How sad it is that during the same week when we commemorate the life of JFK, the first major politician to use the power of television to establish a political persona, we also have to endure the ongoing saga of Rob Ford, the first politician to establish himself as a reality TV star?
Whereas Kennedy used images of himself and his family and their upscale lifestyle to create the vision of Camelot and inspire hope and confidence in the American public, Ford displays himself in drunken rages, obscene rants and rambling, half-hearted apologies creating a persona just as peculiar as any pawn broker, repo man, or tattoo covered, duck/catfish/crocodile hunter on the Discovery Channel.
His supporters love it. Ford Nation embodies an unsettling combination of ignorance and callousness. When they see their hero pretending to smash an opponent in a drunken rage or blurt out obscene references to women, they laugh as they would at any other reality TV star.
To them, he is a real, live YouTube clip, a living, breathing incarnation of a Jackass movie. Ford seems to view himself in the same way, as though his life as a drunken substance abuser is on one channel, and his mayoral duties and obligations are on another.
He can’t seem to comprehend why he should not be able to switch back and forth between the two completely different programs.
We shouldn’t be surprised that some still love Ford. The digital world has blurred our perception of reality.
Children spend more time playing in virtual worlds than in the real one; the most popular TV shows are those in the “reality TV” category, where conflicts are staged and emotion orchestrated, where people do stupid, nasty, dangerous, onerous things, and then come back next week to do it again. If swamp dwellers, snooty rich broads and tattooed repo men can keep coming back, week after week, why not Rob Ford?
If society can excuse Paris Hilton for her explicit video tapes, Michael Vick for promoting dog fighting, Charlie Sheen for his crack smoking high-jinx and Alec Baldwin for obscene, violent outbursts (just a short list; I’m sure you can think of more), then surely, the loyal members of Ford Nation believe, their hero should be excused as well. After all, Hilton, Vick, Sheen and Baldwin are still all on TV, and in the new Digital Age, digital existence is the only reality that matters.
And don’t think that those video clips of Ford that portray him as an unappealing, brutish, vulgar, ignorant man will cause his popularity to wane. Homer Simpson is the longest running TV star of all time and Rob Ford is almost as entertaining as he is.