This is one of those once in a decade moments in which I disagree with Steve Benen, as he thinks the cover was inappropriate:
Now, I know what the New Yorker was doing here. It’s intended as satire. The image isn’t endorsing the insane smears made against the Obamas; it’s mocking the insane smears made against the Obamas. I get it.
But there’s clever, poignant satire, and then there’s ham-fisted, garish satire that’s in poor taste. The New Yorker cover falls comfortably into the latter category.
Presumably the New Yorker readership is sophisticated enough to get the joke, but still: this is going to upset a lot of people, probably for the same reason it’s going to delight a lot of other people, namely those on the right: Because it’s got all the scare tactics and misinformation that has so far been used to derail Barack Obama’s campaign — all in one handy illustration. Anyone who’s tried to paint Obama as a Muslim, anyone who’s tried to portray Michelle as angry or a secret revolutionary out to get Whitey, anyone who has questioned their patriotism — well, here’s your image.
Exactly. Smear artists running a scurrilous right-wing magazine would presumably run the exact same image of the Obamas on their cover, too. That we know the New Yorker is poking fun hardly makes matters better.
The bolded part is what I do not understand- “Smear artists running a scurrilous right-wing magazine would presumably run the exact same image of the Obamas on their cover, too.”
Isn’t that exactly the point of the New Yorker cover in the first place? With this cover, the Neow Yorker is saying “This is the nonsense these jackass smear artists are spreading virally all the time- look how stupid and absurd it is.”
Again, I am completely in the tank for the Obama candidacy, and I just don’t get the response to this. We have a long tradition of this sort of cartoon and cover art in this country. The folks at Riverdaughter, hardly a site that I agree with, well, ever, remind us of this cover:
Again, I understand why the Obama campaign is doing what they are doing. I understand why cable news networks will be doing their best to out-vapors the other with breathless coverage. I do not understand the collective freak-out from bloggers, though, and particularly Democratic or left-leaning bloggers. Even Kevin Drum, who is normally unreasonably reasonable, thinks the cover is scandalous and awful because it does not pin these rumors on Republicans.
*** Update ***
I should point out that I am aware that I am unusually tone deaf on issues like this. I guess I just really detest the notion that people’s messages have to be self-censored because some idiot somewhere is going to misinterpret it or misuse it.
*** Update #2 ***
Larison explains why I am wrong:
This cover image is slightly different, in that it is trying to undermine the worst attacks by revealing them to be nonsensical caricatures, but nonetheless the artist seems incapable of imagining that there are many voters, particularly those who don’t know that much about Obama, who will see this image flashed on their television screens or attached to chain e-mails and think, “I knew there was something about that Obama I didn’t like, and now I see what it is!” No doubt many Obama supporters thinks this gives a lot of voters too little credit, but they have been giving them too much for a long time. Besides, this isn’t just a question of voter savviness–the power of suggestion can be great, and in a tightly contested race, in which the challenger has not yet won the confidence of a majority of voters, any lingering doubts that prevent people from supporting the challenger could be decisive. The less informed undecided voters are, the more susceptible they will be to such an image, which will plant seeds of doubt where there might have been none before.
In an era of instant, mass communication, the image will be, indeed already has been, circulated widely and will gradually lose whatever “ironic” edge it once had. That the image derived from a New Yorker cover and was intended for an audience of high-information, predominantly left-leaning voters who already support Obama will be irrelevant or will add to the “credibility” of what the image conveys. Then the word will go forth in forwarded emails everywhere: “Even The New Yorker thinks Obama is a secret Muslim, etc…”
He is probably right.
*** Update #3 ***
Since it’s the controversy of the day, let me make my views more clear. It obviously was an attempt at satire, but it fails. It represents the basic stuff that you get from the Right about Obama, but it neither mocks nor exaggerates them. It’s a sad state of affairs that conservatives are hard to satirize or parody because they’re so insane, but that’s where we are.
I guess I am just tone deaf.