Now, I hate to accuse anyone of biting my style (I prefer to let Karla do that for me), but I couldn’t help notice something familiar about the postscript to Christopher Hitchens’ recent Slate article about the decline and fall of Conrad Black who was found guilty Friday on charges of mail fraud and obstruction of justice:
Postscript: I am writing this from the San Francisco Bay Area, where all summer a local politician named Ed Jew has been in trouble over his filing of an allegedly bogus claim of residency. The headlines on the case invariably give his full name (he is of Asian descent), as in last Saturday’s “City Attorney Toughens Case Against Ed Jew.” But the headlines about Conrad Black have very often said “Black Convicted.” Is this discrimination on a subtle level? Or should Mr. Jew be glad that he has such a short first name?
However, I’m inclined to let Hitch off the hook on this one (even though he’s the sort of guy who goes around referring to himself as “Hitch”, which, by all rights, the Will Smith movie of the same name should have ruined for him the same way I had to stop calling myself “Bagger Vance” a few years back). For one thing, it’s admittedly an obvious observation.
For another, the Hitchens article taught me the useful phrase “tumbrel remark”, the novelist Joyce Cary’s term for what Hitchens defines as “the sort of observation made by the uncontrollably rich that is likely to unleash class warfare.” The quintessential example is the infamous “Let them eat cake” quip attributed to Marie Antoinette (although it’s likely that she never said this.)
And last, I hate Conrad Black’s face. I don’t have strong feelings about the man himself; I can’t even recall offhand what he did that got him convicted. But I sure hate that face. It’s the face of the archetypal corporate fat cat. It’s those cold, squinty, piggish eyes. It’s the expression, which runs the gamut from scowl to smirk to smugness. It’s the face of the asshole boss that you always wanted to slap. And as a matter of fact, it turns out that Hitchens did — briefly — work for Black, who once boasted that he was going to buy the London Spectator in order to fire me as its Washington correspondent, and then not only followed through but also attempted to sabotage Hitchens’ prospects afterward. Now, Hitchens gets to give his old boss one last slap across the face, and good for him.
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