What’s up, Holmies?

Ironically iconic. Or maybe that was iconically ironic. Also, 7 other things worth your time.

Elizabeth Holmes, disgraced founder and former CEO of the defunct health care technology company Theranos, once upon a time the youngest self-made billionaire woman in U.S. history, is standing trial on conspiracy and wire fraud charges that could send her to prison for 20 years.

She’s also become a very strange and unlikely icon. From The Guardian:

There are posters, stickers and coffee mugs, flags, T-shirts and masks—all celebrating Silicon Valley “girl boss,” Elizabeth Holmes.

The fraud case of the Theranos founder has given way to a burgeoning cottage industry for merchandise venerating the disgraced CEO.

As Holmes stands trial in a California courthouse, hundreds of listings have sprung up across online marketplaces including Etsy and Redbubble, catering to “Holmies” – the name used by some followers of the former executive.

One shop called “We Are Elizabeth Holmes” has 26 products sporting original designs of the founder’s stenciled image. Some feature a favorite quote of Holmes: “First they think you’re crazy, then they fight you, then you change the world.”

OK, that’s it, I give up on understanding anyone anymore.

Except that, thankfully, at least, part of this is extraordinarily self-consciously ironic. Elle magazine’s Rose Minutaglio was early to recognize the phenomenon:

On TikTok, the Holmies congregate using the hashtag #GirlBoss to praise their "leader" and "queen" Elizabeth Holmes. They look up to her as an inspiration who, as one TikTok-er put it, "made billions over a complete lie."

While many Holmies do, in fact, recognize the inherent wrongness of celebrating a fraud who endangered the health of tens of thousands of people, they remain unapologetic in their support for the embattled techpreneur, who currently faces a dozen felony fraud charges.

There has to be something deeper to think about here, right? Maybe it’s about how people aspire to become whatever it is they idealize, only to lose control completely of what they come to represent.

Think of all the college sophomores over the past few decades wearing Che Guevara t-shirts, displaying either ignorance or ninth-level irony, given that Che would have put people like them up against a wall in any society he ran.

Or else, more recently, the news last week that Katie Couric edited out criticism that the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had for former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem.

Couric claimed that she was “conflicted” because she was such a big fan of Ginsburg, and didn’t want to cloud her legacy among her most devoted followers—most of whom would have supported Kaepernick.

Or at least, Couric thought they’d support Kaepernick. Who can know for sure? Anyway, she took her admiration for Ginsburg to a Byzantine level, to the point of changing what Ginsburg herself said she believed.

Anyway, when it comes to Holmes, I feel pity—not sympathy, surely not empathy—but I’m bathing in the irony, especially given that the Holmies image is so far from what Holmes herself actually (didn’t) accomplish, and that this is true in large part because Theranos itself was such a big lie.

But it was a lie that only worked for a while because supposedly sophisticated and wealthy people wanted to believe it.

Ultimately, the joke’s on almost everybody.

“I get a good amount of people who ask why I support her if she is a fraud,” one Holmie entrepreneur, who has sold about 1,200 Elizabeth Holmes masks, t-shirts, and mugs to fans, told Minutaglio at Elle. “I think it’s funny to act daft in response and say things like ‘girl bosses support girl bosses’ followed by a string of pink emojis.”

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