• Max Stearns

Hidden Messaging in Plain Sight


One thing is clear: Melania has taken so much of it that perhaps, instead, she should have worn the graffiti-inspired message on the back of a flak jacket. The media immediately confronted conflicting accounts of what the message meant, including Melania's own spokesperson saying it’s only a jacket, with no hidden message (yeah, right), and Donald Trump tweeting it’s a signal about the fake news media (as convincing as Rudy Guiliani channeling Melania’s views on Trump’s alleged infidelities).

What does it mean, and why should we care? Melania’s spokesperson is right about one thing: There was no hidden message. The message was loud and clear; all that was left was interpretation. So what does it mean? I can think of only one plausible explanation. Melania is displaying an imagined conversation with Donald. Donald says: “I really don’t care. Do U?” By traveling to the southern border, Melania signals that, unlike her husband, yes, she does.

I want to be clear. I am no fan of Melania Trump. I agree with Charles Blow that she and Donald deserve each other. And one trip, especially when accompanied by a statement that having children away from families for an average of 42 to 45 days is "great" doesn't make up for much. But if nothing else, it does show that Melania, unlike Donald, is capable of some level of empathy. Melania has had her share of gaffes, pettiness, and worse: plagiarizing her predecessor’s DNC speech; claiming that a Jewish reporter provoked anti-Semitic death threats by having the gall to engage in investigative reporting on the woman who would become the First Lady; and even publicly shaming Ivana Trump for somewhat amusing word play on "first lady."

None of this negates a simple fact. A fashion model knows fashion. And the First Lady knows that with her minimal public appearances, the world pays close attention when she shows up. The past news cycle amply rebuts Donald Trump's claim that what he likes to pretend is the fake media doesn't care. In this instance, I suspect Melania might have intended something substantive, maybe even important. Yes, I would have advised leaving the jacket at home, but even so, calling out her uncaring husband is a not-so-subtle and certainly important message. Given the media frenzy, it truly was hidden in plain sight.

I welcome your comments.


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