One of the weirdest sidebars in a whole series of weird sidebars in the saturated and overwrought media coverage of the tragedy is the accusation that Donald Trump plagiarized Barack Obama's anodyne sympathy tweet. It wasn't copied word for word, but the sentiments and the cadence were just too suspiciously similar for comfort, according to one alert reporter whose observation then spread like a flash flood throughout the parched corporate media landscape.
“Kobe was a legend on the court and just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act. To lose Gianna is even more heartbreaking to us as parents. Michelle and I send love and prayers to Vanessa and the entire Bryant family on an unthinkable day.”Trump's tweet:
“Kobe Bryant, despite being one of the truly great basketball players of all time, was just getting started in life. He loved his family so much, and had such strong passion for the future. The loss of his beautiful daughter, Gianna, makes this moment even more devastating. Melania and I send our warmest condolences to Vanessa and the wonderful Bryant family. May God be with you all!”These facile bursts of condolence are standard fare. Both tweets draw freely from the long human history of sympathy sentiment - which after awhile begins to sound unoriginal even among the best of scribes. Whenever I read one of these presidential missives claiming that "Laura and I," "Michelle and I" or "Melania and I" feel this or that, I've always imagined the wives hovering in the background, duct tape over their mouths. This is despite the fact that these guys have publicists who actually write this stuff and get the sentiments straight from some computer-generated sympathy tweet program. An algorithm would ensure that similar words and phrases would be jumbled around a lot and never used more than three times in a row.
We should probably give Trump just a little bit of credit in the sympathy tweet etiquette department, though. He somehow managed to restrain himself from copying Obama's brilliant sending of prayers to the grieving Bryant family.
The one similarity between the two tweets that struck me in a particularly bad way was their mutual dismay that Kobe Bryant's "second act" had been cut short. This was an oblique reference to his parlaying of the hundreds of millions of dollars he had earned as a basketball player into a financial and media empire. In other words, Kobe Bryant was well on his way to becoming a billionaire. His "just getting started" in venture capitalism actually took precedence over family in both Trump's and Obama's tweets - although Obama did hasten to add that the loss of the 13-year-old was "even more heartbreaking."
When it comes to plutocrats having sympathy for the financial setbacks of other plutocrats, originality and creativity do have a way of becoming extremely limited.
The other disturbing sidebar in the Kobe Bryant celebrity death saga is the controversy about whether it's proper to bring up his arrest on charges of raping a teenage hotel worker in 2003. The victim's refusal to testify after being hounded by the press and lawyers and an undisclosed financial settlement and apology from the superstar seemed to placate everybody at the time.
As one Washington Post editor discovered to her chagrin, the #MeToo movement does not apply when it comes to the newly-deceased Kobe Bryant. When she linked to (in what else but a tweet) a story about the rape charge only hours after the crash, a Twitter backlash ensued, Felicia Sonmez was then very publicly suspended from her job. And when a newsroom staff backlash against the suspension ensued, Sonmez was reinstated.
But not without the Post brass still insisting that Sonmez, despite not having violated the paper's social media policy, had still exhibited "poor judgment."
And rather than issue an apology to Sonmez, the Post proclaimed in a headline that it had "cleared her" as regards the rape allegation link: in effect, linking her to a crime or insinuating that she was an accessory to a crime.
Managing Editor Tracy Grant stressed that although Sonmez was cleared on a technicality, she is still guilty of a breach of celebrity death etiquette:
“Reporters on social media represent The Washington Post, and our policy states ‘we must be ever mindful of preserving the reputation of The Washington Post for journalistic excellence, fairness and independence.’ We consistently urge restraint, which is particularly important when there are tragic deaths. We regret having spoken publicly about a personnel matter.”Meanwhile, the Kobe Bryant Death Cult and its various factions show no signs of backing down or letting go. Not only has it become the latest linchpin of the #MeToo movement, it has also exposed the class aspect of the #MeToo movement. If Kobe Bryant had been accused of raping a fellow celebrity, or an aspiring celebrity, rather than an unknown hotel concierge, would his career and reputation have not only survived, but thrived and mushroomed into a "second act" of movies, philanthrocapitalism, corporate branding, and untold riches and fame?
Call Kobe Bryant a rapist at your own peril, particularly if #YouToo are a plutocrat or work for one and you dare to be a traitor to your own class. Heiress Abigail Disney is only the latest to face criticism for her own breach of celebrity death etiquette, after defending fellow celebrity Evan Rachel Wood from the backlash that she has received for defending the suspended Washington Post editor.
I don't know about you, but I'm getting whiplash from all this backlash.
The lashing goes something like this: if you point out that Bryant was an accused rapist, then you also deny and ignore that he was a good father and philanthropist. It's the same argument that wealthy celebrities like Ellen de Generes and Michelle Obama use when defending war criminal George W. Bush and their "shared values" and especially his bizarre habit of sharing candy with his fellow plutocrats at celebrity funerals.
It's all about the worship and defense of extreme wealth and power.
It only falls apart when the wealthy powerful man in question behaves so egregiously and so blatantly over a period of so many decades that his various friends, associates, fans and hangers-on can no longer defend him. Doing so would irreparably harm their own reputations. Thus the self-serving and very calculated lack of mourning for dead serial predator Jeffrey Epstein. Ditto the lack of class empathy for Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein.
Kobe Bryant only (allegedly) raped and throttled one lowly hotel worker lacking any money and power and celebrity of her own. In her case, #MeToo apparently does not apply.
People need to sanctify Kobe Bryant in death. Consumer Nation is trying to come together and heal as it ghoulishly devours all the grisly footage and the audio distress recordings. So give the guy a reputational break already, and stop spoiling our outpouring of self-righteous and ever so enjoyable grief!