Sunday, 14 December 2008


When you look up 'fatuous' in a dictionary, there ought to be a picture of Alexander Chancellor somewhere close. If there isn't you could always cut and paste the one on the right. In the column which the Guardian inexplicably (from a reader's point of view) grants him every week--perhaps they felt obliged to soften the blow after he accomplished the rare feat of being a Brit fired by Tina Brown from the New Yorker--Chancellor chose the moment of Sunny von Bulow's death--after 28 years in a coma--to commiserate over the trauma she caused her husband, Claus von Bulow, when he was convicted of her murder, a conviction later overturned on appeal.

'So let us proclaim his innocence,' bleated Chancellor. His logic was somewhat short of Cartesian. Von Bulow's eventual acquital was won by Alan Dershowitz, due primarily to his getting the main piece of evidence against von Bulow excluded on a legal technicality. Dershowitz was one of the team of lawyers dedicated to doing the same, successfully, for OJ Simpson. But according to Chancellor, Dershowitz said recently 'I have been in touch with Claus repeatedly. I have not been in touch with OJ Simpson since his trial.'

'This tells us something,' burps Chancellor. Maybe it tells HIM something, but it doesn't tell me anything except Harvard law professors may find it more comfortable to hang out with socialites than ex-jocks. Dershowitz has called for 'torture warrents' to become part of American law, and also for Israel to begin retaliatory razing to the ground of Palestinian towns. I don't think I'd judge either policy on whether or not he keeps in touch with Dick Cheyney or Benjamin Netanyahu.

According to a famous (but anonymous) quote in Domenick Dunne's profile of Von Bulow for Vanity Fair, he 'does not dwell in the Palace of Truth'. This is in his very essence, as he is hardly more von Bulow than Chancellor. Born Claus Cecil Borberg, he took his mother's family name, Bulow, because his father was convicted of collaborating with the Nazis, and in Denmark Bulow was a respected name, then he added the von because in England it would seem posher to those to whom such things matter.

I met him once, and came to my own conclusion rather quickly about the likelihood of his innocence. But that's irrelevant to the obscenity of using a long-overdue tragic death as an excuse for bigging up your friend. He may well be innocent, but that's not the time to be 'proclaiming' anything, except Chancellor's fatuous bad taste, and the Guardian ought to be ashamed for running it.

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