Man Without Qualities

Monday, July 01, 2002

Martha v. Big Mo

Charles Murtagh points out an unexpected consequence of a successful prosecution of Martha Stewart for insider trading: Trouble for Maureen ("Big Mo") Dowd!

But Charles is wrong, of course. He's thinking like a good scientist. Logic, consistency, coherency. Charles thinks that if Big Mo is exposed as seriously lacking in these features, she will be embarrassed before her readership.

Big Mo and her fans don't care about any of THAT stuff. Never have. Never will.

In fact, applying the kind of ineluctable logic Charles employs, one can deduce from Big Mo's past columns that there is at least a seventy-three percent probability that Big Mo has a plaque on or near her desk (and an eighty-seven percent probability if one also includes her kitchen refrigerator) that says:

“There is no use in trying,” said Alice; “one can’t believe impossible things.” “I dare say you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast”. Lewis Carroll

Charles also points out an article by Rod Dreher on the hows and why of Marthahate.

I think there is more to Marthahate than resentment of perfect flower arrangements or Martha's fussy, unproven and/or incomplete recipes or even her supposedly harsh personality. After all, how many people know Martha Stewart, anyway, and how many other beloved public characters are not nice personally?

Marthahate seems concentrated in the population of journalists, lawyers, entertainment industry representatives and some other professionals. The roots of Marthahate are not pretty: Marthahate is largely envious and to some extent racist and poisoned with class resentment. It seems to infuriate some people that Martha Stewart made all that money and acquired all that influence mostly just by fussing with, extending and developing things that were available to every middle class kid, quite literally around the house. Martha's critics are mostly upset that she has made so much of opportunities that they threw away or never even realized they had in the first place.

The "insider trading" aspect of the current scandal is inflamatory on an emotional level because it gives these people a way to tell themselves that she didn't really just develop and make those opportunities that they had, too, but threw away. IT"S IMPORTANT TO MS. STEWART'S CRITICS TO BELIEVE SHE CHEATED, SO THEY CAN FEEL BETTER ABOUT THEMSELVES.

Many of Martha's critics also deny and hide another aspect of their feelings: resentment that she is a Polish American woman from Nutley, New Jersey. But the drive in some of her critics and hit-biographers to "out" her as not "really" being from an old-money WASP family is pretty clearly driven by such race and class based bigotry.

In many ways, Marthahate is similar to Rowlinghate. One cannot read the reviews of Ms. Rowling's Harry Potter books and her spectacularly successful and lucrative movie without detecting a certain theme among the more negative reviewers: Some critics are just resentful that Ms. Rowling made all that money and obtained all that success by what the reviewers see as a reworking of the Lord of the Rings and some other literary staples that all of the critics read years ago and didn't make anything of at all. And it's all the more annoying to such people that she was a single, welfare mom.

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