Spin Report: Message control

Spin Report: Message control

While the Black trial has (perhaps mercifully) fallen into the inside-pages ghetto, Barbara Amiel Black still occupies prime media real estate in the fawning Maclean’s. In communications situations of this sort, where reputations are on the line, “controlling the message” and “controlling the image” are all-important objectives. A recent Amiel column tried to do both, but failed.

Provocatively titled “Shame and Age and What I’d Do Differently,” the quote-laden self-examination, accompanied by a charming sepia photo of the Barbara I knew in the late ’60s, suggests a somewhat repentant Lady Black. Exploring the notion of starting over, she of course said she’d “like to be young again” but, more startlingly, “begin my retirement savings plan at minus 19 years of age” (is she really wondering if she’ll fall into penury as a result of the trial?) and that she’d “try harder to ‘know.’”

This last wish—“trying to digest the best of human accomplishment is a rich meal”—drives the rest of the piece, and it seems to be what Amiel wants to do with the rest of her life. She’ll forsake her well-known penchant for getting, spending and socializing for lonely intellectual and spiritual pursuits.

Is this credible? She is undoubtedly well read, and her columns have real intellectual edge. She will soon be, despite what she says, cornered into the unfortunate position of defending her lifestyle. And she simply doesn’t know how to dress down.

The ending of this surprising piece sees her looking at death and quoting a Joseph von Eichendorff poem: “O spacious, tranquil peace… How tired we are of traveling—is this perchance death.” Given she and her husband’s current predicament, it’s not surprising that she would long for a more tranquil life. But her wish won’t likely resonate with the average reader. Free time for intellectual pursuit is, after all, still the domain of the privileged.