The Martha Stewart trial starts really soon now. I confess I am excessively interested in this trial, because I’m really fascinated by Martha Stewart. If the world lines up along those who adore Martha and everything she does and want to be just like her (or rather, just like the genteel uberhostess she portrays herself as), and those who think she eats babies and then screams at the staff that they weren’t fresh enough, I’m definitely on the uberhostess side. Of course its all an act, I mean, duh. But there’s something compelling about it, having a beautiful house and a beautiful garden and being able to cook fabulously and throw parties and have the time to make little cards and gifts and knicknacks and whatnots for your zillions of friends. It has a wierd appeal.
Plus: I admire Martha for what she has built. Putting aside that she’s losing it all at the moment, she’s been hugely sucessful at marketing herself as a brand and as the chief representative of all that beautiful stuff I mentioned above. Having had a little teensey bit of name recognition I had as a computer book author, and then incompetently pitching it all away, Martha’s success really fascinates me. Mostly I wonder how the heck she found the time. Does she sleep?
The wierdest thing about this trial is that although the whole mess started with an ostensible insider stock trade, Martha is not on trial for insider trading. The trial has nothing to do with insider trading. She’s on trial for lying to the feds about the trade, and for trying to cover up the whole thing. There is one securities fraus charge in the case, but that isn’t for the Imclone stock she’s accused of selling, its for her OWN stock. She’s accused of making misleading statements to the press about the case that propped up the value of Martha Stewart Omnimedia stock. Not to excuse what Martha did — from the looks of the evidence it sure looks like she attempted to hide or cover up or lie her way out of the whole thing (and that’s consistent with her personality). That was NOT smart on her part. But to me it seems like a lot of this case is the Justice Dept. seizing on the fact that since Martha is such a public figure if they bring her down she will be a real feather in thier cap for taking down Evil CEOs — whether what she did was nearly as bad as the real Evil CEOs or not. Plus: half the US thinks she eats babies. Its not like there’s going to be a big upswell of support for her.
Probably the best coverage of the Martha trial is on Slate right now, and is written by Henry Blodget. This is kind of unique; Blodget was the Merrill Lynch stock analyst during the dotcom boom who said that Amazon stock would go to $400 a share (and it did). He was a minor celebrity in the media for a while, and he himself later went on trial for various charges of securities fraud (settled out of court). Much to my surprise, he’s a really great writer, good at explaining the complexities of the case, and he’s funny, too. Check it out.