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Kim Kardashian’s marble table and cocaine conspiracy theory, explained

More people retweeted Kardashian's marble table video than Donald Trump Jr.'s Russia emails.

Alex Abad-Santos is a senior correspondent who explains what society obsesses over, from Marvel and movies to fitness and skin care. He came to Vox in 2014. Prior to that, he worked at the Atlantic.

Kim Kardashian’s social media feed is a living Rorschach test: Two people can look at the same image and come away with largely different impressions, and those impressions might say more about the viewer than about Kardashian. Is she the savviest, hardest-working celebrity ever or a shallow simulacrum of talent and fame? Is she candid or curated? Hatable or enviable? The answer is whatever you want it to be.

On Thursday, Kardashian’s Snapchat presented another dividing question: Is that cocaine in the background, or just a black table?

Tucked over Kardashian’s shoulder, within the frame of the Snap, was a black table scored by two distinct white lines. After it was pointed out, Kardashian created a 49-second video, with her in a flower crown filter, showing us that the alleged lines of blow were actually markings of a marble table:

Despite Kardashian rubbing her finger vigorously on the surface of the table, some people — possibly those who have seen people appreciate “marble tables” in Las Vegas, or seen their fair share of “marble tables” in bathroom stalls, or have watched the “marble table” scene in Scarface, or witnessed the abundance of “marble tables” in the ’80s — didn’t quite believe her story. Meanwhile, those versed in the ongoing national Kardashian narrative were quick to point out that Kim leads a sober lifestyle and refrains from drinking and drugs.

What makes this a completely Kardashian moment is Kim’s ability to take the controversy and maximize exposure. Kim’s flower-crowned forensic debunking of that marble table has already been retweeted more than 27,000 times. In comparison, Donald Trump Jr.’s statement and tweet about his contact with a Russian lawyer — the biggest news story of the day — was retweeted 17,000 times.

The beautifully entertaining thing about this all is that it almost doesn’t matter what Kim Kardashian said. The rush to either defame or defend her is a testament to her pop culture clout.

Why people care so much about Kim Kardashian’s marble table

Kardashian’s “cocaine or marble table” Snap and the response to it happened within 24 hours. The initial Snap posted to the app on Monday night; by Tuesday afternoon, it had blown up, with many pointing out that it did indeed look like Kim had left two unsullied lines of cocaine in the background:

Kim’s initial reaction to the claims fueled further speculation, when she stated that the lines were actually sugar remnants from the candy she and her children had bought from the candy store:

That would have been a fine enough explanation, had she not then walked back that initial explanation in favor of the this-is-just-a-marble-table defense, making it look like she was scrambling for an excuse rather than giving us the truth. For people who have already made up their minds about Kardashian, her 49-second vignette about her marble table that looks like it has cocaine on it wasn’t about to change their opinion.

The reaction to Kim’s marble table (or “marble table”) illustrates the appeal of a Kardashian controversy like this one: It offers a chance for all of us to weigh in, self-sort into Kardashian critics or defenders, and see what our friends, loved ones, and public figures thought about it. The oracle of our times, Chrissy Teigen, picked a side, as did MSNBC host Chris Hayes, as did all the people who had opinions about Chris Hayes’s opinion about the marble table:

The marble table dustup is reminiscent of another Kardashian-related incident from last year, when Kendall Jenner, Kim’s half-sister, found herself in a social media controversy after she posted about how cute a tiny plastic bag was, either displaying her cluelessness about what kind of white powders go into cute, tiny plastic bags or not realizing that she was incriminating herself. That Snap was promptly deleted, but not before it created a rumor — which was promptly denied — about Jenner allegedly using drugs.

The crux of both of these stories, as with most Kardashian stories, is the tension between reality and what the Kardashians present to us. Kim and her family have built an empire on sharing their lives, whether it’s through reality television or through their Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat accounts. The moment our perceived reality doesn’t fall in line with the version of reality they present to viewers (see: the Kardashian robbery story last year), there’s an immediate surge of interest and a chance to confirm your personal theories about the Kardashians.

To Kardashian truthers, Kim’s marble table represents a crack in her carefully curated image of squeaky-clean wealth and extravagance. Those who don’t buy what the Kardashians are selling see the suggestion of cocaine use as proof that Kim and her family’s presented reality is a facade.

Kim Kardashian is (probably) telling the truth about her marble table

There are two big reasons why we should believe Kim Kardashian and her marble table. The first is that she has gone on the record and has talked about sobriety and living a sober life in multiple interviews. If that’s not convincing enough, then there is reason number two: Kim Kardashian is the most curated, edited celebrity on the planet.

A Kardashian Instagram post or Snapchat snap isn’t a candid glimpse into their lives — it’s their business. Kim and the Kardashians make their living off what they present to the public. Companies have allegedly paid Kim and her sisters up to $500,000 to get in touch with their millions of Instagram followers. And since her 2016 robbery, which she calls a “life-changing event,” Kim said she has to be even more careful with what she posts.

There is absolutely no way two stray lines of cocaine would make it past her first edit. At this point, a more believable story would be that Kim knew exactly what she was doing when she saw those two distinct white lines and included them in her now-famous marble table Snap.

Watch: Kim Kardashian’s greatest talent