Imagine uploading a blog post bearing your name and opinion and then moments later finding that reality has hastily contradicted you. Hours after I published my last piece of scribble, arguing this city is not under siege and rather safe on the whole, I was bemused by a National Post headline that, to sound presumptuous, seemed as if it was printed just for me…”Thirty shot in 5 days: Three in hospital after another bloody night in Scarborough“. The pitiless shooting, the worst in Toronto’s history, in the extreme easternly part of Toronto, Scarborough, seemed to reproach my words just as soon as they were processed through the keyboard.
Do I connect with Leslie and tell him to take it down? Would it be immovably bumptious and phonily iconoclastic to leave it up? Could I really mean what I say when so many were unfairly cut down by stray bullets? Is Toronto a lowly, corrupted war-zone? Are you ready to take it back, Panos?
I wasn’t wrong, crime is down. And no, I am not the type of person who can’t call it like it is, if only to avoid admitting they had made an error. Allow me, if you will, to clarify. As morbid as it sounds, the gunplay that flamed-out across the city proves the point I was earlier trying to make.
The target of the last column was hack journalists, who declare that you, the reader, are in the front lines of war, which you were conscripted into without your consent, against a merciless gang of youths, who don’t care a damn about the rules of traditional battle. Tragedy is the human condition and homicide is sad and unpredictable, but lets not become hysterical, people.
Let me again quote Jonathan Kay, editor at the National Post, who while writing his book Among the Truthers spent far too much time among the embarrassingly hysterical people who succumb to conspiracy theories:
A secondary ill effect is that it produces paralyzing anxiety in millions of otherwise unaffected people, largely thanks to sensationalistic media reporting that encourages the idea we are all inhabiting some kind of anything-goes “war zone.”
As I’ve written before, gun violence in Toronto is largely confined to a small set of areas, and a small set of social and criminal contexts. For the average citizen, the chance of suicide or death-by-domestic-battery is much, much higher than the chance of becoming collateral damage in a gang killing.
And there lies the crux of the thing. You’re more likely to meet your bloody demise at the hands of a spouse or partner — by poisoning at that — than in some crossfire across Queen St or in the east end. I dare say you’re more likely to commit suicide than perish by indiscriminate shell fire as you leave the pub.
It is heart-numbing to read the stories about the newly deceased, much too young and too innocent for the fates that befell them. The Toronto Star’s reporting on what really happened is a testament to how reporting is to be done and this article is a must read on the Scarborough shooting in particular and journalistic skill in general.
And, at the risk of revisiting too much of my last post, there are pockets of the city (like all cities) where clips get dumped more often and in appreciable quantities. This isn’t being disputed. But in the grand scheme of things, a hailstorm of bullets is least likely to occur in Toronto than in most major North American cities. To cite Kay again:
Among the American cities that witnessed more murders than Toronto in 2011 were Nashville (pop. 616,000), Tulsa, Okla (pop. 393,000), and Stockton, Cal. (292,000). In per-capita terms, Toronto has a substantially smaller homicide problem than Winnipeg and Edmonton.
That’s where it stands. But what is the reason then that Toronto newspapers keep telling you that you ought to be scared? Lazy journalism of course, and lazy editors who hope the readership refrain from exhibiting critical reflection when it is most needed. I hope that this is the last time I need to repeat myself.
**Out of curiousity, would I be allowed the argument that Toronto is safe because Scarborough is not technically Toronto? I mean, its a semantic point, but all sides of my family come from Scarborough, I have worked in Scarborough, and its definitely not Toronto in terms of culture and geography (the subway does not extend to the scene of the shootout). Yes?