I do not like Donald Trump – at all – and I am not impressed by his Slovenian wife Melania. They have both said and done things in the public eye which are ridiculous, if not reprehensible. They make themselves targets for satire.
But when satire throws respect for the person out with the bathwater of their foibles, it degenerates into mean-spirited bullying.
That point is reached by The New Yorker this week in “Melania’s Diary”, an article in its “Shouts & Murmurs” section, which dribbles acid disdain over her reputation for being vulgar, ill-educated and poor.
The circulation of The New Yorker is approximately 0.3% of the population of the United States, but it is the rich, hyper-educated 0.3% who vacation in Biarritz and Kennebunkport, wear Bulova watches and who hang 30” x 40” framed reproductions of the covers of their favourite magazine (US$689.99) in their second living room. The salary of the editor, David Remnick, is somewhere north of $1 million.
So it’s embarrassing, but not surprising, that the magazine’s contributors sneer at the habits of the poor. Perhaps they don’t know any. It’s hardly the first time that The New Yorker has been out of touch. One of the deathless quotes of its famous film reviewer, Pauline Kael, was “I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for Nixon. Where they are I don’t know. They’re outside my ken.”
The author of “Melania’s Diary”, Paul Rudnick, an Yale-educated playwright, paints her as a dumb goat-herder whose career in Slovenia amounted to modelling polyester cardigans. Can you imagine? Polyester cardigans? What peasants! Don’t they have Vicuña jackets in Slovenia?
The New Yorker’s cartoon of Melania’s Diary / Illustration by Zohar Lazar
Melania Trump is not a model of culture or virtue. But even vulgar people deserve respect as persons. After all, the Clintons attended the Trumps’ wedding – is anyone holding that against Hillary now? Melania and Donald are no more vulgar now than they were in 2005; they just happen to have changed sides.
To get at Donald, the media are circulating rumours that his spouse was an escort rather than a model in the 1990s. A political attack ad reproduced a photo of her nude on the cover of a British magazine from 2000. There are whispers of immigration fraud. Not nice at all.
I wonder when The New Yorker will begin digging up dirt on Hillary’s spouse? No need, actually, for it is part of the Congressional Record. He narrowly escaped being impeached, you might remember, over an incident even more tawdry than Mrs Trump’s. And what about midnight meals of greasy jalapeño cheeseburgers with generous layers of mayonnaise, lettuce, pickles, and onions? In my neck of the woods, that is far worse than wearing polyester cardigans. Hillary’s “Dear Diary” about her years in the White House might make very interesting reading.
The truth is that sneering at poverty and social status is the greatest vulgarity of all. That America’s most famous magazine is tittering over Melania Trump’s humble origins only reveals what appalling snobs they are in Manhattan.
This is just another instance of the US media not “getting” Donald Trump. They understand his mass appeal about as well as Trump supporters enjoy the ironical put-downs of The New Yorker. “Melania’s Diary” belittles the millions of Americans who have turned to Donald Trump precisely because the country’s elite don’t respect them.
Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet.