Conrad Black's barrage of facts in a bloodless victory

The US justice system has a conviction rate of 99.5 per cent - but that doesn't prove Black innocent

Share

Was it a reality show or a comedy quiz programme? Conrad Black was invited into the Have I Got News For You house at the weekend, a pantomime villain among those who knew how to play the game and desperate not to be evicted from polite society. Dramatised documentary or satirical fiction?

The Thick Of It concluded its run on Saturday night with the downfall of communications chief Malcolm Tucker in a hail of expletives, representing the dissolution of the long-established nexus between politics and the media.

Television viewers can be forgiven for feeling a little confused these days, as the lines between what's real and what's not become increasingly blurred. And, especially, what are we meant to think when we see the ghastly clips of Jimmy Savile with young girls on his knee, and what we once viewed as light entertainment on a Saturday night is now presented as prima facie evidence of evil?

The appearance of the ennobled former convict Conrad Black on HIGNFY was treated as a bona fide news story, and at the end of a week of media appearances in which he bristled and blustered, there was an understandable amount of interest in how Lord Black would deal with the high-voltage satire of Messrs Hislop and Merton.

Both sides could claim a bloodless victory, but Lord Black had his new book to plug, so he would doubtless see the free advertising a very equitable trade-off for a few snarky barbs from some Metropolitan smartarses. With each appearance Lord Black made, his fusilade of statistics about the American justice system rose in pitch and ferocity. North Korea had a fairer legislature. America locked up more people than any civilised country. He'd rather have been tried in Paraguay.

The heart of his assertion of innocence was that America has a conviction rate of 99.5 per cent, almost twice that of the UK, and that the odds are heavily stacked in favour of successful prosecution. No interviewer challenged his barrage of facts about the iniquities of the US justice system, so we have to assume it's true. But how does that make him innocent? Isn't a high conviction rate a sign that the police and prosecutors are doing their job properly? And just because some people are unfairly incarcerated, why should we presume he is one of them?

 Meanwhile, the internal organs of politics, and its relationship with the media, were exposed to public scrutiny by Armando Iannucci in his peerless series, The Thick Of It. The penultimate programme, set in a public inquiry established to investigate the relationship between politics and the media, was a masterly piece of work, and the denouement, which saw the foul-mouthed Tucker defenestrated and left to rue the crumbling of the old certainties of political life, made for gripping television. And was so very different from real life.

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# R&D .NET Developer-Algorithms, WCF, WPF, Agile, ASP.NET,MVC

£50000 - £67000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# R&D .NE...

C# Developer (Web, HTML5, CSS3, ASP.NET, JS, Visual Studios)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Developer (ASP.NET, F#, SQL, MVC, Bootstrap, JavaScript)

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Payment Developer (Swift, FOX, Vigil, .NET, SQL)

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Payment Dev...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Relatives and friends of al-Hajj family gather in a mosque to pray over the bodies of the eight family members who died during an Israeli air-raid  

Israel’s reaction has been vicious and misdirected

Yasmin Alibhai Brown
Harman has said her gender affected her employment  

Gordon Brown could have had a woman as deputy PM. He bottled it

Joan Smith
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?