The New Yorker Cover: Everyone Take a Deep Breath

| 7/14/2008 6:04:35 PM

Terrorist Fist Jab
The progressive blogosphere is a-ragin’ today about the rumor-mongering, naive, chaos-inspiring New Yorker cover of Michelle and Barack Obama terrorist-fist-jabbing in the Oval Office as a portrait of Osama bin Laden approvingly gazes on, alit by the flames of an American flag sizzling in the fireplace. 

Progressives are pissed, and to prove it, they’ve dug out their lit-crit hats to scold illustrator Barry Blitt on the inner workings of satire and why he missed the boat and fell into no-no land. (I think the man who came up with this cover

New Yorker Ahmadinejad cover

probably has a thing or two to teach us all about good satire.)

When I mentioned the hubbub to Utne’s art director, Stephanie Glaros, she told me the illustrator blogs were equally enflamed, but in Blitt’s defense. Thank goodness some folks have thick enough skins to rally to his side. Let’s just hope that some of that sensibility migrates from the art world to the political commentariat sometime soon.

First off, progressives need to stop playing thought police to protect those weak-minded ninnies from Hicksville. Here’s a prime example from Rachel Sklar at HuffingtonPost: “Who knows if the people in Dubuque will get this?” Really? Must it be assumed that everyone who doesn’t live in New York, Chicago, or [insert shiny metropolis here] is both devoid of rational thought and a sense of humor?

John Thomas_1
7/20/2008 2:25:11 PM

What a thorny predicament is presented here. With all the lowest, gut-level, fabrications about Obama and his wife spattered across the page, those who read, (there seems to be less and less of us these days) find ourselves in a kind of reverse 'Emperor's Clothes' situation. If we don't go along with the "intelligencia" and loudly shout, "Of course I get it!" - we are consigned to the group of dullards who we so happily deride as irrelevant. If the New Yorker were only delivered to it's so-hip-and-with-it customers this would not be an issue. But, in an election so close, the growing near-illiterate masses walking by the grocery store magazine section will see nothing more than this image and most will have no idea whether this is a joke or not. Ditto for all the brouhaha served up by the mainstream media which guarantees that those who didn't see it at the store will get bombarded with the image when they get their daily dose of info-tainment propaganda on the tube. So what's the political effect here? All the "in-the-know" crowd will think it's "funny" and will not be affected (they say) by these images. Those who operate at the lowest levels of political awareness will just see a significant reinforcement of the worst mud-slinging in the campaign. The net effect is obvious.

Carol Neiman
7/18/2008 7:30:38 PM

As an immigrant New Yorker and longtime subscriber to its namesake magazine, I got the joke right away. In no small part that is because these days, I often receive forwarded emails from the land of my redneck Texas roots, emails that are clearly designed to imbed these cartoonish images in the brains of my fundamentally good-hearted but decidedly unsophisticated relatives. In the juxtaposition of those two worlds, and knowing full well their respective tendencies to smug self-righteousness, I don't know whether to laugh or cry. I did have the brief thought that the cartoonist could have avoided all this had he merely put it all in an "imagination" balloon emanating from the head of a Joe Six-Pack character. But then, in place of all these nuanced debates about the state of mind of the heartland, we would be talking about how the New Yorker had insulted all those gun-loving, religious-clinging ordinary folks. For those who care to read the fine print, the cartoon DOES in fact have a caption. It's on the inside page with the credits, and it goes like this: "The Politics of Fear." Beneath all the kerfuffle, that's the serious message. We ignore it, misinterpret it, and subject it to superficial punditry at our own peril.

Don Bates_2
7/18/2008 4:19:17 PM

What I hope most people are not missing is the article in the same issue that profiles Obama's early years in Chicago politics. If you want to have a better sense of who the man is and why he should or should not be President, give it a read. It's long but more important it's a brilliant piece of journalism not only about the candidate but about Chicago politics. As for the cover, I found it mildly amusing and mildly racist although I think I get the drift of the editors -- to point out the ludicrous nature of the coverage of the Barack's fist bump, the association of the candidate's name with Osama, etc. Now, of course, I expect the New Yorker to portray McCain and his wife. Fair is fair. And justice must be served.

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