Whether it's allegedly flicking off a 6-year-old or sparring with a literary icon, Toronto's political Ford family isn't winning any popularity contests in the social media world this summer. Recently, the website Dear Mayor Ford launched a forum where voters can write open letters to the city's mayor and his councillor brother. Right now, one of the top-10 posts on the site is a letter from a toddler named Declan who proclaims he and his family will stand up to the mayor if the popular kids hangout, Riverdale Farm, is closed. (The location is on a list of potential cuts).
And councillor Doug Ford, Rob's brother, is at the centre of much Twitter chatter after Margaret Atwood helped popularize an online petition to protest potential library closings in the city. The mayor's brother, perhaps not a big reader, proclaimed that he didn't know who Atwood was. "She could walk right by me, I wouldn't have a clue who she is," he said. The rather famous writer and recipient of some of the world's top literary awards is also an avid tweeter, and has more than 200,000 die-hard followers. One of those, law professor @BrendaCossman, quipped: "Doug Ford not knowing who Atwood is…isn't that kind of an argument in favour of more public libraries in his area?"
It's not just toddlers and tweeters taking part in the Ford-bashing campaign. The blog Fact Checking the Fords has also sprung up recently and is gaining attention. On the topic of libraries in Toronto, the site links to a "Reality Check" article citing Councillor Ford's comment that, "We have more libraries per person than any other city in the world. I've got more libraries in my area than I have Tim Hortons." According to the site, there are 13 libraries in Doug Ford's district and almost 40 Tim Hortons.
On the topic of Toronto's mayor, the Tumblr account links to an annotated six-minute interview Rob Ford did with a local television station Monday. The author of the post does a minute-by-minute fact check on Ford's answers.
While there are clearly "Ford Nation" fans out there (after all, he did get elected), they are few and far between on the Web. Pithy headlines and clever tweets aside, there is a growing chorus of discontent brewing on social media networks. Galvanized online protests have in the past swayed federal and provincial legislators' decisions – not to mention the odd revolution – so it will be interesting to see how, or if, Toronto's online community tackles the Ford family.