Sunday Times - - 5 Minute With - ASPASIA KARRAS

The First Sph­ynx aka Me­la­nia Trump has both­ered me since she first ap­peared in my time­line and con­scious­ness. Back then she was wear­ing a pussy bow. The in­ter­webs had gone balls to the wall with meta in­ter­pre­ta­tions of her sar­to­rial choice. Was she wear­ing the pussy bow to sub­tly un­der­mine the pussy grab­ber in chief? Or was she cheer­fully pok­ing fun at the haters? No­body knows be­cause like all suc­cess­ful cyphers Me­la­nia is the silent type.

Then I saw the most re­cent Diesel T-shirt slo­gan cam­paign, Hate Cou­ture, whose pay­off line is: “The more hate you wear the less you care”, and I was sud­denly freshly re­minded of Me­la­nia’s fash­ion semaphors. Also, Me­la­nia just vis­ited Africa in a pith hel­met. Re­ally. Colo­nial ref­er­ences be damned. So she is front of mind. Just be­fore the pith hel­met in­ci­dent she caused an in­ter­na­tional furore by wear­ing a Zara jacket em­bla­zoned with the slo­gan “I re­ally don’t care, do u?” This while vis­it­ing a camp for mi­grant chil­dren forcibly sep­a­rated from their par­ents at the US bor­der. What did she mean? Was she rail­ing against her per­sonal trolls? Was she iron­i­cally tak­ing on Trump’s child-sep­a­ra­tion poli­cies? Who knows? Who cares? His­tory is lit­tered with opaque state­ments at­tached to opaque women. (Some in pith hel­mets).

Take Marie An­toinette. It tran­spires she never ac­tu­ally said “let them eat cake”. But you would never know be­cause pop­u­lar his­tory and the trolls of her time have made it his­tor­i­cal fact. She had no way to an­swer back. She had lost her head. Me­la­nia on the other hand has a handy slo­gan at her dis­posal. She chose to wear this mys­ti­fy­ing mes­sage dur­ing a his­tor­i­cal pe­riod that is ar­guably just as frac­tious, di­vi­sive and fu­elled by mis­in­for­ma­tion as the French Rev­o­lu­tion. Me­la­nia’s sym­bolic value, like Marie An­toinette’s, is huge, es­pe­cially dur­ing an in­ci­dent that re­calls the very worst mo­ments of US his­tory — the forced sep­a­ra­tions of slave fam­i­lies and the dec­i­ma­tion of indige­nous Amer­i­can fam­i­lies.

Slo­gan T-shirts start­ing with Kather­ine Ham­nett’s “Choose Life” to Maria Grazia Chi­uri’s “We should all be fem­i­nists” have al­ways trod roughly in that awk­ward space be­tween the sign and the sig­ni­fier. They say one thing but what do they re­ally mean?

This Diesel cam­paign riffs clev­erly on this slo­gan his­tory. They too have cap­tured the mo­ment. Trolling is the great con­tem­po­rary leit­mo­tif. The slo­gans come from the real mes­sages trolls leave on the so­cial me­dia pro­files of celebri­ties like Niki Mi­naj who fea­tures in the cam­paign. These “hate” slo­gans are meta mes­sag­ing at its bold­est. You can be sure that Me­la­nia and ev­ery other slo­gan­wear­ing celebrity has ex­pe­ri­enced ma­li­cious blow­back on the so­cial net­works. And Me­la­nia, de­spite close prox­im­ity to the troll in chief, has set up a cam­paign to cur­tail on­line bul­ly­ing.

The un­for­tu­nate Marie An­toinette never lived her trolling down — sadly she also never had a slo­gan T-shirt at her dis­posal.

Diesel’s Hate Cou­ture cam­paign.

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