I’ve met Toronto City Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti only once, at this summer’s Dyke March.
(The “real” Pride Parade happens the first Sunday in July, but the Daughters of Lesbos take to the streets the day before. Public blather about “tolerance” to the contrary, separate events are required because gay men and lesbians hate each other’s guts. This year, “transpeople” demanded a march of their own and were consigned to Friday evening. I anticipate an eventual French Revolution-style makeover of the days of the week, since the latest iteration of the “gay community” acronym—it’s metastasized into “LGBTTIQQ2SA”—suggests they may soon feel constrained by only seven days.)
Turns out my husband and I were downtown for the same reason as Mammoliti: to see if Pride Toronto would honor their pledge to bar activist group “Queers Against Israeli Apartheid” (QuAIA) from both parades.
Critics had complained that QuAIA’s participation in last year’s march violated the city’s “anti-discrimination” policy, an especially egregious offense considering Pride Toronto pockets about $100,000 annually from municipal coffers and sucks up “around $250,000 worth of in-kind services like police and garbage removal” over the course of one weekend.
So newly elected Mayor Rob Ford warned them that failure to prevent QuAIA’s participation this year would cost the almost-bankrupt Pride their annual funding.
(Loathed by elites but/therefore elected by a landslide by pledging an ‘“end to the gravy train,” Ford is basically New Jersey Governor Chris Christie if Christie suffered a stroke after falling into a vat of peroxide and had only recently‚ barely, reacquired the power of speech.)
Councillor Mammoliti had been one of Council’s most vocal opponents of QuAIA, who he said were uttering anti-Semitic “hate speech” in broad daylight on the taxpayers’ dime. Yet that Saturday afternoon, we were still surprised to see Mammoliti striding purposely toward the Dyke March staging ground at Norman Jewison Parkette.
Mammoliti matter-of-factly started videotaping them, unfazed by their dagger stares. He already stood out as one of the only men in the crowd and (being Italian and all) was certainly the best-dressed, in a fitted purple tee—a sartorial choice that didn’t go unnoticed by the photo editor at Xtra!, Toronto’s gay weekly.
What surprised me more than the councillor’s visit to the march was that a guy named “Mammoliti” cared about something so, well, polysyllabic as “Israeli apartheid.” (Back in my Hamilton high school—picture Jersey Shore in Pittsburgh—they only kept the Portuguese around to help the Italians feel smart.)
Mammoliti favorably impressed me for giving up his Saturday afternoon to mingle with unfriendlies, but since I try not to think about Toronto City Council, he didn’t cross my mind again until last week.
That’s when he unveiled a Facebook page designed, as the Globe & Mail phrased it, “to give voice to the silent majority of working-class Torontonians who don’t have time to speak out at all-night City Hall meetings alongside layabouts and ‘communists.’”
Mammoliti says he saw the need for such a site—called “Save the City…Support the Ford Administration”—after surviving Council’s marathon 22-hour budget meeting two weeks earlier.
“Members of the public” were invited to debate Ford’s proposed massive cuts, but the hundreds of petitioners were mostly “community activists,” “artists,” and well-known Council chamber cranks.
“I want to hear from the average Joe Blow who doesn’t even know what City Hall looks like,” Mammoliti explained, adding emphatically, “I don’t want to hear from communists.”
That’s because he’s already spent so much time in their midst.
Mammoliti started out as a leader of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, then ran for provincial parliament and won on the New Democratic Party (NDP) ticket. (At the last NDP convention, delegates postponed a vote on whether to strike the word “socialist” from their constitution.)
Soon, however, the new Member of Provincial Parliament split with his party on issues such as extending benefits to gay couples. And fellow “dippers” didn’t appreciate his dissent.
“That’s where I learned how communists smell,” he told reporters last week.
When asked, Mammoliti defined a communist as “anyone who is able to work, doesn’t want to work and wants everything for free.”
Americans no doubt find a Canadian going on about “communism” midway through 2011 rather strange, but Toronto conservatives habitually use the word. It’s a weird quirk in a country with no equivalent to the McCarthy hearings, and frankly, I can’t explain it.
(During the municipal election, my husband took the bluntest, most blustering unofficial campaign slogan he could think of—“VOTE FOR ROB FORD—HE’S NOT A COMMUNIST”—and created a bumper sticker, which a local designer turned into a semi-controversial T-shirt. I’m told the merchandise was viewed with great amusement and grudging affection by Ford’s “team”—off the record, of course.)
Alas, Mammoliti’s new 1000+ member Facebook group is overrun with layabout communists with Che and Chou En-Lai avatars who are busily mocking the few assembled “haters” and posting quotations from Lenin and Mao. One of them wants to nationalize the Toronto Zoo. Another has nicknamed the councillor “Giorgio Mussolini.”
The councillor has accidentally proved his own point: Municipal “communist” bullies monopolize debates both online and off.
But the advantage of luring them over to Facebook instead of into windowless council chambers for speechmaking marathons?
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