WTF: Obama Depicted as Terrorist on Cover of New Yorker Mag

14 07 2008

As a long time subscriber of the New Yorker, I have to say this week’s cover art was a stupid idea. And to suggest, as the cartoonist responsible for this week’s front page cartoon Bruce Blitt that this was harmless satire is to shirk its responsibility as a news provider. Saying that the cover art merely “satirizes the use of scare tactics and misinformation in the Presidential election to derail Barack Obama’s campaign,” is to ignore how the satire could be used to perpetuate the very thing it hopes to ridicule.

Of course, the New Yorker magazine has the right to publish material as they see fit, but this is really over the top. And no, this is not about humorless political correctness run amok or a bunch of uptight liberals wanting to play thought police or looking for another excuse to complain about how unfairly their candidate is treated in the press, as some conservative critics will undoubtedly claim.

Most sober thinking people can agree that there are more subtle and effective ways of conveying satire than placing an AK-47 on Michelle Obama’s back dressing her up army fatigue pants, adorning the wall with a portrait of Osama bin Laden as the American flag burns below him, and depicting Obama as some sort of imam eager to celebrate his achievement of getting into the Oval Office in a less than dignified manner. Its as if as if Blitt just was wanted to stir some controversy, by giving the right-wing the kind of fodder its been yearning for well before Obama became the presumptive nominee.

And if that was his intention stirred it he did.

In sum, its important to know your subject before satirizing it and that includes anticipating how it will be received. And the good folks at the New Yorker aren’t exactly known for probing racial and religious prejudices. Like many liberals they just treat it as if its one absurd attitude among others and in the process dismiss its power. Nor did David Remnick and company appreciate how counterproductive such an outlandish depiction could be.

I wonder if this was just ignorance or plain stupidity. Because there is a difference.

Update: In an interview at the Huffington Post, Editor of the New Yorker David Remnick defended the cartoon as “The fact is, it’s not a satire about Obama – it’s a satire about the distortions and misconceptions and prejudices about Obama.” That’s rather weak tea considering how the cover art simply exaggerates certain negative ideas to the point of spectacle than it does provoke thought. Again, I think the Remnick and his secular minded liberal white cohorts are underestimating how deeply held certain notions intolerance are in our society. Satirizing those very ideas have to be done with care and quite frankly better execution.

Update II: Check out Ta-Nehisi’s fair minded assessment: “I think the problem is that it’s very hard to satirize the rumors around Michelle and Barack. Satire needs overstatement. But the cover doesn’t actually overstate the beliefs of the scaremongers. Indeed its the sort of image you’d expect to see at one of the nuttier websites or publications, and so in that sense it doesn’t work very well.”

Update III: Check out the Al Jazeera news video on the New Yorker cartoon controversy below, it contains some interesting yet unsurprising polling data on how Obama’s perceived Islamic faith.

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3 responses

14 07 2008
Hans

Can you say “Liberal Media”? The only thing they missed was aborted fetuses in a bucket to the side!

How come I don’t foresee an equally scathing picture of McCain, and what could it possibly be that equalizes this complete fabrication of truth.

Hopefully their 80+ year history ends in flames as a minimum of half their readership cancels their subscription!

Don’t call them to complain as they win with drawing attention, as any attention is still attention in a dwindling print media environment. It will just draw readership, then dollars to their rag, just cancel to send them a clear message.

14 07 2008
Ben K

that burning flag probably hits too close to home

23 07 2008
Brian

BEST COVER ALL YEAR!!!!

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