Dr. Dawg

Tales from Toronto

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Mayor Rob Ford’s battle with alcohol abuse—which he appears to be losing—is no doubt uncomfortable for many of us. A few years ago, when I worked in the public service, a colleague had similar, noticeable problems, although he was never offensive to women. I was an enabler: I knew there was a problem, but I failed to confront him, and was therefore silently complicit. One day I found him passed out on his office floor, and at that point I realized I would have to say or do something. He was a friend. The next day I was in his office: but he had already realized he had a problem—step one—and was going on a program. He asked me to be a resource. I was flattered and ashamed all at once.

Ford, it seems, has not yet taken step one. And he’s had a coterie of enablers, who swear publicly that nothing is amiss. They have done him no favours. He has resisted taking any initial steps whatsoever, no doubt a combination of denial and a sense of being invincibly shielded.

Now it has come to this: being given the bum’s rush on two recent occasions, once from the prestigious Garrison Ball. Allegations of groping a female councillor at a public event. Some close advisors have reportedly tried to get him to seek help, to no avail. But those who have seen him in stumbling, incoherent action will only talk with an assurance of anonymity—all of them fear political retribution otherwise, which is telling.

A monstrous drunken oaf is Mayor Ford. But also, one has to concede, a pitiable figure, urged on in his conceit, delusions and bad behaviour by a complicit pack of advisors, sycophants and ideologues. They should and will share in the responsibility for what will inevitably come to a very bad end.

[H/t Daniel Dale]

And speaking of getting hammered, Police Chief Bill Blair is sick of all the stories about rogue police officers in his shop. He’s issued an angry lecture to his troops, in full public view.

Well, that’s a good start. But I, for one, won’t believe a word that canny politico says unless actual heads roll: lengthy suspensions, firings, the works. In the meantime his statement rings false to me—a kind of nudge, nudge, wink, wink, I have to make a strong statement now, but nothing will actually change, so don’t sweat it. And nothing ever does change. This is, after all, the person who oversaw one of the worst illegal assaults on ordinary citizens in Canadian history, and covered, and covered, and covered, until the media forced the issue.

Now, on the very subject of the G20 horror, we have a new, more responsible Bill Blair, nearly three years after the events? Show me—we’re all from Missouri now.

[H/t Corrie Mintz]

Finally, the consort of convicted felon Conrad Black (the latter ensconced comfortably in Toronto because he isn’t Roma) holds forth on the Steubenville rape case and child porn:

In a normal society, the girl’s mother would have locked her up for a week and all boys present would have been suspended from school and their beloved football team. Instead we had a trial and media circus: two boys out of the many were declared juvenile delinquents guilty of rape (by inserting a finger in her vagina) with custodial sentences of a year each, one getting an extra year for distributing her photo. The boys go on a juvenile sex offender list. The girl could do with an alcohol abuse program while Steubenville clearly suffers from a shortage of parents in situ.

Barbara Amiel makes no bones about the foul behaviour of the male teenagers who raped and humiliated their victim, but says we’re all making too much of it. The girl was obviously part of the problem, she says. She decries the overall lack of parental supervision, the latter being a fair point, but not particularly constructive in the circumstances.

What makes such demeaning behaviour acceptable in a teen peer group? What causes it? How do we stop it? Amiel offers not a scintilla of useful analysis or advice. Just telling everyone to get over it, it was no big deal, which is essentially what she does, helps to ensure that such incidents will be repeated. There will be more victims. If we refuse to dig into this and challenge a lot of assumptions, then we’re part of the problem, a fourth wall merely watching the public staging of these atrocities.

Then Amiel switches to child porn:

The justification that without viewers there would be no market for child porn is accurate as far as it goes, which is about one millimetre. The same argument lurks behind the failed U.S. war on drugs and the failure of Prohibition. You cannot end a disease by arresting the infected.

Child porn is, however, in no way comparable to drugs and alcohol. Abuse of the latter are, generally speaking, victimless crimes: substances are abused, not people. Abuse of children, upon which most graphic child porn is based, is anything but. No matter how effective or ineffectual, society as a whole is required to make a strong collective statement on fundamental questions of decency, or it sinks into anomie.

But Amiel goes on, cherrypicking from an essay by Amy Adler that turns out to be, in itself, an excellent piece. We can be fairly assured that Amiel simply grabbed up an authority to bolster her own superficial libertarian views about the private consumption of child porn. But Adler has lots of interesting analysis, and I would urge all and sundry to grab a coffee and go read it.

The mapping of moral panic (a sound analysis of the concept may be found here) and its results is only one of the highlights of this article, but it’s a phenomenon that, as I’ve pointed out before, should concern us. Progressives have been cast onto the rocks by similar waves of revulsion—Communists under the bed, mythical post-9/11 “alliances” between the Left and Islamic fundamentalism—and it behooves us to step warily as we engage with notions like “rape culture” and “child abuse,” lest we abandon sober analysis altogether and simply shriek aloud with everyone else.

This isn’t to say we should not be outraged by Steubenville and by the gross sexual exploitation and other physical abuse of children. Of course we should. It would be inhuman not to be furious about the sadism and predation involved. But we should also be able to think about these things without being engulfed by that fury for daring to do so. Adler does think, and by so doing she appeals to us to look beyond, to actively engage with the fundamental taboos that lie at the heart of moral panics, rather than simply succumb. Comments on her piece would be very welcome.

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on March 26, 2013 3:02 PM.

Hate speech, Ezra Levant and the Office of the Ontario Attorney General was the previous entry in this blog.

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