The Melania Distraction, and other slogans

Ours is an era of chaos. The old forms of political order are dying, the new are yet to find life. Within this twilight crisis, we are asleep, but deceived by the brilliance of our dreams. We say we are awake to meaning. We say that we can find it everywhere—this week, in a jacket.

No, not “we” as in “all persons”. Not you, just me and my own class of obligate twits. You are likely neither bored nor thick enough to look for enlightenment in a garment worn by Melania Trump. But, me and my industry peers have been made bored and thick by the conditions of our work. The owners and commanders of media companies ask us to produce explanations of the world through its merest objects. They have been asking us to do this work for so long, we came to confuse it for meaning.

It is possible that Mrs Trump is so worn down by the fact of being Mrs Trump that she has lost her fashion shit.

Last Thursday, the First Lady was photographed in a fast-fashion jacket which bore the slogan, “I don’t really care, do u?”.  A great hunt for meaning followed. There had to be a reason that FLOTUS would wear this thing while visiting children interned without their parents. There had to be something to decode, some truth beyond a thoughtless outfit choice.

A piece in Teen Vogue dared consider the role of thoughtlessness. The writer is aghast that any person, especially one with help, could do such a Fashion Don’t in public. But, not for long. With the clumsy words, “fashion can absolutely be political. So, it’s worth focusing on”, we can see what Condé Nast demands: the search for meaning. The writer started well, but goes on to ascribe political meaning to the jacket, and so does everyone else.

CNN says the jacket was purposely worn, you see, to distract all US voters from the true horror of Trump’s cruel detention policy.

Colleagues. I say this with kindness, understanding and an unwholesome interest in the interpretations of cultural items by Slavoj Žižek: you people are thinking too hard. It is possible that Mrs Trump is so worn down by the fact of being Mrs Trump that she has lost her fashion shit.

“What 48-year-old woman wears this, anywhere, much less to a detention camp for children?” – Kirstie Clements

To test this possibility, Daily Review contacted Kirstie Clements. Clements, editor-in-chief at Vogue at its sharpest, now the discerning peddler of some lovely fashion smut, is hardly in the habit of not reading meaning into fashion. But of Melania’s jacket, she says that she was “gobsmacked”.

What is the meaning of the FLOTUS jacket? “I will say that I am bewildered”.

“So, you think of the very particular choices in clothing she has otherwise made. We see her as Crisis Barbie in Puerto Rico, with her Top Gun look and her Louboutins.” Mrs Trump has previously dressed with intention, says Clements. Even if the look of stilettoes in a hurricane is “a sort of glossy magazine version of appropriate”, it has been planned.

But perhaps, says Clements, it is true that Melania no longer cares to plan. “She is disengaged at some deep level. She must be. She wore a teenager’s nihilistic t-shirt. What 48-year-old woman wears this, anywhere, much less to a detention camp for children?”

But the search for meaning in the jacket continued until the search itself was declared meaningful. You’d think a Vox piece legitimising our need to search for meaning in Mrs Trump’s wardrobe would end this woeful tide of piss. No. Next, t-shirt responses to the jacket were produced by several organisations, and this then became a source of meaning for storied publications, who all agreed that the t-shirts, which all feature some variation on “I do care”, were winning the battle for the true American spirit of liberal generosity.

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Some of the proceeds from some of these t-shirts are intended for select migrant charities,  and some of them are for-profit. The Democratic National Committee are selling a version for themselves. Certainly, “we care, we vote, do u?” fits more neatly on a t-shirt than one of the inspiring pro-immigration things President Obama had to say. Such as, in 2012,“When I see Mexican flags waved at pro-immigration demonstrations, I sometimes feel a flush of patriotic resentment. When I’m forced to use a translator to communicate with the guy fixing my car, I feel a certain frustration.” But, this graph which shows that annual arrests made by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) under Trump are yet to even approach those record-breaking Obama years would fit just about anywhere.

Not, though, in the minds of reporters, who prefer the creation of meaning to the trouble of reality. Let’s all agree that a t-shirt can talk to a jacket, that Trump has the worst record, and that the important thing is not to count the people interned or deported, but to tell everyone you care, whatever the human cost.

The First Lady of Pearl Jam cares. Some company that specialises in “sustainable luxury cashmere” cares. Everyone cares to show they care, which, as we know, is the most meaningful act in a media age crammed with so much meaning that nothing can be said.

Everything is meaningful! Everything matters!

How does a grownup journalist come to believe that Wonder Woman matters, or that it matters to “skate like a girl”? How are so many so deluded that the television program Roseanne was once meaningful to watch, or that in 2018 it was meaningful not to watch the television program Roseanne at all?  How are the pages of The Australian filled each day with the claim that some school for meaning could have mattered so much?  Practise. Declare that things that don’t matter that much matter more than anything, you eventually come to believe it.

The Oz has its Ramsay Centre to believe in, and this week, the compassionate commentator has a shirt. It’s a fight by the media right for a program of cultural studies, and a fight by progressive media to study only itself. In this dark age, media brings us little but false enlightenment. It falls to the people to make sense of a world on which no one reports.

Still. One thing, above all others, is clear, and terribly important: I REALLY DO CARE DO U.

11 responses to “The Melania Distraction, and other slogans

  1. I agree, the media is so often focused on the noise of a thing rather than the fact of a thing.

    The debate about tariffs is a perfect example, the media constantly reports it in a negative light, but never reports details on what the tariffs actually are, what volume of goods we are talking about etc. The facts seem superfluous to the intent of the story.

    You see this everywhere, I live in canada where it has recently come to light that Justin Trudeau groped a journalist some 18 years ago. The media outrage is palpably absent. Which I actually agree with, but it does not seem to be evenhanded.

    I do not admire President Trump in any way but he might be onto something with his dislike of the media, although I may not agree with his reasons.

  2. We take umbrage at Ursula. Everyone knows the next Bond girl will be Childish Gambino by way of Katy Perry. Amen.

  3. Oh Helen you missed the message by, by, by, a smidge.

    Don’t focus on the “fake message” on the jacket. The message was just a distraction.
    The real message was that the jacket cost, gasp, horror, choke, gasp, horror, $39!

    Stepford wife No 1, or is it No 2, or No 3, FLOTUS, wears something that cost $39? That’s a slap in the face for USA high fashion.

    How dare she, next she’ll be accused of bringing the use of Botox into disrupt

  4. What is wrong with her eyes? She looks like she either needs glasses and is constantly squinting to try to actually see or she has a perpetual case of some eye irritation that prevents her from having her eyes fully open?

    To be frank, I don’t particular care about her jacket … for goodness sake, clothes are clothes, we wear them to protect ourselvs from the elements or to cover up our nakedness in a society that dictates nakedness is inappropriate in public. Those that worship clothes as fashion are slaves to a never-ending quest. If she was intending to send a message, she’s an idiot by doing it that way; if she wasn’t intending to send a message, she’s an idiot for not realising those words would cause controversy amongst some. Either way, it was poor judgement. But in the end, does it really matter? Of course not. Melania is not the problem. Her husband is, however.

  5. fancy making a fuss over a jacket.. but .. the loony left will.
    Anyway.. the point is that Melania didn’t have to go .. any official could have.. Melania went because she does care..
    I want to know why the loony left didn’t make a noise when Bill Clinton put this policy in place
    .. perhaps loony left are super slow?

    1. So, first. The “Left” is not defined by people who dislike Trump. You can be perfectly neoconservative and disapprove of the man and his family.
      And this thing that you say is the Left (defined by not liking Trump; many different kinds of people dislike him) is hardly alone in making a fuss about nothing. Have you seen The Australian lately? Obsessed with the fact that no university will fund a dodgy, non-vocational arts degree from a small private school. If you think that the culture wars is a waste of time, I agree. If you think it is being fought just on one side, you’re deluded.
      There is so little that separates this “loony Left” of which you write from the “loony conservative”. Mainstream media, and this certainly includes News Corp, is engaged in a battle to the death of meaning. They are both arguing for language and symbols that they like, while all the while diminishing the real that these things are alleged to describe.
      Here’s an idea, Maree: open your mind to the point it can see that this race to idiocy happens on both “sides”. Why argue FOR political correctness or against it when you could just ignore it completely and perhaps report on the lives of those children behind the wire.
      We’d rather ignore them though, wouldn’t we? We’d rather just have some detached argument about who is the most abusive of language and ideas than face the fact that the US hegemon, whether it is led by a Trump or a Clinton, kills and interns people in great number.
      The only language to describe that is one of utter disgust. But, sure. Have your fights about who is the most “loony”. And let the real lunacy of mass death and an economy that now even fails the people of the West just go on. Because you define your tribe as not of the “loony Left”.
      Your obsessions is as obscene and as insensitive to large scale human harm as is that of those who claim to despise. You are not exempt from these petty culture wars. You are as deluded of your own moral superiority as the most annoying Fairfax columnist and do NOT call the “Left”, in its true definition, a movement committed to material equality for all, loony, unless you think feeding people and permitting their freedom to live is lunacy.
      Maybe you do.

      1. I love you Helen. That was the literary equivalent of chopsticks to the eyes at 10 paces. Keep up the brilliant work.

  6. Got it all wrong Razer….Melania is obviously trying to attract the attention of Cubby Broccoli and Aiden Turner….. as the next Bond girl.

    She has the looks and accent of an Eastern Block honey trapper; something like a cross between Pussy Galore and Ursula Undress….

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