Jail Bait?

Jail Bait?

The Dispassion of Martha Stewart

My first thought upon hearing of the guilty verdict levied unto Martha Stewart was “Wow! I’d love to know what she really did!” It will be a long time before anyone outside the circle of events has any clue, barring some freakish revelatory spurt from the lady herself– which would surely endear her even further to the millions of Americans around the world who have benefited in some way or another from the delightful sweatshop goods and hoity-toity consumerism she has made her name from selling.

When or if such a thing will happen is beyond even my ability to speculate, and that’s saying a lot. As atypical as it would seem for her to parade into the pokey without any kind of definitive statement for the historical record, the full and exact nature of her involvement with that glorified pyramid scheme known as the late-’90s economy would surely shock and awe all but the most hardened and cynical observers of that scene. Many lesser sorts would simply become ill, including both shareholders and customers of her company, Martha Stewart Omnimedia.

For the benefit of any children who may be reading this (and who may already be rearing up to stop for its lack of nudity), we’ll start on the assumption that it was as the prosecution said it was: Martha sold her Imclone stock because she found out her friend, CEO Sam Waksal, had divested his family’s shares after learning his company’s vaunted new cancer drug would not get FDA approval. In other words, she reacted to knowledge of insider trading by ending her support for the company. She got the news from her broker, who had an assistant tell her, thus implicating two other people, rather than simply executing the trade and letting the implosion of Imclone’s value the next day speak for itself. We are to believe that she was so anal-retentive as to hassle her broker over an hour’s salary– $70,000. Come, now. Those are new-money antics.

She was born rich and got richer by building a TV character that fronts for a multinational corporation. Perhaps the real crime here is that Martha parked her money with someone who didn’t know what “plausible deniability” meant. Bill Maher and others have made the point that insider trading shouldn’t be illegal, because it’s really an arbitrary, artificial concept that only confuses the marks. Maybe so.

It may just be that, in this season of manufactured martyrdom, Martha’s mess may be a sort of sacrifice to the media that made her a billionaire. That culture will prove the ruination of this nation if our enemies ever figure out how to use it against us. Martha is just another in a long line of strong, ambitious women who’ve gotten over by redefining the parameters of womanhood. There was former OSS agent Julia Child, alleged CIA-front Gloria Steinem, Hugh Hefner’s friend Helen Gurley-Brown, Madonna (who’s done more to reassert European cultural hegemony in the US than anyone since John Lennon), to name a few– all of whom I have tremendous respect for. They all got over, good.

The easiest way to fail, it seems, is to be a girl, because all men are predators– except, of course, for priests and soldiers. Every successful female challenges the male supremacist ideology that has ruled this Earth from day one. Humans have erected all this stuff– racism, nationalism, war– basically to diffuse the latent hostility that has always existed in male-female relations. Men wallow in their wants, but their needs scare them. That’s why we’d rather kill our food and grill it than mill it. That’s why we destroy our lakes, rivers and streams while drilling ever-deeper for water to put in plastic bottles that waste water at the beginnings and ends of their production cycles.

Likewise, the fact that men need women as much as we do creates a problem, one of which is that Oprah is the only woman ever to make more than $50 million (which only buys $37 million worth of shoes) without someone calling her a bitch on TV, and only because she’s childless and down with both Spielberg and Jesse Jackson.

The story of America pivots on the battle between racism and sexism to see which will outlast the other, but you can’t get odds on that in Vegas.

My sources indicate that soft, pliable women are quickly destroyed by the business of global capitalism, of which the entertainment industry is only a very important part. A woman over the age of 40 who still shows up regularly in name or face on broadcast TV is 1) rich; 2) smarter than you think, no matter how smart you think she is; 3) not to be trifled with under any conditions. If Princess Diana were alive today, at 45, the world would be different in ways we cannot conceive of. And even George Bush (both of them) gave money to Hillary Clinton’s 2000 Senate campaign! Why? Because game recognizes game.

I would like to end this with a direct plea to the lady herself: Martha, honey, Lord knows you’ve been through some tribulation in your time. Them jackals in the “me”-dia don’t know you like I do. Now is the time for us to speak on the record, before the frog-march into darkness. Let us speak of love, not of business. Let’s go 60 minutes, and show them a side of Martha Stewart they really weren’t ready to see. You know they deserve it. Either way, keep your head up. Like Tupac and Chandra Levy, you too will rise again.

Maybe.

March 8, 2004

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