The National Enquirer's circulation peaked in 1988 at 4 million, while today it averages 325,000 copies sold, mostly to low-income, over-80-year olds. Its best retailer is Wal-Mart. It does not publish any material critical of Donald Trump.
The Enquirer's owner, American Media Inc, claims 100 million see the tabloid's cover in the checkout lines. AMI's CEO, David Pecker, is a longtime friend and admirer of Donald Trump, and has gone to enormous lengths to spike any material critical of Trump in the Enquirer and other AMI publications, like Men's Journal and US Weekly.
In a long profile of Pecker, the New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin says that Pecker's love of Trump is motivated not by ideology, but by a kind of bootlicker celebrity worship that celebrates the "classiness" of certain rich people. Pecker has certainly had a long and fruitful relationship with Trump, which included a stint publishing Trump Style, a subsidized vanity magazine celebrating Trump's accomplishments.
Notwithstanding the lack of an explicit ideological commitment to Trump, Pecker's worship of the real-estate millionaire can be thought of as implicit, ideological rank-closing in support of deep, social inequality, elitism and the circular logic of meritocracy that holds that the market awards virtuous people with wealth, and that wealthy people are thus virtuous.
As this idea begins to crumble — as it becomes easier to imagine the end of capitalism than the end of the world — the traditional appeal to bourgeois aspiration ceases to be viable. The newer forms of life-support for mounting inequality involve these celebrity appeals and strongmen — Putin, Erdogan, Boris Johnson and the alt-right jesters whose strong-man clowning are attractive to certain forms of aggrieve alienation. It's a variation on the people who extolled the gentlemanly manners of Franco and Mussolini, or the good works of the royal families in Saudi and Qatar.
Pecker is hoping to find an investor to help him acquire Time, Inc. There are rumors that Trump will give him an ambassadorship.
Pecker has no strong political views, but he has a fascination with, and a reverence for, celebrity. Recalling his first meeting with Kennedy, Pecker told me, "It was February, he comes up on his bike, he's outside, he has his hat over his head, he comes inside, he takes off his coat, he has a beautiful Armani suit on, and he pulled his cap off and it was like he never even had to comb his hair! I don't understand it. I mean, every hair was perfect. Every hair was perfect!" Pecker met Trump around the time he launched George, and his relationship with the developer resembled his connection to Kennedy. Talking about an early visit to Mar-a-Lago, Trump's estate in Palm Beach, where he was pitching advertisers on George, Pecker described Trump's then wife, Marla Maples: "I have never in my entire life seen a more beautiful woman in a bodysuit than Marla Maples. I mean, seriously, out of ten she was a fifteen." For Pecker, Trump represented an aspirational figure in every dimension of life: in his glamour, his wealth, his access to beautiful women, and his style of living.
The National Enquirer's Fervor for Trump
[Jeffrey Toobin/New Yorker]
(via Naked Capitalism)
(Image: Trump's Hair)