Conrad Black’s book on his legal ordeal, A Matter of Principle, has now been published (it can be ordered from Amazon here ) and The New Criterion’s February issue has a review of it, “The persection of Lord Black,” by Andrew C. McCarthy.

McCarthy, be it noted, spent eighteen years as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of New York. He is not “soft on crime.” But McCarthy focused his own career on real criminals. For example, his biography at the National Review Institute says : “From 1993 through 1995, he led the terrorism prosecution against Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman and eleven others in connection with the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and a plot to bomb New York City landmarks.” When the suggestion was made to him that he might like to tackle some truly nefarious malefactors—namely, cigarette manufacturers—he took a pass.

McCarthy’s review of Black’s book is so quotable that I must impose upon myself a quota of just two passages.

First is this: “Increasingly, though, ‘rule of law’ is just Big Government’s version of ‘social justice.’ Heroes and villains are assigned their fates in accordance with the vanguard’s transgressive obsessions: income inequality, race, anti-Americanism, etc. The laws, rules and regulations proliferate until no one is invulnerable, reminiscent of Republican Rome’s death throes, when the emperor Nero (as Justice Antonin Scalia recounts in A Matter of Interpretation ) posted his edicts high up on the pillars, rendering them impossible to read. Defendants are capriciously selected, made an example of, as much for what they represent as for what they’ve done.”

Second is this: “We need not, at this point, trot out the inevitable allusions to Kafka, Job’s tribulations, or Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities. True, in shoring up the indomitable spirit that fairly leaps off every page, Black refreshed himself in their lessons, just as he did in the deep wells of his Catholic faith and the unstinting constancy of his family. Black, however, coins his own neologism to describe the dystopia he makes of modern America: a ‘prosecutocracy.’”

A “Prosecutocracy.” This is a serious concept that deserves much more thought. One can see the truth behind it immediately. For example, can anyone doubt that the innumerable judicial witch-hunts now launched against the financial sector have infinitely more in common with the Occupy Wall Street movement than they do with the prosecution of the Bernard Madoff fraud case? The purpose of these witch hunts is not justice. It is anti-capitalist politics.


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