24 September 2011


From Conrad Black's self-absorbed interview in Vanity Fair -
Of course, I know nothing precise about what goes on in News Corp. but it has been for decades a rigorously micro-managed company and Rupert Murdoch has created and flaunted an attitude of unlimited right to intrude on, harass, and to the limit that may be legally feasible, defame people whom he or his editors target. The News Corp. company ethos is one of lawlessness and unrestrained liberty self-righteously to do what it wants, inflated by notions of decisive political influence. I doubt if he personally ordered telephone or internet intercepts on individuals, but he must have known that some of his employees did them routinely, going back, at the latest, to some of the famous cell-phone conversations of the Prince of Wales. Murdoch deserves all the credit for building so powerful a company that most of its institutional self-confidence was justified, and most of the discredit for the sleazy way he operated it. I would add that I was more offended by the cowardice and hypocrisy of those in the British Establishment who licked his boots — not to mention other places — for decades, and now swaddle themselves in shock sanctimony than I was by the offensive activities.
On life in prison -
All that day and the next, inmates approached to introduce themselves. Almost all had been following his case on CNN, and all, Black says, were as pleasant as could be. One — "a Wall Street Journal subscriber," Black recalls — showed him the cafeteria. That first night, Black noticed a well-coiffed prisoner approaching, trailing a phalanx of other inmates. The man, who turned out to be a senior member of the Genovese crime family, smiled and held out his hand. "Welcome, Mr. Black," he said. "No one will bother you here. If you catch a cold, we will find out who you got it from." He smiled again. "You know, we have much in common."

"Because we are victims of an unjust system?" Black offered.

"Not just that," the mafioso said. “We are industrialists.”

For whatever reason, in fact, Black says, he was never bothered or harassed by other inmates. "Yes, well, I quickly developed alliances with the Mafia people, then the Cubans. I was friendly with the 'good ol' boys' and the African-Americans. They all understood I had fought the system, and I do believe I earned their respect for that." He takes a sip of wine. "Everyone got along, you know, except with the child-molesters. There was the occasional scuffle there, I heard."
And on his self-reflection ...
As he worked on his memoir, Black spent long hours considering his ordeal. He picks at a dessert cookie. "What I’ve been trying to do the last eight years is to deduce, at a very fundamental level, what is the message of all this?" he muses. "I don't doubt that I am a humbler, more sensitive person now that I have experienced conditions with which I'd had little experience. I've worked hard to find something meaningful. You have to believe, whether you are cleaning latrines or tutoring inmates, that it served some purpose. I have tried to make the most of an unjust charge, and in this book I have tried to expose the injustice of a system that is at the very core of this great country. That is the takeaway from all this, I think."

He smiles. "You know, the judge told me she thought I was a better man now, and I took that as a sort of head-patting expression on her part, you know, that she had the wisdom to send me to prison. But I think she’s right. I probably am. It is a broadening experience."
The interview promotes Black's forthcoming book. He'd have been better served with a more probing account - less emphasis on his return to the family estate (12 cars etc) and supposed victimisation, more on business and the law.