Conrad Black was the best newspaper proprietor Britain has seen in decades, under his ownership the Spectator, along with Daily and Sunday Telegraphs were all superb publications and all three have declined in quality somewhat since he was forced out. This is perhaps because he was also a first rate writer as well as a businessman, his biographies of Presidents Nixon and Franklin Roosevelt are both critically acclaimed.
The unrestrained glee that has greeted his conviction in some quarters is something that I would find pretty unedifying even if I thought that he was actually guilty of the charges he has been convicted of. The fact that the charges seem so utterly uncompelling just exacerbates this fact, I do not believe that Black is guilty and I do not believe that his side of the story has been given a remotely fair hearing by the British press. Black's defence was so under reported. that despite the fact that the jury found it sufficiently plausible for him to be acquitted on 9 out of 13 counts it came as a complete surprise for readers of the UK press when the jury announced that it could not reach a verdict on all counts.
In some ways the Black case resembles the Duke Lacrosse case of last year when the media and prosecuters took an allegation of rape by a black woman against a largely white and wealthy sports team and turned it into a thinly veiled morality tale about race, power and wealth in the United States. In the Conrad Black case the salacious allegations about him and his wife (which were among the charges the jury rejected) has been told as a fable about greed and conspicuous consumption. In both cases the facts were of little consequence, the narrative had already been written and nothing would stop in its way.
Anyway the four convictions will be appealed and must have a good chance of being overturned seeing as the prosecution's tactic in the original trial appears to have been to throw in so many absurd but serious charges, such as racketeering, that the defence concentrated on those to the detriment of the less serious items that were more likely to result in a conviction.
UPDATE: Well I said that the less intelligent sections of the media were turning it into a thinly veiled morality tale about greed, but I didn't expect any journalist to be so cliche ridden to actually use the phrase, so congratulations to Tom Bower for coming out with "His rise and ruin is a familiar morality tale of those consumed by ambition and greed." How the hell does he get employed by any publication larger than 'Gerbil Lovers Monthly'?
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