I've decided to start writing in my journal. I've always found the Comments section of slashdot to be the most interesting. But, unfortunately, I only get to read the diverse thoughts of the slashdot crowd on a rather narrow set of topics. I often find that I'm interested in hearing what other intelligent individuals have to say about other non-tech issues. I'm hoping that by writing down some of my thoughts that I can generate some discussion on these topics.
One current event that has all the talking heads blathering away is the Martha Stewart scandal. And one part of this story is how it seems that there are a large number of people, myself included, who are really hoping that they throw the book at Stewart. This, of course, leads us to the question of why we are so anxious to see this woman get cruicified. After all, this is hardly the largest white-collar crime in recent history. While I hate the Enron execs and those behind the WorldCom fiasco, I don't experience nearly the same amount of glee thinking about them behind bars as I do Ms. Stewart.
The TV newsprograms seem to have latched onto two possibilities to explain our desire to see Martha burn. One is that she's a successful woman and we really can't accept the fact that a woman can succeed in a "man's world" doing "womanly things" such as decorating cakes. I tend to be sympathetic towards women's issues in general. In fact, a google search for my real (non-slashdot) name comes up with a few citations by feminists to pro-woman things I have written in the past! I'm not claiming that *I* am a feminist (I'm sure real feminists would be mortified at some of my beliefs) but I'm trying to claim that I have no deep-seated wish to see women fail. Quite the opposite. I guess you'll have to take me at my word on this since you don't really know me. But, in any case, I think that trying to explain the public's secret hope that Stewart gets nailed through a general hatred of women's business success is off-target.
The second idea bandied around by the talking heads is that it is Ms. Stewart's insistance on perfection in herself and others that causes us to want to see her fall flat on her face. To that I would say that I have never seen any of Martha Stewart's programs so I wasn't even aware of her supposed high standards. Besides, there is so much shoddy merchandise being pushed on the american public by corporations (e.g., nearly every Hollywood blockbuster) that I would think that we would appreciate someone who is trying hard to make quality stuff -- even if it's just pumpkin cupcakes.
One reason that seems really obvious to me and I'm stunned why no one else (to my knowledge) has suggested, is that we see Martha Stewart as the last remnant of an era of excess -- the dot-com era. Stewart rose to power and success during the same time that unwashed baffoons with average computer skills and limited business accumen were having truckloads of VC money thrown at them. Looking back, we all realize what idiocy went on back then and we're actually happy that the craziness came to such a devastating end even if we personally lost money in our portfolios. Surely all of us know someone who was bragging to their friends about how they were going to become rich and now have to start over from Square 1. I believe that I, and many others, see Martha Stewart as a product of the dot-com era who, so far, has managed to escape the well-deserved fall of all the others. And we're really hoping she takes the biggest fall of all.
It may seem strange for me to lump Stewart in with the dot-commers. After all, the dot-com era was largely about making everything hi-tech, even those that really didn't need to be (e.g., buying dog food online). Martha's program, from what I understand, harkens back to a time when we took pleasure in creating decidely non-tech things with our bare hands. So how can I possibly claim Martha is a dot-commer? Because I think she made a mint by doing things that were simply not worth that amount of money. I find it hard to believe that Martha is the best cook or most skilled craftswoman around. In fact, I'm sure every neighborhood must feature a woman who has better skills than Stewart. So how did Martha create this billion-dollar empire of hers? It seems like she just packaged up some slightly-above-average stuff and put a fancy spin on it. And investors and consumers bought it. I remember when Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (or whatever it's called) went IPO and shot through the roof. There was an unintentionally-hilarious press conference with some military guy who was griping about how investors were forsaking proven industries like defense in favor of dot-com and other unproven stuff. And he singled out Martha, launching into a tirade about how it was rediculous that people were willing to invest so much money in "a woman who makes jack-o-lanterns" or something like that. It was good for a chuckle because you could tell that this guy was really upset but I think he was on to something there. And I think we all realize that now.
So that's my theory. We want to see Martha fall and fall hard to give us complete closure of an embarrasing period of our financial history. So long as Stewart's company continues to be worth billions of dollars simply by selling this stuff, the dot-com era will never truly be over for us. We feel that Stewart managed to cheat death (or bankrupcy) somehow and the fact that she seems to be guilty of some insider trading gives us a convienient excuse to say "A-ha! So *that's* how she did it!" even if we know full well that her personal financial dealings have nothing to do with the success of her company.
Anyhow, I'm interested to hear other people's thoughts on this.