Black Watch: Today’s Top Stories

Black Watch: Today’s Top Stories

Besides a few blithe comments to the Canadian Press confirming that, in his mind at least, the endless summer continues, long-weekend coverage revealed (yet again) Lord Black’s peculiar relationship with the concept of free speech. In his National Post column, Black pilloried Columbia University and its president, Lee Bollinger, for providing Iranian president and all-around whack job Mahmoud Ahmedinejad a forum for his toxic views on Israel, the Holocaust, homosexuals, you name it. But Black’s misgivings didn’t end there. Commenting on Bollinger’s infamous introductory remarks, Black writes:

“I watched and listened in horror, becoming steadily more resigned to the imminent emission of the ultimate platitude. I was at the edge of my chair like an overwrought sports fan, almost shouting at my television set: ‘Don’t say it!’ It was inexorable. [Bollinger] was contributing to ‘the development of freedom of speech as a central value in our society.’ Failure to understand this ‘would make vigorous debate impossible… The problem was that the president of the university, in claiming that this ill-considered invitation advanced freedom of speech, dialogue, reason and vigorous debate, debased all those values, of which his guest is contemptuous, and laid claim to the fundamental tenets of free civilization to justify a deranged publicity stunt.”

After last week’s minor triumph on the CBC, I praised Lord Black for having engineered a public appearance that belied his reputation for sulphurous arrogance and self-aggrandizement. But, as Saturday’s column reminds us, it’s always a tangled web he weaves. In Richard Siklos’ biography, Black himself praised the Daily Telegraph’s traditional “practice of presenting Britain’s gamiest, kinkiest, most salacious and most scatological news with apparent sobriety but with the most explicit almost sadistic detail… [The] middle class reads in our newspaper unashamedly of the indiscretions of deviant clergy. The activities of paid flagellators, and the rest of the vast English supermarket of unconventional sexual titillation.”

Talk about your deranged publicity stunts. Black’s attitude toward speech is symptomatic of an elitist bent that’s played badly both in court and out. Whether it’s the shareholders of his companies or the readers of his newspapers, Black has always treated his constituents faintly like rubes who don’t quite “get it.” For Black, free speech and the free press are, to his mind, really only available to those who can afford it, and those who can’t are there to be exploited.

Busy Black awaits sentencing: Source [Toronto Star]

Conrad Black: Don’t call it ‘free speech’: Source [National Post]