Mayor Rob Ford’s Body Language – A Bull In A China Shop
I, like many, have been watching the saga unfold around Toronto mayor Rob Ford with eager anticipation. It’s like a real life soap opera! What will happen next? Will the man fold or conquer? There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that the man is a fighter, unwilling to back down from the attacks of anyone, a man with grit and determination. But throughout his political career, he has attracted his fair share of enemies. Why is this so?
Strictly from the gut, I can say the man is honest, as honest as he’s permitted to be given his true underlying character. Let me explain what I mean by honest. His body language is congruent. That is, it’s in line with his actions, beliefs, and intents. Does he have skeletons lurking scarily in his closet? I can say so with absolute certainty – and we may see more to come. But when Rob Ford claims that his skeletons are his own to bear, I believe it to be so. When he denied smoking crack at the outset, was it a lie, or was it something he felt was of no concern to the public because it didn’t affect his job? One might argue that knowing about someone’s personal habits as a public figure and employer is must-know information, and perhaps it is. However, if this is the standard by which we judge, let’s judge all others by the same measure. We should take the time to recall that many major American political figures have used heavy drugs, including Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Al Gore, John Kerry and others. Our own Canadian Justin Trudeau, leader of the Liberal Party has admitted to taking a puff, and actively promoted the legalization of marijuana while serving in office. However, we don’t let that history haunt these figures. Why?
Rob Ford’s character is unpolished, real, vulgar, unscripted – and unsettling to many. Ford is willing to express raw reptilian emotion. When compared to the polished patina of Justin Trudeau as well as other notable American political figures, Rob Ford looks like a sweaty ape. Rob Ford is red in the face, overweight, arms waving, and is literally tripping over himself and others, not to mention his words, as he attempts to convey his thoughts and feelings. He’s a loose cannon, will cuss, shove reporters, taunt detractors, drink and read while driving, smoke crack, drink to excess and carry on in a tirade with seemingly no remorse. It’s why many people detest him. But on the other hand, Ford Nation loves this because it reminds them that he’s real. The people who love him do so because they see him, the real him – the guy you could party with.
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Is this polished Justin Trudeau or Barack Obama-type political theatre? Heck no! This is the image of an everyday Joe. It is of a man who never grew up enough to care about how others view him. So why are other men not scrutinized, while Rob Ford gets the full brunt? Because they are beautiful to watch. A “good politician,” we’ve come to believe, keeps to the point, reads carefully from script, quaffs their hair, wears nice suits, controls their body language, never sweats, and emotes very little. We trust these people because they seem to be in control. Obama claimed that he used cocaine to mask his feelings surrounding his racial identity. Okay, fine (and also a big maybe), but I’m sure Rob has some pain to mask too. We all do. “But he’s ugly!” cry the media. So he’s not allowed to mask his pain with occasional drugs or drinking (like the rest of us)!
As a student of body language, however, I’ve learned not to trust people on their body language alone. I especially don’t trust politicians. Any of them. I prefer to judge on action, because words and body language are ultimately empty shells that have no direct meaning to me in the context of politics and lie detection. I certainly don’t look to a politician as people to aspire to (as any other celebrity), I see him as a tool to use tax money for the things I can ultimately benefit from. When I see a man like Justin Trudeau – effeminate, clean cut, pretty – I actually see someone to fear. He’s making promises to care for me, but will he? Does he? And even more importantly, while having access to tax-payer cash, will he be scrutinized by the public? Or will the ladies fawn heavily, bat their eyes and say, “Yes, Justin, whatever you please. Take me and my money, and do whatever! Or better yet, take other people’s money and give it to me – a special interest group.” Fact remains that a man who is under many watchful eyes is a man who is required to stay honest. It is the sly man who flies low that you much watch carefully.
On CNN, the reporter was fascinated by Ford’s ability to move from a heated discussion about his drug use to being jovial about a sporting event with the cameraman. The reporter claimed this was a sign of an addict requiring professional help. I say it was because he wears his heart on his sleeve. Reporters have consistently said that Ford’s denial of smoking crack is an indication of requiring help. This is an error in reasoning. If someone doesn’t have an addiction problem, denying it is the correct recourse. What else should he do? Alas, the media, biased as it is, is only prepared to accept one answer.
This has been the stance presented by the media since the beginning: Push, Ford denies, then they claim denial is a sign of the problem! What? Perhaps, they have suggested, had he taken some time off for counseling, he wouldn’t have been pushed out of office. Yes, perhaps, but why would he get counseling for a problem that doesn’t exist. But it does exist, they claim, he just won’t admit it! The bias is as obvious and as bad as is Rob Ford’s body language! The media insists on running circles around the argument.
Perhaps taking time off to consult with a body language expert would be time better spent. Then Ford would be more able to hide his flaws like the rest of those in public office. Maybe Ford does have issues, but until they are substantially proven, in court or otherwise, this is simply an assault on his person and not on his capability to operate as Mayor. It is a witch hunt. It’s not the first time, I might add. He was raked over the coals before and nearly lost his position due to using city letterhead to raise donations for a football team (around $3,000 worth). Minor, but still, the people were hell-bent on taking him down for it. No ordinary man is Ford; rather a superhuman creating vendettas against himself! Maybe he deserves all he’s getting, maybe not, but I can say either way, it’s because of how he comports himself vis-à-vis others that has contributed to his downfall.
The media has backed the bear into a corner and is surprised by how it lashes out. And for a man who cares little about his patina, you get what you ask for. A great story, with legs long enough to amuse the world! Score one for the media.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Ford has been the victim of his own bad body language. His character is honest, as honest as the public can bear. That point deserves emphasis. The public is not able to separate a man’s personal life and his actions around the till of the taxpayer’s dollars unless he can look pretty doing it. Personally I’d rather have a bull in a china shop than a weasel in the hen house. Should they be more welcoming of a man who seems to have personal issues with drugs and alcohol? Does he dabble with hookers or deal drugs? Who knows! But does it affect his job? I’m not so sure. My gut reading on Rob Ford is that he is as capable as any mayor to handle his job, personal issues and all. He is, in fact, his own worst enemy. And a man who hangs himself up, and only himself, is a man that I can trust with my tax money – for the simple fact that many people scrutinize his hands when they move. It is the high polish of a man that puts fear into me. This is the man who is working tirelessly to pull the wool over my eyes, while he secretly works on his own agenda.
Can we say that Ford is working for the people or his own image? Should we trust him with tax money? These are the real questions the media is not capable of playing out, simply because they lack legs. It’s uninteresting. We’d prefer to talk about Ford’s boorishness than the job he’s done in office.
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