Just Above Sunset Archives

December 28, 2003 - Lord Black and his pearl...

Home | Odds and Ends | Music Notes | Book Notes | Sidebars | Culture Wars Lost | Culture Wars Won | Gay Marriage | Jesus Flogged Repeatedly | Photography | Quotes | Links and Recommendations | Archives | Daily Commentary (weblog)

Last month on my weblog I posted an item on Conrad Black, the ex-Canadian press baron, now Lord Black, the publisher of the Chicago Sun-Times, the Jerusalem Post and the Daily Telegraph (UK).  The business about his diverting thirty-four million dollars of corporate funds (Hollinger is the holding company) to himself and his friends for their own amusement had just hit the wires and Conrad had stepped down.  The empire is up for sale.  My friends and I chatted about the implications a bit.


I was living and working in Canada in the late nineties when Conrad Black, who owned a good share of the smaller newspapers in Canada, and some radio, television and magazine interests, renounced his Canadian citizenship so he could accept a peerage from Queen Elizabeth.  Well, he was also running the successful and conservative (Tory) Telegraph newspaper in London.  So he "went for it."  He became a UK citizen and the new Lord Black of Crossharbour.  Then the century ended and I resigned my position in London, Ontario and returned to Hollywood.  And Conrad Black took his seat in the House of Lords.

Well, last month Lord Black of Crossharbour abruptly resigned from position as head of his media empire, Hollinger International.  One of the disgruntled shareholders proved Black had sort of siphoned off thirty-four million dollars of the organization's money for himself, and his friends and family.  Oops.

See this: When good Canadians go bad....,
Thursday, 20 November 2003


The item elaborates on a Daniel Gross item I had found in Slate that tied in Henry Kissinger and Richard Perle and others to the Hollinger corporation.


Well, Lord Black testified to the Securities and Exchange Commission last week and the story has jumped from the web to the "real" press.  That would be The New York Times in this case.

See Citizen Conrad's Friends
Paul Krugman, The New York Times, December 23, 2003


Yeah, Krugman is going to do a movie thing and invoke Citizen Kane. Well, that may be appropriate.


... it's a mistake to think of Lord Black, whatever his personal fate, as a throwback to a bygone era.  He probably represents the wave of the future.

These days, everything old is new again.  Income is once again concentrated in the hands of a tiny elite, and money rules politics to an extent not seen since the Gilded Age.  The Iraq war bears an eerie resemblance to the Spanish-American war.  (There was never any evidence linking Spain to the Maine's demise.)  And Citizen Kane is back, in the form of an incestuous media-political complex.

But the Black affair isn't just about bad corporate governance.  It goes without saying that Lord Black, like Rupert Murdoch, has used his media empire to promote a conservative political agenda.  The Telegraph, in particular, has a habit of "finding" documents of unproven authenticity that just happen to support neoconservative rationales for war.  We're now learning that Lord Black also used his control of Hollinger to reward friends, including journalists, who share his political views.


Ah, the evil neoconservatives again.

You'd think Bush and his team was working to control the press by giving favors to these sorts of folks.  That would make you think that the Federal Communications Commission was run by, say, the son of the current Secretary of State.  Well, Michael Powell, the Chairman of the FCC, is, in fact, the son of Bush's Secretary of State, Colin Powell.  But that's a coincidence


And Fox News may be the most blatantly pro-Administration of all the news sources, but that the FCC approved their purchase of DirecTV a few days ago, allowing Fox and its parent company, Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, to elbow out as much of the more skeptical competition as it can, is also coincidence.  The FCC is just making the news to which we have access more "fair and balanced."

Bush won the election.  He and his guys get to set the rules.  That's the way it works.

Richard Perle, a key member of the administrations Defense Policy Board -  in fact chairman of that board until he was forced to step down over a conflict of interest thing - is another case.  Another one of Lord Black's guys.  Long ago he ran the Jerusalem Post for Conrad Black and now advises Bush - and speaks for our county on matters of why we do what we do.  You might recall his speech in London last month where he said the US knew quite well it acted illegally in invading Iraq, and didn't care that much. This upset the Brits no end. Charming fellow.

He was making three hundred grand a year from Black and Hollinger, and a Hollinger consulting firm called Trireme.  Boeing paid Trireme twenty million to lobby for them.  Perle wrote a Wall Street Journal opinion piece - as a key member of the Defense Policy Board going on record arguing that lease deal on the air-to-air tanker planes was just a wonderful idea.  Perle didn't mention he was being paid by Boeing.  Oops.  Coincidence


Well, it seems no one could cover up the fact that it would be many billions of dollars cheaper to buy the damned airplanes than to lease them.  The deal fell through.  The chairman of Boeing and a few senior Boeing officials resigned.  Oh well.

Perle is still around.  Still a key Bush guy.

Anyway, Krugman touches on all that, but adds something that made me smile.


... The real surprise, though, is that two prominent journalists, William Buckley and George Will, were also regular paid advisors to Hollinger.  Now, I thought there were rules here.  First, if you're a full-time journalist, you shouldn't be in that kind of relationship.  Second, whoever you are, if you write a favorable article about someone with whom you have a personal or financial connection - like Mr. Perle's piece on the tanker deal or Mr. Will's March column praising Lord Black's wisdom  - you disclose that connection.  But I guess the old rules no longer apply.

That, surely, is the moral of this story.  Lord Black may have destroyed himself by being a bit too brazen.  But his more powerful rival Rupert Murdoch just goes from strength to strength, even though top positions in his media empire have a tendency to go to his sons, and the News Corporation has done far more than Hollinger to blur the line between news and propaganda.


Paul, Paul, Paul... Wake up!

You are dealing with people who do NOT believe there is a difference between news and propaganda.  It's either your news or their news - your propaganda or theirs.

And, Paul, stop using references to old movies no young folks know at all.  Citizen Kane just doesn't cut it.  The Maine?  The Spanish-American War?  No, no.


When you think of Lord Black and board of advisors - Richard Perle, Henry Kissinger and the others - think of the Harry Potter books - think of Lord Voldemort and the Death Eaters.  And think of the Defense Policy Board - Perle and Wolfowitz and that crew - as the Ministry of Magic, the place run by Cornelius Fudge.  That works better.

It does, really.  The names fit better.