Ignoring Giorgio: Pay no attention to the magician’s assistant

It’s clear at this point that Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti’s primary role is to serve as lovely assistant to the magicians in the mayor’s office. He’s the one waving his arms provocatively and strutting across the stage while our magical mayor takes a hacksaw to an audience member, cutting her in half. We get so caught up looking at Giorgio that we don’t notice that the magic is, well, a trick, and that what we think is being performed in front of us is all part of a grand illusion.

The feet dangling out the end of the box belong to someone else — it’s so obvious that the truth almost screams at us — but we don’t care, because there’s Giorgio ranting about communists, filming lesbians and doing council research at strip clubs. And we can’t look away.

It’s hard to know how self-aware Mammoliti really is. The Toronto Star, in an A-level feature by reporter Daniel Dale, made it clear that — at least to some degree — the councillor knows what he’s doing. “There’s always a strategy. Anybody who thinks I just blurt things out, they’re dreaming in technicolour,” said the councillor. “I think about everything I say.”

And, ignoring the spectral appearance of the lady-that-doth-protest-too-much, let’s grant him that. Let’s work under the assumption that Giorgio Mammoliti is in on the joke. This creates a challenging situation for those of us who like to comment on City Hall matters, because by focusing too much on Giorgio-tinged antics we could become unwitting suckers, and we hate being being suckers. It also puts us in a situation where we can’t ever be sure if we’re hearing actual policy, blessed by the mayor’s office, or slightly-deranged ramblings. This would be less of a problem if Mammoliti was some fringe councillor with no responsibilities, but the guy is deep within the mayor’s inner circle and currently overseeing task forces on everything from childcare to homelessness.

It’s enough to make your head spin. So let’s simplify. Let’s stick to the facts. Giorgio Mammoliti, last week, created a Facebook group dubbed “Save the City…Support the Ford Administration.” A whole bunch of things happened rather quickly after the group’s creation, but ultimately we ended at a point where Mammoliti had dubbed all critics of the mayor as communists. This culminated with a hit on Josh Matlow’s NewsTalk 1010 show, where Mammoliti and the leader of the Ontario Communist Party debated municipal issues. I should pause to note here that none of this is hyperbole or comic exaggeration.

The communist story dominated the week, with the Facebook group, abandoned by the councillor two days after he started it, falling into anarchy. In my opinion, this exchange, where Mammoliti responds earnestly to a hilarious thread regarding the Emery Village flagpole, was the best thing to come out of it. Aside from that, the social networking group is an interesting phenomenon if only for the glimpses it gives us into the minds of some (fringe?) members of Ford Nation.

In sum: They believe there are too many library branches. They have a bitter attitude toward unions and believe they must be punished. They’re enamoured with the idea that bike licensing could be a solid revenue generator and would improve behaviour. They’re relatively convinced that a significant percentage of poverty and homelessness is due to laziness or entitlement. And, underlying it all, there’s a sense that government — even a government like this one, which is essentially controlled by someone they support — is inherently incompetent and undeserving of the tax money it receives.

That is, I suppose, the flip side of the coin represented by the voices I’ve been spotlighting through the Toronto Spoke feature. Some of these views represent a fringe element, of course, but to dismiss them outright would be too akin to the response we’ve seen from the mayor and other councillors when asked about the marathon executive meeting. These are the arguments that progressives need to keep in mind as they move forward in this ongoing battle for hearts-and-minds. This is the thing to focus on.

In other words: keep your eye on the contents of the box and the guy with the saw. Ignore the assistant, the choreography and the flashing lights. Because this ain’t magic — it’s something else entirely.

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