Yes, I’ll grant you that I never really liked Martha Stewart. There’s something about her that sets my teeth on edge. Perhaps it’s the obsession with perfection—years ago, she announced that she didn’t even own a microwave, which irritated me at the time and does even more now that I’m raising two kids. Perhaps it’s the mistreatment of undocumented workers. Honestly, she’s always struck me as clueless and arrogant and snobbish; I have a cookbook of a Julia Child series where Julia cooked with famous bakers, and Martha Stewart made a wedding cake including homemade marzipan fruit and basically didn’t look at Julia the whole time she was on the show.
Back in the ’90s, I wasn’t the only person with this attitude toward her. There was the parody “Is Martha Stewart Living?” There was Ana Gasteyer’s delightful series of videos for Saturday Night Live, including the one where she made green cards for all her gardeners and the one where she said her “Jewish friend” had told her that ham wasn’t appropriate for Passover and so she instead made “a lovely herb-crusted loin of pork.” And when Martha went to prison, there was no small satisfaction from quite a lot of people. Not just me.
In recent years, though, that has changed. A lot. For some reason, she’s cool now. The two main comments I’ve seen about her are “she didn’t snitch” and something about how cool it is that she hangs out with Snoop Dogg. And I find both of those have serious, unexamined problems that are often contradictory to what the people who use them usually say.
Let’s start with the snitching thing. Because, yes, criminals do have a code that they don’t rat on one another, because it’s in their best interests not to do so. If I rat on you, likely you will turn around and rat on me. Which means both of us are less likely to be able to commit further crimes. For some reason, the “commit further crimes” aspect is left out of things. And the most recent attempt I saw to talk about that involved several people insisting that she’d committed “a victimless crime,” presumably because insider trading doesn’t physically harm people.
But most of the economists who call insider trading a victimless crime are fairly libertarian about things, the opposite of the “eat the rich” types I generally see supporting Martha Stewart. (Stewart is worth hundreds of millions of dollars.) In general, it’s believed to be partially responsible for various recessions, and one of the big issues with Enron was people deliberately shaping the company to make their stock more valuable. Insider trading is only, in my admittedly amateur opinion, a victimless crime if you don’t consider poor people victims.
So when Martha Stewart didn’t inform on her associates, she left them free to continue harming the economy in general and the poor in particular. She let the rich keep getting richer, in other words. Okay, she’s East Coast and may not be involved in the debacle that is Pacific Gas and Electric, but PGE is another example of putting profit above the average person and is therefore a symptom of the same issues as insider trading.
And as for Snoop Dogg, well, I’m not sure why he’s considered rehabilitated, come to that. He was on Storybots teaching my kids about computers, and these days, he seems more lovable and whimsical than ominous. Okay, so he was never actually convicted of the murder that is literally the first thing I knew about him. And I know a lot of pro-weed people who cite that aspect of things. But you know, he did also make death threats at a female journalist for mentioning the rape accusations against Kobe Bryant, and that’s all shades of Not Great even if he apologized for it. He’s shown these days more as a wacky goofball stoner than the gangbanger persona he was actively cultivating back when, as you’ll recall, Martha Stewart was participating in insider trading.
What Martha Stewart did is admittedly in a very different league than the crimes and so forth of other TV chefs. To my knowledge, Stewart has never sexually assaulted or harassed anyone. I don’t know of her making any overtly racist statements, though she did say she didn’t disagree with Paula Deen’s use of a certain word. (She didn’t agree with it, either, apparently?) It is much easier to argue that insider trading is victimless than actually mistreating your employees, goodness knows. It’s still strange that a woman like Stewart has so much cultural clout despite doing so many things that would get her canceled.