Conrad Black has been writing about Rupert Murdoch again. This time he is incensed that Murdoch’s paper, The Wall Street Journal, has included Black in a list of corporate criminals. The list begins with Bernie Madoff and goes down to Black in fifth (last) place.
Black begins by telling us that he should be ranked much, much lower than that, that he’s hardly a criminal at all, and the charges against him were spurious, since there was no obstruction of justice, and the fraud involved a payment to him of $285,000 which was “of no monetary significance”. I boggled a bit at that but since I regard any payment of more than a dollar to have monetary significance, my judgement is not to be trusted. I also recalled the videos of Mr. Black hustling boxes of documents down the back stairs and wondered if that mightn’t have been a teeny-weeny attempt to hide some evidence.
Anyway, after establishing his own innocence, Black goes on to call out Murdoch:
Murdoch’s company has been stripped naked as the lawless hypocritical organization it has long been; its employees think nothing of trolling for the private conversations of the British royal family, bribing the police, meddling in criminal investigations, tampering with the cell phone of a kidnap victim, and engaging in wholesale industrial espionage.
Now this is not the first time Black has had a few words to say about Murdoch; last July he proclaimed that, although Murdoch-bashing was a disreputable activity, now was a time for truth. The Truth, said Black, was that Murdoch was a “great bad man”, (“great” here is not used as an adverb intensifying “bad” but rather an adjective indicating “man of accomplishment” .) Black goes on to excoriate the British establishment for allowing Murdoch liberties and says that it must never allow itself to be so seduced again. Naturally, if Lord Black had been there and not incarcerated, he would have prevented said establishment from accepting so much as a smile from Murdoch, much less bribes of significantly more than $285,000.
This back-and-forth between Black and Murdoch goes back to the days when Murdoch was trying to acquire the Telegraph from Black. Everything was quite friendly between them, says Black, and their wives were convivial. Then Black was charged and Murdoch’s papers reported his legal problems. This upset Black, and he said so, but when the Wall Street Journal later revised its opinion, well, Black, generous to a fault, acknowledged, and gracefully accepted, the apology. In fact, he went on to say that the Wall Street Journal had improved under Murdoch’s ownership. Now personal tensions between the media moguls have tightened and Black has qualified his opinion to say that the WSJ was the only media outlet of Murdoch’s not to be degraded by its evil owner.
Of course, everything bad that Black has to say about Murdoch is balanced by some good words. For instance, Murdoch is called “the greatest media-owner in history, and his achievements… Napoleonic in boldness of concept and skill of execution”. Then Black calls Murdoch a psychopath: “I think behind his nondescript personality lurks a repressed, destructive malice.” Likewise, Murdoch has said good things about Black, about his “high regard for him as a publisher”. Apparently the two exchanged little letters confirming that they would not savage one another. Now Black claims that these billets-doux were all base flummery meant to turn his poor head while Murdoch privately enjoined his papers to print vitriolic rubbish about the beleaguered media martyr.
Enough is enough. I appeal to you gentlemen to resolve your grievances and recall that you are, after all, brothers in arms. You have much in common. It may well be that Mr. Murdoch will be going to jail just about the time Mr. Black gets out. I’m certain that there are valuable tips that the ex-con could give the new fish. Mr. Black has written about the indignity of body cavity searches, surely Mr. Murdoch could use some advice on the topic. And he has written of those lonely nights in the cell dreaming of Ann Coulter’s gamey underwear. Perhaps a private word on dealing with these yearnings might prove of use to Mr. Murdoch. Please, gentlemen, do not let this quarrel continue; make your peace and let your wives be convivial once more.