourhood. Questions are swirling about whether the infamous cinder blocks were moved (and whether Dale could, in fact, balance on them). Speculation abounds over what could have happened if Ontario had a “Stand your ground” law like Florida, and why mysterious phone calls were made from the phone after Dale ditched it.
The Toronto Star is clearly loving the attention—at last count, it has run a bazillion stories on the dust-up. But Ford is also trying to benefit from the incident; since the mayor refused to release the security video that could show what really happened at the fence, columnists have suggested Ford’s using the altercation as a chance to play the victim for political gain. Even worse, the mayor threatened a full media blackout if the Toronto Star sends Dale to report on city hall (on World Press Freedom Day, no less). Now that Dale and Ford have become Twitter trends and Toronto is being ridiculed in cities near and far, we combed through the countless op-eds to see if anyone could cut through the crazy and make some sensible arguments about the affair.
Thank goodness, there were a few:
• Now Magazine has never been a huge fan of Ford, but Joshua Errett made the obvious point that having someone hanging out near a wooded area at dusk would spark defensive behaviour in anyone (never mind someone who’s had home security problems in the past). Breaking the argument against Dale’s behaviour into four points, Errett believes the reporter could have prevented the whole drama by taking a more “professional approach,” including letting the mayor’s handlers know in advance and sending a photographer to take photographs in bright daylight (that tends to produce better pictures than ones taken with a Blackberry in the evening).
• That said, the mayor acted like a bully, says The Grid’s Edward Keenan. The mayor knew Dale from their interactions at city hall and “would have known that Dale was doing nothing more menacing than reporting a story.” Ford wasn’t motivated by fear, Keenan argues: “He was not under the impression Dale posed any threat. It is anger we are talking about, and the aggressive expression of that anger.” Keenand believes the whole hysterical aftermath was a PR strategy in which the mayor played the victim, rather than the aggressor because Ford “is most loved by the people who will love him and vote for him when it appears he is the victim of bullying.”
• Finally, in the National Post, Matt Gurney argues that Ford is going “to keep blowing his top” so he should finally agree to a security detail. Had he had one on Wednesday night, everything would have unfolded differently: Dale would have answered a few awkward questions from a cop and “that would have been it. No confrontation, no equipment discarded in terror, no media freakout.”