Barbara Amiel: Brains And Beauty

Ilana Mercer, June 20, 2007

One of the nicest things writer Peter Brimelow ever said to me was that I reminded him of Barbara Amiel Black. In the age of the shallow, shrill, right-wing harpy, the noted Canadian writer has always been, and still is, in a class of her own. Conservative, Ayn Randish, a Zionist, and a rugged individualist—that’s how the CBC’s Larry Zolf’s summed up some of Amiel’s appeal.

You can be brilliant or beautiful, but you won’t get away with being both. Consequently, Amiel has always borne the brunt of sneering screeds. Now that her husband, former press baron Conrad Black, has been wrongly convicted of mail fraud and obstruction of justice, the cruelty toward the couple has crescendoed. Mercy has yet to replace malice.

The obstruction-of-justice count (Martha Stewart’s and Lewis Libby’s lot) is the prosecutorial equivalent of Rumpelstiltskin’s rage: unable to make a substantive case, the (invariably American) prosecutor, in this case “Überbloodhound Patrick Fitzgerald,” pursues his victims for… irritating him. Libertarian economist Pierre Lemieux has distilled the other charges, entirely licit in natural law: “Mail and wire fraud are just manufactured crimes by the Surveillance State—crimes that do not exist in civilized countries.”

One dog of a commentator who has not hesitated to lift his epistolary leg in protest of Amiel is a dreadful toad called Peter Newman. Who is Peter Newman? He’s no John Galt, but a Canadian who writes door stopping tomes, devoted to chronicling Canada’s elite. The boorish Newman told the press that Lady Black can be expected to pack her valise and vamoose to the UK, leaving Lord Black to languish in jail. She “is not known for sticking around.”

Before lobbing this unkind cut, Newman had published excerpts from his latest tattletale in Maclean’s, a magazine he once edited. (The piece has since been removed from the Internet). Incidentally, the beret-bedecked Newman tells any and all how he gave Amiel her first column in that magazine. Indeed, Barbara Amiel managed to pierce the mirthless monotone that was Maclean’s under Newman. Her closely argued libertarian commentary was the only reason I ever picked the thing up.

Yet while openly acknowledging her gifts, and taking pride in having hired her to liven up his listless rag, Newman then devoted a few thousand words to denigrating Amiel’s libertarian politics, sexual persona, and professional standards: Amiel was “a whining pest over each lost comma or adjective” (complaints I’ve endured too).

This “lefty” (Jewish) lout has also mocked Amiel as a “middle-class ethnic girl,” which must be a reference to her Jewishness. Or his idea of a scoop. Amiel, after all, has been a proud—if atheistic—Jew for 66 years. Likewise, when Newman wants to peddle rumors that Amiel augmented her breasts, he quotes an anonymous source who attests that, when he met Amiel, “she had no British accent and no breasts.” Let a boob bang on about breasts if he wishes, but as to the accent: Amiel is English. Why would her accent be fake? To his credit, Newman is clearly more Groucho than Karl.

Here’s a taste of Newman’s prolix prose:

Why did Conrad marry Barbara? For several reasons, according to his most intimate confidants: for one, she was his intellectual soulmate; for another, she introduced him to the delights of oral sex. To watch them together at the height of their renown was to witness a mesmerizing ballet of sensuality and power. She moved inside Conrad’s field of force, trembling like a magnetic compass needle, her high spirits in harmony with his. She had his number; with her, he was reborn.

You’ll find no such salacious details in the writings of Amiel, the object of Newman’s fantasies. Although I’ve tried in vain to complete one of this golem’s bloated books (and by his abysmal rank on Amazon, I am not alone), I devoured Amiel’s.

Confessions is an autobiography of an ambitious, talented lass, who endured hardship, but prevailed. The author’s strong libertarian streak and crystalline, pared-down prose stand out. Brutally candid about her failings and the penumbral periods in her life, Amiel is careful to credit those who’ve influenced her, and classy enough to speak well of paramours. The white noise Newman has emitted will fade. The substance of Barbara Amiel’s work will stand.

Peter Brimelow agrees: “Barbara is leagues above Newman, personally and professionally.”

©2007 By Ilana Mercer

    June 20

CATEGORIES: Celebrity, Criminal injustice, Culture, English, Libertarianism, Popular Culture