I have a new hero. He is, according to a first-hand account, a “primitive, stupid, demented-appearing man in a sloppy pair of trousers and T-shirt and a pork pie hat, with piscine, hate-filled eyes.”
I do not know this man’s name, but I certainly know that of the witness: Conrad Black.
The former media mogul (and convict) was dining with his wife and some friends in a Toronto restaurant recently when said “ghastly mutation” appeared in the window. The man sneered at them for the remainder of their meal, mouthing epithets whenever they looked his way.
When the party left, via a side exit, the “pathetic interloper” appeared around the corner and told Black he was not welcome in Canada and would be going back to jail. Black wrote an account of the incident for Monday’s National Post. Mining his vast vocabulary, he employed such a withering array of insulting descriptors that, had the man been identifiable, he would have had an open-and-shut case for libel.
On any objective scale, of course, the “pitiful wretch” that intruded upon Black’s little soiree was unconscionably rude. Few of those who loathe Black — and there are many — would sink to such depths as to hijack a social evening in such a manner.
But this man is a hero, nonetheless, for having provoked Black into displaying his true colours.
Having thoroughly demolished this peasant’s appearance, stature and sanity, Sir Conrad goes on to suggest that all his detractors share roughly the same mindset.
The attack, he writes, was “not qualitatively different to that of some people who have persecuted me from ostensibly respectable positions that gave them some purchase on events — rabid civil litigators, dishonest prosecutors, and some bigoted judges — in the United States and Canada. And they do not have the excuse of poverty, disadvantage or derangement, some or all of which, unless he was a poseur of astounding virtuosity, our Fagin could probably invoke if pressed.”
That Black would resort to Dickensian references is revealing, as his world view is clearly derived from Victorian times, when rich men ruled unhindered and the lower classes knew their place.
Vague aspersions notwithstanding, though, most people have good reason not to like Black — namely, his self-centred delusion that the ordinary laws and protocols of society do no apply to him.
He defiantly insists his conviction in the U.S. of defrauding shareholders and obstructing justice was nothing but a sham. This from a man who removed boxes of material from his offices — in plain view of a video camera — after being told not to tamper with evidence. In his mind, of course, his innocence was a foregone conclusion. The law be damned.
And now, Black is demanding to appear before the panel that decides whether or not to strip him of his Order of Canada — even though that panel always makes its decisions behind closed doors. This from a man who cavalierly renounced his citizenship in order to don the frilly accoutrements of a British lordship.
Black has made himself the poster boy of privilege before principle, pomp before patriotism, and total contempt for universal justice.
For a man who can write long and penetrating biographies of other people, he possesses little but a self-important, narcissistic understanding of his own mortal existence.
And he wonders why he gets under people’s skin.
Peter Jackson is The Telegram’s
commentary editor. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.