Ivor Tossell’s “The Story behind the Rob Ford Story” (March) was somewhat vainglorious of the Toronto Star’s and the Globe and Mail’s coverage of the Falstaffian mayor. Had the Ford brothers launched defamation suits, the watchdogs’ tails might now be drooping between their legs instead of wagging sky high. The Star’s “six-second” decision to run the crack video story—right after Gawker did—appears to have been made more out of a self-interest in not being scooped, rather than with the reassurance of falling back on the responsible communication defence.
I’m curious—how did Doolittle and McArthur negotiate confidentiality agreements, and did they use the Wigmore test and inform their sources that it was no guarantee of anonymity? Or would Doolittle and McArthur have shown courage and heroism by falling on their swords and refusing a court order to divulge their sources, facing imprisonment for contempt of court? I have my doubts. Tossell’s assertion that the responsible communication defence was the primary catalyst for running these stories is just as much bunk as the Fords’ claims of being upstanding citizens.
Your cover story omits a relevant incident: that Rob Ford defamed Daniel Dale by suggesting that the Star reporter was a pedophile. Dale (and the Star ) filed a libel notice. Ford issued a non-retraction retraction, then eventually a real one.
In short, the mayor was on the wrong side of the laws that might once have prevented the Star and the Globe from running their stories about him. He made his statements in an interview with none other than Conrad Black, founder of a third major Toronto newspaper, which Tossell only superficially mentioned, perhaps because the National Post has shown no appetite for reporting certain topics of public interest.
Every Cdn journalist shd read @ivortossell's piece on libel law and the story behind Ford story @walrusmagazine. I learned valuable stuff.
— Judith Timson (@judithtimson) February 8, 2014
It’s a testament to @ivortossell‘s writing that his @walrusmagazine Rob Ford piece read like a thriller even though I knew the events.
— Alexander Huls (@alxhuls) March 10, 2014
Now that libel laws have been addressed, “freedom of information” should be next. Responsible investigative journalism (not to mention citizenship) thrives in an atmosphere that recognizes the difficulties of obtaining information about how governments and politicians operate. We share the burdens that thwart freedom of information, in an attempt to protect both the asked and the asker while simultaneously providing transparency. As with the libelled, politicians who do not leave a paper trail sometimes need to prove their innocence.
A Taxing argument
So Timothy Taylor likes to pay taxes (“Happy Returns,” March)? As a faculty member at the tax-supported University of British Columbia, he feels he is getting a good deal. No surprise there. Some of us, however, do not feel we are getting a good deal and would like to pay less. So go ahead: pay more and get more enjoyment—and let me pay less.
“Happy Returns” is well written, but it constitutes a misreading of Tocqueville. Taylor rightly notes that Tocqueville saw great potential in democracy. The French thinker viewed it as facing two paths: the first leading toward liberty and social cohesion, the second toward despotism and egotism. However, in a Tocquevillian sense, big government (and extensive federal taxation) is precisely what leads us toward the latter, as the civic-minded purpose of families and community associations is hijacked by government. Tocqueville would look at the years following World War II, with the spreading tentacles of the welfare state, and conclude that an overly intrusive government extinguished the very public spirit it so longed to preserve.
While I appreciate “Sledgehammer” (March), Drew Nelles was less than equitable in his comments about Sir Ludwig Guttmann. Had it not been for the doctor’s indomitable determination to pursue his goals, I doubt he would have successfully saved the fictitious patients from the clutches of the Gestapo, while he was the director of the Jewish Hospital in Breslau, Germany (now Poland). Nor would he have developed innovative treatments for the people with traumatic paralysis who had been admitted to Stoke Mandeville Hospital, at the time in the backwoods of Buckinghamshire, UK. Long-term care had been abandoned by the medical establishment, and most were expected to die within a few months of their admission.
Only later did Guttmann turn to patients’ psychological well-being through competition in sports. I still recall the excitement of the 1976 Olympiad for the Physically Disabled, held in Toronto to coincide with the Montreal Olympics. I watched as he mixed happily with swimmers, wheelchair racers, and one-legged high jumpers. The true Olympic Spirit was best demonstrated when an Israeli swimmer shook hands with an Egyptian opponent after their race, just a few years after their countries had been at war.
We would do well if another Guttmann arrived to run the Paralympics in an autocratic style, rather than committees who bicker among themselves to determine the extent of different disabilities.
We Be Confused
C’mon Walrus. Is a barely readable story (“We Be Naked,” March) meant to represent how open to alternative fiction you are? Joke’s on you, I’m afraid.
Moral of the story
Very interesting that Ubisoft’s new game will have a “reputation” layer (“Moral Code,” March). But does Ubisoft (and Emily Landau) think reputation is the same as morality?
This appeared in the May 2014 issue.