During the jury selection process at the Conrad Black fraud trial in Chicago, the judge polled potential jurors on their impressions of Black’s home, Canada. “Socialist country,” one replied. According to press accounts, Black, once the third-most-powerful press baron in the world, turned to his wife, Barbara Amiel, and they shared a smile. At last, a juror after their own hearts–the couple had been redbaiting Canadians for years.
The Black trial is an odd beast: A Canadian who gave up his citizenship to be a British Lord is on trial in the United States for allegedly pocketing tens of millions that belonged to the shareholders of Chicago-based Hollinger International. Every twist is front-page international news, but most Americans have no idea who Black is. In his opening remarks, Black’s lawyer Edward Genson assured the jury, “In his native Canada and England, he’s a household name.”
It makes sense that Lord Black is a nobody in Chicago. Black never needed to bother with politics in the United States–as far as he was concerned, the country was close to perfect. It was the rest of the English-speaking world that required Black’s bombastic ideological lectures. Delivering those was his life’s mission.
Black is the world’s leading advocate of the “Anglosphere,” a movement calling for the creation of a bloc of English-speaking countries. Adherents claim that the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand must join together against the Muslim world and anyone else who poses a threat. For Black, the United States is not just the obvious leader of the Anglosphere but the economic and military model that all Anglo countries should emulate, as opposed to the soft European Union.
Although the consolidation of the Anglosphere as a political bloc receives far less scrutiny than US military interventions, it has been a crucial plank of Washington’s imperial projects. The movement recently gained some notoriety when it emerged that on February 28, the White House had hosted a “literary luncheon” for George W. Bush’s and Dick Cheney’s new favorite writer, ultraright British historian Andrew Roberts, author of A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900, an Anglosphere manifesto. But it is Black who has been the linchpin of Anglosphere campaigns for two decades, using his British and Canadian newspapers to reach out and collectively hug his beloved United States. In Britain this took the form of using the Daily Telegraph as a beachhead against “euro-integrationism” and insisting that Britain’s future lies not with the EU but with Washington. This vision reaches its zenith, of course, with the Bush-Blair team-up in Iraq.
In Canada, where Black controlled roughly half the daily newspapers, the push to Americanize was even more strident. When Black founded the daily National Post in 1998, it was with the explicit goal of weaning Canadians from our social safety net (a “hammock”) and forming a new party of the “united right” to unseat the governing Liberals.