Black's National Post: even less attempt at "balance", pages sparkled with a new brand of ultra-right journalism: neoconservatism with cleavage
Post was wolf in sheep's clothing
Black's beloved paper posed as an underdog, but always served
Special to the Star
Listening to Conrad Black being interviewed by Peter Gzowski on the radio a number of years ago, I was surprised to hear Black suggest that I be "horsewhipped."
I knew he was angry about two lengthy articles I'd written about some of his business dealings, and I wouldn't have been surprised to hear him attack me, even urge that I be fired. But horsewhipped?
Of course, it was all part of Black's larger-than-life persona that included a high sense of self-drama that was always colourful in its excessiveness. Black also once described me in an article as a "not very bright, leftist reporter" – for which a number of people urged me to sue him for libel. This was an intriguing idea, especially given Black's own penchant for slapping intimidating lawsuits on journalists who took an interest in investigating some of his questionable business practices.
But there was the problem of proving his attack had damaged me. In truth, it's hard to imagine where my career as an anti-establishment author would be today without such colourful swats from
But if Conrad Black has been good for my career, his impact elsewhere has been less benign. He used his ample resources to create the National Post, a vehicle that helped him push the mainstream debate in
Black liked to present the Post as an irreverent, scrappy upstart of a newspaper that shook up the staid Canadian media scene and challenged the establishment with its "take-no-prisoners" approach. The only problem with that image was that, far from challenging the establishment, the Post was – and is – the establishment.
It may well have been a scrappy upstart, but from the beginning it was an attack-dog fighting on behalf of
Of course, before Black started the Post, the message of the financial elite had been championed relentlessly for decades by The Globe and Mail. What the Post added was a sassy new look to the staid corporate message. It offered up the same old thunderous voice of Big Business, but now cranked up to deafening levels, with even less attempt at "balance," and with more zing, including shots of celebrities in low-cut dresses. Its pages sparkled with a new brand of ultra-right journalism: neoconservatism with cleavage.
If the Post had a target, it was never the establishment, but rather the powerless. I recall how the Post, under Black, came out guns blazing against a court decision favouring a group of secretaries, file clerks and librarians who had waged a lengthy battle against the federal government for failing to follow its own pay equity laws.
The Post fearlessly called for a total repeal of pay equity laws, to prevent this sort of fairness from ever intruding into the Canadian workplace again. That'll show those uppity girls.
So much was Black part of the Canadian establishment that he managed to escape legal problems here for years, and would have likely escaped them entirely, had the
But the decision whether to lay the charges was in the hands of the commission's eight-member board, who were all well-connected members of the Canadian financial elite. In the end, they decided not to prosecute one of their own.
Having been cleared by the establishment, Black went on bankroll a newspaper that loudly trumpeted the rights of the affluent, while posing as a scrappy upstart taking on the establishment.