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Monday, May 31, 2010

Media Manipulation: Conrad Black and the POWER of the Press

A CULTURE OF DEFIANCE: History of the Reform-Conservative Party of Canada
Lawrence Martin has written several articles about the Canadian media's rightward migration. In a January 2003 column headlined 'It's not Canadians who've gone to the right, just their media', he quoted an unnamed European diplomat saying "You have a bit of a problem here. Your media are not representative of your people, your values." Too many political commentators are right of centre while the public is in the middle", the diplomat continued. "There is a disconnect."

Martin believes the disconnect began when Conrad Black converted the Financial Post into the National Post, hired a stable of conservative commentators like Mark Steyn, David Frum and George Jonas, bought the centrist Southam chain and turned the entire package into a vehicle to unite Canada's right and retool the country's values to U.S.-style conservatism. (1)
Conrad Black was definitely a media mogul, but his real claim to fame was as a power broker. A political power broker, who was instrumental in the success of the American style neoconservative movement that brought Stephen Harper to power.
Black was more effective as a conservative political advocate than a businessman. "Yet Conrad Black's business ambitions probably always ran second to his urge to be an intellectual force of conservatism. He did not want to simply own newspapers. He wanted to use them to help to reshape the political culture of his native Canada, and to influence that of the United States, Britain and Israel ..." (2)
From Brian Mulroney and Preston Manning, to Stockwell Day and Stephen Harper. Conrad Black was there.

Connie and Brian

Conrad Black and Brian Mulroney had been friends for a number of years. Mulroney was president of the Canadian Iron and Ore Company, when the Black family were major shareholders, and he was the one who first introduced Black to Power Corporation's Paul Desmarais. (3) Black backed Mulroney during his failed 1976 leadership bid, and the Mulroneys remained members of Black's social circle. That circle also included Murray and Barbara Frum(4), parents of David Frum, and while Mulroney and Black had a parting of the ways, Frum remains a Black supporter.

Connie and Preston
"I don't know about Preston [Manning], Preston went to a Bilderberg [summit] meeting. Rides in a limo with Conrad Black. [He's] hobnobbing with the New World Order." James Keegstra (5)
Ernest Manning had enjoyed corporate support when premier of Alberta, and while the Reform Party was supposed to be grassroots, it was very much a party of the corporate sector. So when the Reform Party decided to expand into Ontario, Manning went on a road trip and was introduced to the the king of the power brokers, Conrad Black.
[He spoke during a reception] at Toronto's prestigious Toronto Club hosted by Conrad Black and Hal Jackman. Afterwards, Black not only gave a favourable review of Manning's economic policies, but also contributed $5000 through one of his companies, Sterling Newspapers .

[Cliff] Fryers announced in June 1991 that the party would soon be embarking on a major corporate drive for funding. 'Corporations are part of our constituency,' said Fryers, a remark echoed several months later by Gordon Wusyk, Reform's chief executive in Edmonton: 'What we have to offer corporate Canada is significant." Based in part on the anticipated success of the campaign, the party raised upwards of $20 million ... Manning kicked off the campaign for corporate funds the following month with another trip to Bay Street. While there, he gave a talk to 450 members of the Financial Services Institute, an organization described by journalist Norm Ovenden as 'an elite organization made up of bank, trust company and insurance executives, top corporate lawyers, accountants, stock brokers and pension-fund managers.' (6)
Connie and Stockwell

After the merger of the Reform and Alliance parties, the leadership was up for grabs. And while both Stephen Harper and Conrad Black originally supported Mike Harris operative Tom Long's bid, Black did use a lot of his money and influence to help Stockwell Day, in his run for prime minister, in 2000.

He traipsed him around to $1,000.00 a plate fundraisers and allowed Ezra Levant to host additional fundraising parties at his house.

But after losing the election, and control of his caucus, Black looked to another hopeful. The president of the National Citizens Coalition, an extension of the corporate world.

Connie and Stephen
The decidedly conservative Conrad Black had taken over the liberal Southam chain of newspapers in May of 1996, and soon replaced soft liberal editors with editors of a more conservative cast at several of his publications, such as the Gazette and the Ottawa Citizen. He now controlled 58 of Canada's 105 daily news papers, and he soon made good on his statement to the Globe and Mail "We're going to try and recruit the very best people we can and produce the best papers we can, and publish them to the highest standards we can. And that means separating news from comment, assuring a reasonable variety of comment, and not just the overwhelming avalanche soft, left, bland, envious pap, which has poured like sludge through centre pages of most of the Southam papers for some time." Black folllowed that up by founding the National Post in the fall of 1998, and the Post would provide [Stephen] Harper with an always available platform for airing his views. The Sun Media Newspapers were also receptive, especially Calgary Sun, founded in 1980. (7)
Conrad Black was also heavily invested in the Fraser Institute, a pseudo-think tank, that gave us Jason Kenney and Rob Anders, and has contributed to the neoconservative success story.

When Harper decided to run for the leadership of the merged Alliance-PC party, it is rumoured that it was Black who paid off Peter MacKay's half million dollars worth of loans, if he agreed not to challenge him. (Harper claims to know who put up the money and that it was all above board, and yet still refuses to name the source. (8))

And not long after winning the Alliance leadership in 2003, Black took Harper to Bildeberg, a treat he once bestowed on Manning.

It's a dangerous thing when a powerful media outlet influences elections, whether they be leadership bids or a run for office. It further threatens our democracy, because they represent only the elite of society, and their goal is to destroy our social safety net.

And Stephen Harper has rewarded Black's world in spades, while promising to destroy the rest of us in the name of austerity.

We need to start fighting back, and we can do that by promoting the few independent news sources still available. it will be a long hard climb, but if we don't take that important first step, we are going to be in serious trouble.

Black's empire may be crumbling, but Rupert Murdoch is waiting in the wings, threatening to put the final nail in our coffin.


Media Manipulation: Setting Agendas and Shielding Your Bum

Media Manipulation: Journalists or Playwrights?


1. Right-wing media covering up political scandal, By Frances Russell, Winnipeg Free Press December 12, 2007

2. "The Guardian profile: Barbara Amiel", The Guardian, September 3, 2004.

3. The Establishment Man: A Portrait of Power, By Peter C. Newman, McClelland and Stewart, 1982, ISBN: 0-7710-6786-0, Pg. 224

4. Newman, 1982, Pg. 267

5. Bentley, Alberta: Hellfire, Neo-Nazis and Stockwell Day: A two-part look inside the little town that nurtured a would-be prime minister - and some of the most notorious hate-mongers in Canada, By Gordon Laird, NOW Magazine, 2000

6. Of Passionate Intensity: Right-Wing Populism and the Reform Party of Canada, By Trevor Harrison, University of Toronto Press, 1995, ISBN: 0-8020-7204-6 3, Pg. 195

7. Stephen Harper and the Future of Canada, by William Johnson, McClelland & Stewart, 2005, ISBN 0-7710 4350-3, Pg. 262

8. MacKay's financial secret safe with Harper: No conflict, party leader says, by Stephen Maher, The Halifax Herald Limited , Thursday, May 13, 2004

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