The New Yorker Cover

Posted by Katherine | July 16, 2008 – 2:47 pm

This week’s New Yorker cover shows Barack Obama dressed as a Muslim, Michelle outfitted as a Black Panther/terrorist, a flag burning in the fireplace, and Osama bin Laden in a gilt frame on the wall. It is, of course satire. Or it’s supposed to be. It seems to be confusing a lot of people. Some think it’s not funny. Some feel it will backfire by perpetuating false rumors. Some believe it’s all true (cue the backfiring).

Flickrite Mary Hodder went ahead and carried out Kevin Drum’s suggestion about how to improve the cartoon. The idea here is that the satire becomes clearer this way — and less “gutless”:

Parody of Obama New Yorker cover
[mary hodder / Flickr]

Jon Swift describes himself as a “reasonable conservative.” He says that “since the media is biased,” he gets his news from “Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and Jay Leno monologues.” Quite possibly a satirist himself, Jon takes up this same question of satirical clarity:

Wouldn’t it have been simpler and clearer to run the illustration with a big X over it so that we knew what they were trying to say? We are not mind readers. It doesn’t make much sense to say the opposite of what you mean and then attack people for being unsophisticated because they thought you were sincere. […]

If the New Yorker wanted to run a humorous cover that showed Obama is not a Muslim, they could have accomplished that goal by depicting him slipping on a banana peel on the way to church. That would have made the same point and it would also have had the virtue of being funny.

Gary Hall from Evanston, Illinois, is the Dean and President of the Episcopal Seabury-Western Theological Seminary. He loved the cover and thinks democracy needs humor:

Blitt’s cover was aimed, of course, at those in the population who have not yet suffered terminal irony failure. By surrounding the Obamas with all the icons of fear in which the Limbaughs persist in clothing them, Blitt’s wonderful drawing suddenly make the whole Obama smear campaign seem what it is: a joke. […]

The piety which surrounds Barack Obama would be charming were it not so potentially dangerous. […] I worry that my liberal friends can be worse than Stalinists when it comes to making fun of their own. Remember that Franklin Roosevelt loved Will Rogers, and that Will Rogers made merciless fun of him. That’s the kind of Presidents and satirists we need. I hope that Barack Obama’s first White House guests will be David Remnick and Barry Blitt.

Warren Longwell, a writer in Golden, Colorado, recently visited the Abraham Lincoln museum in Springfield, Illinois. It taught him a lesson about keeping this New Yorker cover in perspective (thanks, Misa Dayson):

One entire gallery of the spectacular museum is devoted to the political cartoons of the day that were published to attack Lincoln during his presidency, and they are unparalleled for their tastelessness, viciousness, and outright absurdity. The only lasting effect of these cartoons, lampoons, and caricatures was to make their creators and publishers look like idiots in the light of history.

Probably not music to Barry Blitt’s and David Remnick’s ears, but it might cool blog passions.

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