Sometimes, the bad get their comeuppance

Conrad Black – quite possibly the worst newspaper owner in the history of Canada – has agreed to resign from his chairmanship at Hollinger International, essentially ending his career as a political figure and opinion-maker. Hollinger, the owner of the Daily Telegraph, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Jerusalem Post, used to own a number of Canadian newspapers, including the fishwrap known as the National Post.

As an unending source of American right-wing propaganda abroad, Black had a reputation as a blowhard who was largely out of step with the actual residents of the places he published newspaper. Mark Shainblum, author of the Canadian political comic Angloman, one portrayed him as one of the triumvirate ruling Torontorg, a parody of the Star Trek aliens the “Borg”, along with his wife Barbara “feminism is totalitarianism” Amiel. “Resistance is futile, you will be assimilated.”

Conrad Black, a British-Canadian dual citizen prevented temporarily from receiving royal honours by his nemisis Jean Chrétien, has been forced to resign because of his involvement in US$32 of “informal” executive pay outside of the knowledge of Hollingers’ audit committee.

He is survived by his creation, the Hollinger Group. Hollinger, once owner of much of Canada’s print media, suffered a debilitating crisis in 2001 which saw the loss of Black’s personal project – Canada’s National Post and the bulk of the newspaper group’s assets. Hollinger stock is up 18% on news of his departure.

18 thoughts on “Sometimes, the bad get their comeuppance

  1. Scott,

    You seem to be indicating that Conrad Black was bad merely because he provided an outlet for what you call “American right-wing propaganda.” This strikes me as a dangerous position to take. Don’t you think it a good thing that a newspaper market should have a wide range of political viewpoints represented, even if they don’t agree with one’s own? I certainly wouldn’t cheer the career demise of, say, the publishers of The Guardian, The Daily Mail or The Independent, despite the fact that I hardly ever agree with the slant each of these papers puts on news events.

    If Conrad Black is to be condemned in my eyes, it is for the way in which he lied to, and attempted to rip off, his shareholders, not for being “a blowhard who was largely out of step with the actual residents of the places he published.” I don’t think the silencing of alternative political voices is ever something to be celebrated, unless the voices in question belong to the very extremes, e.g, neo-nazis or communists; and even in such cases, I’d prefer that the silencing occurred because they’d either been converted or lost their audience. The National Post under Black’s ownership certainly wasn’t that far from the mainstream of respectable political opinion by any means, so why the incredible rancor?

  2. “Truly a comic genius. Like Andy Kaufman, his life was his art.”

    As I’ve long found grating the BBC tax of 112 GBP per annum, I have to say that I don’t see Conrad Black as quite the comic genius you do.

    I deeply resent the fact that in order to watch television I am obliged by British law to pay, out of my own pocket, for the maintenance of a media monolith whose political stance on so many issues are so out of step with my own. Why should ordinary citizens like myself be forced by law to pay for programming we can’t stand, and at the added cost of having the sort of commercial programming we might actually be interested in crowded out by the BBC’s near limitless resources, courtesy of the TV tax?

    If the BBC’s slanted broadcasting were being carried out with funds obtained from private agents rather than by government fiat, I wouldn’t be much exercised by whichever way it chose to bend. What irritates me to no end, and what Black was getting at, is that this government-imposed and coercively funded monopoly, which doesn’t knows the discipline of the market and is under almost no accounting to anyone outside its’ walls most of the time, has taken it upon itself not just to present the news, but also to shape the news.

    If it were up to me, the BBC licence fee would be abolished, most of its’ spectrum sold off, and the vast majority of its’ constituent parts privatized, with the sole clear exception being the BBC World Service. It shouldn’t be any government’s place to subsidize particular media. If the populace desires a particular sort of programming, let the market provide it, even if it means that the programs middle class types think “worthy” no longer get made.

  3. Today’s question is: can there be a thread on any blog discussing any kind of media issue whatsoever, which fails to attract the tangential attention a tinfoil-behatted anti-BBC loon?

  4. “Alex,” you and “john b” are the only “loons” here, as you’ve contributed absolutely nothing to the discussion except jejune (do you even know what the word means?) insults of the sort more usually found on worthless websites like “Indymedia” and “Democratic Underground.” Why don’t you both take your trolling back where it’ll be better appreciated? You obviously lack both the intelligence and the good manners to make a positive impact on this particular forum.

  5. Scott:
    I,d have to disagree with you that Blackl was the worst newspaper owner in Canada. I’ve never cared for him as he embodies the worst of Anglophone capitalism. He actually got his start here in my town with the local English paper. I’d heard stories about his management style over the years when he owned that paper. Guess some of it was true
    Nonetheless, the National post was a breath of fresh air from the stultifying hegemony that Canadian media is. The National post did dare to challenge the recieved wisdom of the Canadian media elite and was a thorn in the federal Liberal side.

    In any case, I figured it was only a question of time before he’d fall. His arrogance, pomposity and skinflint buisness practices are serious flaws for a businessman to have. You eventually think you’re immune from the normal ruls that dull normals have to adhere to

  6. Abiola

    Is it the BBC’s public status that particularly irks you, or its purported bias? I can understand (though don’t necessarily agree with) your problems with the former, but would be interested in being pointed to studies or research that supports your claims of the latter.

    I’m not offering this challenge to be snarky. But when OxBlog’s Josh Chafetz (in the Weekly Standard, I believe) and loads of others were criticising the BBC’s supposed anti-war bias, none of them offered anything more than cherry picking, and all of them ignored what is to my knowledge the only quantitative comparison of British stations’ coverage of the war. This comparison (,7521,991149,00.html) concluded that the BBC had the least anti-war agenda of any British channel.

    Of course, one study does not a truth make. But then neither does one forcefully argued opinion, even if it comes from you. Do you have analytical evidence to back up your belief that the BBC is, as you say, “slanted”? If so, could you please point me to it?


  7. By the way, Abiola, I do agree with the substance of your first post on this topic. While I would argue that media outlets have certain moral duties, I think that enforcing those duties would be debilitating to democracy. As an example, I find the Mail’s long-held views on immigration absolutely repugnant and damaging both to immigrants and to the well-being of the United Kingdom. But I don’t see how those views could be fairly suppressed.

  8. “Is it the BBC’s public status that particularly irks you, or its purported bias?”

    To be honest, the whole idea of tax-funded media irritates me to no end, and the ?112 annual fee is a real imposition if you aren’t exactly wealthy, which I certainly am not. However, if the state of affairs is such that I can do nothing to rid myself of this burdensome tax, then the least one can ask for is that it goes to fund the most anodyne, least politically aggressive reporting possible.

    I would rather that the BBC not be funded by the public purse at all, but if I can’t have that, I can at least request that it be boring and unopinionated. One good thing that can at least be said about even the “Daily Wail”(1) (whose unending anti-immigrant tirades get on my nerves intensely) is that none of my money is going to support that nasty piece of prejudice-mongering. The same certainly isn’t true of the BBC, which, as we speak, is actually trying to pass off a group of Italians collecting money for Ba’athist fighters in Iraq as “anti-war activists”, rather than as the traitors to their own countrymen that these people actually are.

    1 – No, that wasn’t a typo …

  9. Abiola – apologies for describing you as a tinfoil-hatted loon. I should have described you as ‘someone who lacks the intelligence and good manners to make a positive impact on [any] forum’. That would’ve been much more intelligent and well-mannered of me.

    I also should have realised that this blog belongs to you, rather than belonging to the people listed in the ‘contributors’ section, and therefore that you have every right to instruct me in what I should and shouldn’t post.

    To elaborate on my point above: there seem to be a lot of people – some of whom aren’t even British residents, which is particularly bizarre – with a pathological hatred of the BBC, and who’ll take any opportunity, no matter how tangential, to criticise said organisation. Only a very, very crazy person indeed (cf Mr Black) could claim that having to pay ?120 a year to fund a news source was a worse menace to the UK than Islamic terrorism, or the likely end of the Gulf Stream, to pick two random examples.

    Describing people with such an obsession as “tinfoil-hatted loons” is unfair; I seriously doubt that many of them actually own tinfoil hats, or have genuine mental disorders. However, the kind of anti-BBC obsession that leads people to agree with Mr Black’s obviously untrue words above is not indicative of a terribly sensible set of priorities, in my opinion.

    (NB the post above in no way defends the BBC. There are plenty of arguments in the institution’s favour, but these aren’t needed here.)

  10. “However, the kind of anti-BBC obsession that leads people to agree with Mr Black’s obviously untrue words above is not indicative of a terribly sensible set of priorities, in my opinion.”

    Since the licence fee is such a trivial imposition, why don’t you reimburse me for mine, then? It’s easy for trolls like you to talk big when other people’s money is on the line.

  11. For the public’s edification, here is a definition of troll. It does indeed appear to apply to a commenter in this thread. I shall avoid further feeding from now on.

  12. Although the advice on trolls (“An outrageous message posted to a newsgroup or mailing list or message board to bait people to answer. Trolling is a form of harassment that can take over a discussion”) is “The best response is to ignore it.” I do react on this strange discussion. This is a European Blog. So most readers (and writers even) are not native speakers of English. I learn some English too thanks to the fistful but have no intention to learn English name-calling. So it’s little trouble to ignore this type of discussion !

  13. I respectfully disagree on one point – one of the best things about learning a foreign language and/or living in a foreign country is learning to curse in other languages 😉

    & it’s certainly good advice to ignore trolls. The problems come when you mistake them for people who have something to contribute…

  14. “The problems come when you mistake them for people who have something to contribute…”

    No one is ever going to make that particular mistake with the likes of “john b”, thank God. Where’s BBC tax refund, while we’re at it?

  15. Apologies to other Fistful-ites for boring them senseless with this thread.

    Abiola – in the event that you’re interested in a debate rather than throwing personal insults, I’m happy to continue this discussion on my blog.

  16. Back to Conrad….

    Canadian’s paid 30% extra on appliances, cars and anything else of value back in the 1960’s (what else was there to buy then?)…our paternal businessmen gouged the populace blind, and our per capita income was but 2/3 of the US (not far off that again, though Canada is rebounding). Conrad Black would, I believe, be glad to have that kind of a world returned, where papers and politics could influence controllable minds.
    Tacking in a completely different direction;
    70% of Canadians live at a latitude equal to or SOUTH of SEATTLE, USA ..the big country on the map is a lie that even confuses Canadians …the main group of Canadians live in a protrusion between the states of Michigan and New York .. the rest, like a horizontal Chile, lie ribboned along the southern mountain called the USA, to the north side lays a big bowl of gruel and rice (I mean muck and ice) encompassing 3 1/2 million square miles.
    Canada is a country that was formed for three interests,the British Empire, ex-American Loyalists who left after the revolution, and the Quebecois who did not want to be swallowed up by America. Of course, only the Quebecois reason for Canada exists today ..and they would be swallowed up like never before, yet many want to leave, and be swallowed up.
    Canada tried the third option under Trudeau (closer to Europe-never got off the ground), the buffer to the USA (Canadians dearly love being loved by everyone else) and will try other things to find an identity …but Canada is merely an outdated, lovely regional twist to america…. .. and off center (US spelling of center) newspapers, even Conrad Black’s, can no longer do much harm to this confused country.

    In fact, a touch of the ‘extreme’ right helps keep Canada’s status as a liason or buffer plausible(Canadians would like to believe this, they really would), since a few Texan businesses combined with a few unnecessary industries (tobacco, government security and questionable defense contractors) to elect a President that would war in Iraq and lose thousands of its troops and hundreds of billions of dollars, while its allies let it twist in the winfd…surely that is a little extreme … and Canada needs a little indoctrination to stay in touch with this kind of folly, and remain an understanding liason,

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