Ilana Mercer, October 16, 2002

Writer Maralyn Lois Polak first caught my attention with her smarmy “Saint Martha, and the Whores in the Temple” column. Like many a media liberal, Ms. Polak proves incapable of advancing a substantive argument against Martha Stewart. Instead, she offers up a string of personal assaults, based on the peculiar symbolism Stewart has acquired in Ms. Polak’s mind. That she projects almost paranoid ideation on a woman she doesn’t know says everything about Polak and her ilk but very little about the victim of such riffs of outrage.

On the prowl for Martha, the liberal—and this includes neoconservatives, who howl for her head just as loudly—likes to set the scene by denouncing mammon. Ms. Polak self-righteously disavows money as “… more of an affliction, like genital herpes, something you worried would return uncontrollably, passed on to others through sweaty but dubious transactions you usually regretted later.” The problem is that Polak doesn’t understand the meaning and morality of money.

Money is first and foremost a medium of exchange. It arose naturally to replace a primitive barter economy. Once upon a time, Ms. Polak would have been forced to directly exchange her articles or books for anti-herpes medication. Finding someone who possessed herpes-calming meds, but at the same time wanted a dose of epistolary clap, may have proven tough.

As people went about making a living by exchanging things—for that is all the maligned free market is—they came to realize that if they didn’t facilitate indirect exchanges, many would starve. Money is simply a way of replacing a direct-barter economy with an ability to make indirect exchanges. That Martha has more money than Ms. Polak or myself simply means that many more people are willing to trade their cash for a Martha than for a Polak or an Ilana.

Like Hank Rearden in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, Martha can say this: “I am rich and I am proud of every penny I own. I have made my money by my own efforts, in free exchange and through the voluntary consent of every man I dealt with—the voluntary consent of those who work for me now, the voluntary consent of those who buy my product.”

The morality of her abundance I don’t doubt, although I’m not entirely sure what Martha manufactures. Whatever it is, leave it to Ms. Polak to discover the inherently corrupting power of the product. Consumer sovereignty? Free will? “No such thing,” the grim socialist will bay. People aren’t rational beings who make decisions based on preferences. Rather, they are marionettes in the hands of Monster Marthas. Writes Polak: “Martha Stewart helps keep millions and millions of women down by giving them more and more meaningless, trivial busywork to preoccupy them from achieving real major changes in their already over-scheduled lives, let alone lasting accomplishments like … composing sonatas…”

An aside on sirens and sonatas is in order. Feminists have, admittedly, done an impressive job of jamming cyberspace with online catalogues of obscure women composers. I hate to break it to the faithful: Real history as opposed to “Herstory”—how I laughed when I first heard this feminist sobriquet—tells of a stark lack of aptitude for composition among women, which, incidentally, way preceded the appearance of The Martha.

No one cares how many ancient Greek poems Sister Sappho set to music. Good music always was—and remains—male. My daughter, far more forgiving than her mother is on matters musical, would take Bach or Bon Jovi anytime over what she calls the “Tuna Tour”: The simpering and untalented Sarah McLachlan or the Jewel-type bimbo with a bedroom whimper for a voice. (Relatively skilled women like Stevie Nicks or Alana Myles are a rarity.)

I got distracted (hmmm … Bon Jovi). Back to the lacunae in Polak’s thinking.

To Ms. Polak, Martha’s knack for giving people a touch of the patrician for prices the peasantry can afford is an oppressing plot, for which almost all women have fallen, except for, drum roll, please: Ms. Polak. But if the Marxist notion of Martha’s power to subjugate is valid, why is it, then, that Polak and her confreres have managed to see through and avoid the mesmerizing tug? Polak’s answer is in the mold of her previous reasoning: She is smart. Evidently, Ms. Polak has always possessed the smarts to see that Martha is a “manipulative business woman,” who preys on women’s need to be perfect. Other women are just not that astute.

At the root of this mindless meandering is the profound contempt the liberal has for the masses and their right to buy a tea cozy without being declared non compos mentis.


October 16, 2002

CATEGORIES: Capitalism, Economy, Feminism, Left-liberalism, Music

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