You'll forgive me for not being impressed but I've seen it before. Remember the rumor spread about her supposedly eating lobster, caviar, and champagne at the Waldorf-Astoria while Obama was preparing for the third Presidential debate in 2008? It didn't happen. Not that it matters, however. After all, why let truth stand in the way of a good rumor.
But there is a new thing in this recent smear. Members of the right, such as Rush Limbaugh, have compared Mrs. Obama to Marie Antoinette, the Queen of France during the French Revolution who was executed for crimes against the state. It's a talking point which several have repeated so don't think the comparison is spontaneous or by accident.
Antoinette's name is byword for uncaring extravagance mostly due to the legend of her comments regarding why the people of France were raising hell. Allegedly when she was told that they have no bread, she remarked "let them eat cake." The story symbolized her supposed nasty attitude regarding her subjects.
And so we have members of the right now using Mrs. Obama's vacation in Spain with her daughter to spread the meme that she is just like Antoinette in the fact that she is doesn't care about people suffering from this awful climate of recession in the United States.
However, I would advise those on the right to tread lightly with this comparison. While it is not known for a fact that Antoinette said the "let them eat cake" comment, it is known that the rumors were used to make her public enemy number one in France. She was not popular for a multitude of reasons, one of which because she was foreign (Austrian). Therefore any negative rumor told about her gained immediate popularity
So subsequently when she, her husband Louis XVI, and the rest of their retinue were arrested, she was subjected to many indiginities by the French mobs hungry for blood including:
- nearly made to stare at the head of her mutiliated friend (Maria Teresa Luisa of Savoy, Princess of Lamballe) as crowds paraded it on a stick outside of her window,
- being separated from her family and falsely accused of molesting her young son, a charge which she denied so vehemently that it is said she nearly turned the women who were against her to her side,
- and even suffering a final indignity of being denied privacy before her execution to take care of the hemmorraging caused by her uterine cancer.
Certainly things are not as extreme for Mrs. Obama as they were for Antoinette the irony here is stark. Members of the right are using a historical symbol of uncaring extravagance to smear the First Lady while forgetting that this same figure became that symbol due to substantiated rumors designed to flame mobs against her.
Perhaps Limbaugh and the rest shouldn't worry about how much Mrs. Obama compares to Marie Antoinette and worry about how they compare to those bloodthirsty French mobs who demanded Antoinette's blood.