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'The Politics of Fear'
July 13, 2008 6:46 PM   Subscribe

"The New Yorker says it's satire. It certainly will be candy for cable news." The cover illustration (by Barry Blitt) of the magazine's July 21st. issue depicts Barack Obama in tribal African dress, fist-bumping his wife "in full revolutionary garb, an enormous afro making her look like a millennial Angela Davis, holding an automatic weapon and wearing military pants" in the Oval Office. On the wall -- a portrait of Osama bin Laden; in the fireplace a burning American flag.

ABC News | Political Punch:
"Knowing the liberal politics of the magazine, it's without question that the illustration is meant ironically, as a parody of the caricature some conservatives (and some supporters of Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.) are painting of the Obamas.

But it's still fairly incendiary, at least as these things go. I wonder what the reaction would be were it the Weekly Standard or the National Review putting such an illustration on their covers.

Intent factors into these matters, of course, but no Upper East Side liberal -- no matter how superior they feel their intellect is -- should assume that just because they're mocking such ridiculousness, the illustration won't feed into the same beast in emails and other media. It's a recruitment poster for the right-wing."
_____________________
"Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton: 'The New Yorker may think, as one of their staff explained to us, that their cover is a satirical lampoon of the caricature Senator Obama's right-wing critics have tried to create. But most readers will see it as tasteless and offensive. And we agree.'"
posted by ericb (257 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
tasteless and offensive

What better way to sell magazines.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 6:50 PM on July 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


The cartoonist's defense:
"I think the idea that the Obamas are branded as unpatriotic [let alone as terrorists] in certain sectors is preposterous. It seemed to me that depicting the concept would show it as the fear-mongering ridiculousness that it is."
posted by ericb at 6:51 PM on July 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


You get the Presidency, you want respect as well?
posted by Senator at 6:51 PM on July 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


I want that dude to draw me.
posted by damehex at 6:53 PM on July 13, 2008


Editorial/political cartoons (1720 - present).

A Brief History of Political Cartoons.

American Political Cartoons.

Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning.
posted by ericb at 6:55 PM on July 13, 2008 [5 favorites]


"It seemed to me that depicting the concept would show it as the fear-mongering ridiculousness that it is."

It seems to me you're extremely short sighted. That's like showing people draped in flags, barbecuing with naked ladies around serving mom's apple pie with big cars in the background and saying it's a satire on American life.

No, a lot of people would look at it and see the good life.

This guy is a moron to think that absent context, this is anything but an encapsulating of people's ideas, completely free from criticism. Fool.
posted by cashman at 6:56 PM on July 13, 2008


No Jeremiah Wright casting fire and brimstone on the smoking wreckage of the WTC? No leering Jesse Jackson with a knife in one hand and the soon-to-be ScrOTUS in the other?

Weak sauce, Remnick.
posted by felix betachat at 6:56 PM on July 13, 2008 [4 favorites]


am at a loss of words ... especially since that's not how the right-wing media elites have been painting him. in a new twist on the Uppity Negro (may he rest in peace, btw), Obama is a snob, too good for the real hard working Americans, white Americans.

because, you know, god forbid a black anybody gets a sense of self-esteem. especially a black man. can't have black men who doesn't know how to genuflect.
posted by liza at 6:58 PM on July 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning.

Funny, I don't see Barry Blitt on that list.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 6:58 PM on July 13, 2008


Danish, anyone?
posted by kozad at 6:59 PM on July 13, 2008 [6 favorites]


"I think the idea that the Obamas are branded as unpatriotic [let alone as terrorists] in certain sectors is preposterous."

She went 43 years without once being really proud of her country. She may have misspoke, or her remarks may have been nuanced, but allegations of her being unpatriotic aren't "preposterous."
posted by Kwantsar at 6:59 PM on July 13, 2008 [3 favorites]


darn you kozad, for stealing my line ;p
posted by infini at 7:01 PM on July 13, 2008


She may have misspoke, or her remarks may have been nuanced, but allegations of her being unpatriotic aren't "preposterous."

Sure they are. She never sent a generation of impoverished idealists to their death in order to radicalize half the world, guarantee oil profits for a generation and reap unheard of wealth through unfettered war profiteering. Compared to that, Michelle Obama is Thomas Fucking Jefferson.
posted by felix betachat at 7:02 PM on July 13, 2008 [76 favorites]


That's the funny thing about irony, sometimes you say something that really cleaves and hits the mark but everyone in the room still thinks you're a fucking asshole for saying it.

And you know what? You probably are.
posted by The Straightener at 7:02 PM on July 13, 2008 [38 favorites]


Another satirical cover not long ago had Hillary and Barack in bed together, both reaching for the ringing red phone. No particular outrage, that time. This one, too, will fade from view in a couple of weeks when the issue is recycled.
posted by beagle at 7:02 PM on July 13, 2008


Looking at the actual image, knowing the context and etc - it doesn't really fly. At all. A stab and a miss.
posted by From Bklyn at 7:04 PM on July 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


It doesn't come across as over-the-top satire. It comes across as "yeah, he's probably a terrorist...but as an America-hating communist, I'm OK with that".
posted by DU at 7:06 PM on July 13, 2008


I fully support any media output that assumes people are smart, rather that what we've become used to. I support things that challenge us by dragging the dirt and stupidity out into the light, where the sun can disinfect it and we can laugh at it all.

The kind of overweening sensitivity and tremulous caution that anyone be offended about anything ever that has been a defining characteristic of what passes for the left (or at least the Democratic end of things in America) in recent decades has, I reckon, been one of its greatest weaknesses. It's part of what's gotten us to where we are, which is not a good place at all.

I sometimes wish folks would just buck up and stop being so afraid of pointing and laughing at the stupid and the indoctrinated.

Remember the Mohammed cartoon brouhaha? I've said it before, but I believe that neither words nor images in and of themselves can or should give offense. It is the thought behind them, the intentionality, that is either praiseworthy or execrable. But people are naturally hesitant to actually think. Stuff like this -- even if it makes the more emotionally vulnerable among us wring their hands -- can make us think, and laugh.

Thinking and laughing are good things.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:07 PM on July 13, 2008 [41 favorites]


She went 43 years without once being really proud of her country.

America: Love Being A Minority Female And Therefore Getting The Short End Of Almost Every Stick There Is OR LEAVE IT
posted by DU at 7:09 PM on July 13, 2008 [59 favorites]


I predict they'll see a spike in newsstand circulation, driven mainly by people who've never read, much less bought, The New Yorker. Too clever by half.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 7:10 PM on July 13, 2008


As someone with all the necessary equipment to get and appreciate the joke, I am still having to look too long and hard at this cartoon to put it together. I agree, From Bklyn-- Blitt didn't pull this one off. At a certain point one's intention is irrelevant; this image will be cherished by detractors of the Obamas for far longer than it will be by their fans.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 7:10 PM on July 13, 2008 [3 favorites]


A much better cartoon that would have made the point a little more deftly would have been of a TV showing footage of Terrorist Obamas behind a freaked-out broadcaster, while Regular Obamas sit in their living room watching TV and looking bemused.
posted by scody at 7:11 PM on July 13, 2008 [10 favorites]


She went 43 years without once being really proud of her country. She may have misspoke, or her remarks may have been nuanced, but allegations of her being unpatriotic aren't "preposterous."

McCain Says He Didn't Love America Before the Age of 31
"First off, let's make one thing clear. John McCain has repeatedly had his wife, Cindy, attack Michelle Obama because Mrs. Obama said that for the first time in her adult life she was really proud of her country. Mrs. McCain had the nerve to say that, unlike Mrs. Obama, she's ALWAYS been proud of her country. Now we find out that John McCain not only wasn't proud of his country as an adult, he didn't even love it while he was fighting for it. McCain made 'love of country' relevant when he decided to use it to repeatedly attack Mrs. Obama (as recently as yesterday [June 19, 2008]).

Yes, John McCain has repeatedly stated that he didn't love our country until he was captured as a POW during Vietnam. Here's what McCain said in March on FOX:
'I didn't really love America until I was deprived of her company.'
Then there's McCain in 1999:
'It wasn't until I was deprived of her company that I fell in love with America.'
McCain was 31 years old when he was captured. 31. Far into adulthood. So McCain was fighting for our country, a country he didn't love. And we're supposed to respect the military service of a man who didn't love his country. Then why was he fighting?

How is this any different from what Michelle Obama said? Mrs. Obama said that for the first time in her adult life she was really proud of our country. McCain said that he never loved our country before the age of 31. At least Mrs. Obama was proud of our country before, and she always loved our country. McCain not so much - let's face it, if John McCain didn't love America as an adult, he most certainly wasn't proud of her. And another thing. Michelle Obama is the candidate's WIFE. John McCain wants to be commander in chief of a country he didn't love."
posted by ericb at 7:11 PM on July 13, 2008 [15 favorites]


Obama (shrugs incredulously): "I have no response to that."

Good answer.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:15 PM on July 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's true. The people that think that Obama is unpatriotic and a terrorist lover probably won't see the irony is this cartoon. People that grab onto this weren't going to vote for Obama anyway.

Maybe the cartoon will show some people how ridiculous the rumors are. Maybe people that weren't sure about Obama may be offended by it and vote for him. It's hard to say.

At first glance I thought, you must be kidding, but I'm thinking about it. It might not be so harmful.
posted by LoriFLA at 7:15 PM on July 13, 2008


I liked it.
posted by uosuaq at 7:17 PM on July 13, 2008


OMG! All the unsophisticated Republicans out there who read the New Yorker aren't going to understand the context of this cartoon!
posted by brevator at 7:17 PM on July 13, 2008 [19 favorites]


this reminds me of the kelly cartoons in the onion.

is funny
posted by bhnyc at 7:18 PM on July 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


I laughed, and I felt like it hit the mark. Than again, A hell of a lot more people will just see the cover of the New Yorker than buy it and read what's inside, and this displays many of the notions about Obama that the right-wing outlets are trying to set in stone. Adding another image of that to float into the corners of people subconscious will probably not be a good thing.

Still, being one who gets the point, I thought the cartoon worked well, or at least far better than most nonsensical anti-humorous New Yorker cartoons.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:26 PM on July 13, 2008


She went 43 years without once being really proud of her country.

Sounds like the county's fault, not hers. Ask not what your country can do for you etc. Can't say I'm terribly proud of my country at the moment, but wehn traveling abroad I do try to present the face of America as I would like others to see it, not the one they read about in the paper.
posted by Ookseer at 7:26 PM on July 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh, I almost forgot, we're choosing the man who will occupy the most powerful office on the face of the earth. Decisions he makes will reverberate across the globe for generations. His executive decisions will steer the world's largest economy, and he will sign off on upwards of $12 trillion dollars of federal spending in his first term alone. He will be the commander of the most powerful armed forces ever known to man, and he will have at his disposal a nuclear arsenal sufficient to render civilization to ashes. All of this will be his to lead, in the face of unprecedented challenges.

So what is this, third fucking grade?

Of course this slap-worthy nonsense will be "candy for cable news", because by and large they're a bunch of juvenile imbeciles shooting spitballs too. Barry Blitt and cable news deserve each other.

We deserve better.
posted by edverb at 7:28 PM on July 13, 2008 [6 favorites]


Obama (shrugs incredulously): "I have no response to that."

I would have liked it even better if he'd have just laughed, "What, you think The New Yorker is on McCain's side? Have any of you people ever read Hendrik Hertzberg?"

Of course, then we'd have to endure six months of the OMG ELITIST NEW YORKER READER chorus.
posted by scody at 7:30 PM on July 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


The cover is an obvious and hilarious parody. Just what the chicken says, the NYer doesn't assume the lowest common denominator. Good for it.

In other news, I saw a lot of Obama pins at the Cyclones game today. Recognizable only by the logo, because the lettering was in Hebrew.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 7:32 PM on July 13, 2008


A much better cartoon that would have made the point a little more deftly would have been of a TV showing footage of Terrorist Obamas behind a freaked-out broadcaster, while Regular Obamas sit in their living room watching TV and looking bemused.

The lesbian cartoonist had a single panel gag showing a gay female couple sitting on their couch watching TV as a straight couple in the house next door stares in at them suspiciously. One of the lesbians looks at the other with an arched eyebrow and says "You wanna cut up Barbie dolls or something?"

It loses something without the visuals, but the point is that it's a succesful piece of political satire; one because it's laugh-out-loud funny and two, the intent is clear-to showthe silliness of homophobia.

This..not so much. One, it's intent is confusing. Is it satiring the Obamas, the public perception of the Obamas, the ridicluousness of political campaigns, what? Even if the answer is #2, then it's problematic, since the 'we know what you're thinking...' type of satire tends to comeoff as infuriariting stilted and presumtuous to everyone involved.
posted by jonmc at 7:33 PM on July 13, 2008


McCain Says He Didn't Love America Before the Age of 31

I think McCain should've been able to once America reached the age of consent.
Heyyy-Oh!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:33 PM on July 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


I would have liked it even better if he'd have just laughed, "What, you think The New Yorker is on McCain's side? Have any of you people ever read Hendrik Hertzberg?"

Um..no. Neither has 99% of the world.
posted by jonmc at 7:35 PM on July 13, 2008


America: Love Being A Minority Female And Therefore Getting The Short End Of Almost Every Stick There Is OR LEAVE IT

Yeah, she was really screwed by this country. Went to Whitney M. Young Magnet High School, Princeton University, Harvard Law, was on the staff of Mayor Daley, and now works for the University of Chicago making over a quarter-million dollars a year. That is one rough, under privileged life.
posted by vorpal bunny at 7:36 PM on July 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


Can we just assume that the concept that she was actually for reals never ever proud of the U.S. in her whole life because of that one thing she said that one time Gotcha! hahaha you said it that means you mean it no backsies! ... is completely idiotic and move on? Please?
posted by kyrademon at 7:37 PM on July 13, 2008 [14 favorites]


She went 43 years without once being really proud of her country. She may have misspoke, or her remarks may have been nuanced, but allegations of her being unpatriotic aren't "preposterous."

I liked the third grade, too.
posted by dirigibleman at 7:40 PM on July 13, 2008 [3 favorites]


Um..no. Neither has 99% of the world.

Exactly: hence the likelihood of the ensuing hysteria if Obama outed himself as a New Yorker reader. I can see the Faux News headline now: "Obama, Like Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, Says He Enjoys The New Yorker; Are Citizens Right to Fear a Literate President Who May Likely Betray Them?"
posted by scody at 7:43 PM on July 13, 2008 [5 favorites]


Both Mr. and Mrs. O are graduates of Harvard Law School--not exactly Universidad de Revolución. Anyone who is a big enough idiot to think that this cover is anything but sardonic satire needs to get a grip.

The Obamas are the epitome of successful black folk--soon to be, perhaps, the apotheosis of African-Americans who "worked hard and played by the rules." Anyone who might think that Michelle is a "revolutionary" or that Barack would burn Old Glory in the Oval Office fire place probably should have his or her drivers license revoked.
posted by rdone at 7:45 PM on July 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


scody: I've never read that guy either and I hardly consider myself illiterate. As far as I'm concerned, this whole thing is simply buying into the whole fake retro/metro polarization that the right has been shoving down the country's throat for decades. I won't play ball with it. Obama's got my vote, but it has nothing to do with the New Yorker.
posted by jonmc at 7:49 PM on July 13, 2008


jon, I know. You're dissecting my joke entirely too literally.
posted by scody at 7:50 PM on July 13, 2008


Or let me put it this way: I'm not making fun of people who don't read the New Yorker. I'm making fun of the ridiculous "anti-elitist" posturing of the right wing (and the mainstream press that buys into it) that would seize on reading the New Yorker as evidence of being elitist and therefore anti-American. OK?
posted by scody at 7:53 PM on July 13, 2008


That's the funny thing about irony, sometimes you say something that really cleaves and hits the mark but everyone in the room still thinks you're a fucking asshole for saying it.

And you know what? You probably are.


Straightener -- You nailed it. I just want to make sure everyone who skips down this far in the thread doesn't miss your comment.
posted by Faze at 7:54 PM on July 13, 2008


"America: Love Being A Minority Female And Therefore Getting The Short End Of Almost Every Stick There Is OR LEAVE IT"
posted by DU at 10:09 PM on July 13

Now you're channeling Cynthia McKinney (who knows a thing or two about fists and bumps, not to mention the politics of fear), and $DEITY_OF_YOUR_CHOICE doesn't love haters...
posted by paulsc at 7:57 PM on July 13, 2008


It's really beyond the pale that The New Yorker would publish something like this. Though they sometimes do have good political satire.
posted by afu at 7:58 PM on July 13, 2008


She went 43 years without once being really proud of her country. She may have misspoke, or her remarks may have been nuanced, but allegations of her being unpatriotic aren't "preposterous."

Not to derail, but aren't you Canadian? Or is that Krrlson? I can't keep you conservative k-trolls straight.

Also, she said her adult life. So that's like 30 years. Plus, can't you love your country while being disappointed in it?

As for the cover itself I'm so used to seeing these kinds of smears crop up online constantly, especially during the primary where even the craziest Hillary supporters shared the same online space as me. So it's hard to get worked up about that kind of thing. If I saw the image without knowing it was from the New Yorker I would think it expressed someone's sincere view of Obama.

Speaking of crazy Hillary supporters Hillaryis44 is still online and they have a high-resolution copy of the cover. Hah.
posted by delmoi at 7:58 PM on July 13, 2008


scody: I know. what I'm saying is that when we get too cute with our satire, we make the fake anti-elitism a little too easy for them.
posted by jonmc at 8:01 PM on July 13, 2008


Yeah, she was really screwed by this country. Went to Whitney M. Young Magnet High School, Princeton University, Harvard Law, was on the staff of Mayor Daley, and now works for the University of Chicago making over a quarter-million dollars a year. That is one rough, under privileged life.

And god forbid she should form an opinion based on the lives and hardships of people other then herself! That alone is about as un-patriotic as you can get! Any and all judgments should be based entirely on how America has treated you personally!

What's the saying? "ask what your country can do for you, ask not what your country does to anyone else in the world!"

Something like that.
posted by delmoi at 8:04 PM on July 13, 2008 [3 favorites]


I can't believe this! Are we really cringing and wringing our hands over this?!

When The Producers first hit Broadway, the New Yorker did a cover with Hitler scowling in a theater chair. OMGNAZI!!
posted by JHarris at 8:09 PM on July 13, 2008 [4 favorites]


driven mainly by people who've never read, much less bought, The New Yorker.

I parsed that as:

driven mainly by people who've never read.....much less bought The New Yorker.
posted by gimonca at 8:11 PM on July 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


The people who insist that you be proud of your country without actually doing anything to make it something to be proud of are the least patriotic of all. America isn't automatically better than other countries merely by existing and having a certain flag flying over it; it's better if and only if we continue to demand much of ourselves. And frankly, merely walking our talk would accomplish about 90% of that. What Michelle said were the words of a mature, thoughtful citizen, as opposed to the sort of jingoistic mental eight-year-old whose actions, if any, serve to worsen our standing in the world, not improve it.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:12 PM on July 13, 2008 [31 favorites]


Its the cover of the New Yorker, you look at it and say "heh". The purpose of the illustration is so you know which one to pick up from the pile next to the toilet. Although, it will be funny watch "smart" republicans try to figure out a legit reason to be pissed off at this.
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 8:17 PM on July 13, 2008


Actually it may have the effect of making The National Review think twice before doing one like it in all seriousness -- consider it pre-mocked, as it were.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:21 PM on July 13, 2008 [3 favorites]


Look, it's a New Yorker cartoon. I am pretty sure it makes no sense.
posted by ALongDecember at 8:27 PM on July 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


And god forbid she should form an opinion based on the lives and hardships of people other then herself! That alone is about as un-patriotic as you can get! Any and all judgments should be based entirely on how America has treated you personally!

What's the saying? "ask what your country can do for you, ask not what your country does to anyone else in the world!"

Something like that.


DU was implying that because she is an African American woman she was justified in her feelings because she had always received the short end of the stick. My point was that it is patently false that she has always received the short end of the stick.
posted by vorpal bunny at 8:28 PM on July 13, 2008


I think that Obama is more visibly annoyed by the media — in an eye-rolling sort of way — than any other candidate I've ever seen.
posted by Weebot at 8:28 PM on July 13, 2008


52, white, male, having gotten all the breaks America can give a white male, I am so not proud of my country. Haven't been for most of my life, but it hasn't prevented me from benefiting from all the breaks America can give a white male. But I'm sure there are people working on fixing that oversight.

The New Yorker has had a few classic covers in its million years on the newsstand. This is not one of them. This is one of the much more common examples of an idea with high potential being sabotaged by the fact that it was done by The New Yorker... in The New Yorker Style... with The New Yorker Attitude. One of its saving graces is that, by using one of their cartoonists who draw people that don't look like people, the caricatures don't look like the Obamas.
posted by wendell at 8:35 PM on July 13, 2008


And I think the Media really enjoys annoying Obama and gets a big kick out it when he does that eye-rolling thing.
posted by wendell at 8:37 PM on July 13, 2008


Christ, what an asshole.
posted by marble at 8:40 PM on July 13, 2008 [7 favorites]


cashman: This guy is a moron to think that absent context, this is anything but an encapsulating of people's ideas, completely free from criticism. Fool.

Except that there is context here and it's the cover of the New Yorker. Look, anyone who would take this at fake value is already unlikely to vote for Obama and what? We're supposed to pretend that art shouldn't exist because this election is just SO FUCKING IMPORTANT? Like it or not, it's your choice, but objecting to it? That's only a miniscule bit less "white" than thinking it's a portrayal that's pretty much on the mark.
posted by dhammond at 8:42 PM on July 13, 2008 [3 favorites]


oops, that should face value, obvs.
posted by dhammond at 8:44 PM on July 13, 2008


I think Robert Caro said that politicians regard journalists as being either total idiots, or useful idiots. I never thought I would see the New Yorker somehow descend into the former camp.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:47 PM on July 13, 2008


-- America isn't automatically better than other countries merely by existing and having a certain flag flying over it; it's better if and only if we continue to demand much of ourselves.

That's as ridiculous as it is offensive to the rest of the world.
posted by peacay at 8:52 PM on July 13, 2008


I think that Obama is more visibly annoyed by the media — in an eye-rolling sort of way — than any other candidate I've ever seen.

I don't know about that... McCain was pretty non-plussed by the media back in 2000.
posted by smackfu at 8:54 PM on July 13, 2008


let's just hope the NYer does a 'satrical' cover on McCain and his lovely wife.
posted by brandz at 8:56 PM on July 13, 2008


I actually approve of this.

The whole "Obama is a Muslim" meme seems absolutely retarded to anyone with an IQ above 30, but the mouth-breathers who have been ruining this country for the past 8 years have fallen for it hook, line, and sinker.

Good on the New Yorker for tackling this bullshit head on.
posted by Afroblanco at 8:57 PM on July 13, 2008 [7 favorites]


I'm looking forward to their next parody cover with John McCain complaining about the lousy room service at the Hanoi Hilton while passing the time with a game of solitaire.
posted by kirkaracha at 8:58 PM on July 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


>I fully support any media output that assumes people are smart, rather that what we've become used to. I support things that challenge us by dragging the dirt and stupidity out into the light, where the sun can disinfect it and we can laugh at it all.

This is a fair point, but still... ick.

Yeah, sure, it's certainly and obviously satire, but that cover made my skin crawl.

I think it did so in part because it is a cover-- it's not buried among the other cartoons of contemplative dogs and hapless businessmen, there to tickle the self-congratulatory fancies of the New Yorker's regular readers, but instead is something Big and Colorful and Prominent, made to be included in Big Media's diet of collective memes and images.

It's a bald attempt at Cultural Relevance-- the mandarins unlocking their own gates, charging the barbarians, brandishing that device against which no army can possibly stand: Droll Observation. Bravely, the wits of the New Yorker ride against the barbarians, on the barbarians' own field of battle! Huzzah. Huzzah. Huzzah.

The thing is, what wins elections is the propagation of a caricature-- you must make crude, hyperbolic representations of your own virtues, and more importantly, crude, hyperbolic representations of your opponent's vices.

You must make your cartoons simpler, more easily remembered, and more directly connected to the fight/flight impulses of a large number of people than the cartoons created by the opposition.

The great advantage of the GOP has been that it makes better, cruder cartoons, and repeats them more often. You don't challenge the other sides' cartoons by reproducing them, even in watercolor.

The ambivalence and self-consciousness of art have just one function in politics: Losing gracefully. What defines and distinguishes political rhetoric is its dogmatism: There can be sarcasm, but no irony. And even the curvature of sarcasm is a scythe better straightened into a simple sword.

From a business perspective, as others have suggested, they'll sell a few more copies with this cover than they otherwise would, and sure, a few more people will talk about the New Yorker than they otherwise would, but "brand" is the only thing the New Yorker really has, and it's what this cover dilutes... The New Yorker's editors are trying to play the game of politics with the rules of humor, and botching both.

Looked at this from another perspective, just because you take the cover of The (sneering, unabashedly political) Weekly Standard and put it on the (whimsical, liberal, but aesthetic rather than engage') New Yorker, doesn't make that cover funny.

And to return to the original point: Yeah, sure ... but still... ick.
posted by darth_tedious at 8:59 PM on July 13, 2008 [7 favorites]


I cant wait for Stewart/ Colbert's take this on the entire episode tomorrow. Its so nice of the New Yorker and the media community to hand deliver such awesome material to them on their first day back from vacation.
posted by Parallax.Error at 9:00 PM on July 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


The cover was hacked by the state of North Carolina to respect Jesse Helms' dying wish.
posted by jimmythefish at 9:04 PM on July 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


Some of you are running in more elite circles than you realize. It's nice that you see "New Yorker" and it instantly has all this context for you, but the thing will appear in tons of places with no context. Even with "the New Yorker" plastered on there, that means nothing to a huge segment of the population. Turn off the computer and go outside. People see things and hear things long enough, and it becomes reality. Put enough images (false and imagined or real and warped) out there and it will become reality to many, many people. And sorry, but there are just too many people without access to websites that deconstruct these things, without computers even, without folks constantly challenging ideas. You're on Metafilter, but it's not a Meta world.

This is currently abuzz and will be all tomorrow. But for a lot of people this won't get to them until the end of the week, until next week. For people who just see the cover randomly, it will connect with those random rumors and emails and just be a plus one. Just another thing on the stack.

The context will not follow it. And you can't just write off anybody who would believe it, because a lot of people that would are just uninformed, not complete morons. This is just more crap to have to try to explain. Whatever. Maybe since race has been an issue in places, we can draw him up with gargantuan lips, jet black skin with big white eyes, and have Michelle with a bone in her nose wet nursing a white baby on her exposed charcoal tit, in the name of precognitive art. That'll learn 'em! Anybody who looks at that and doesn't think "I'd vote for him" is a jerk and shouldn't be allowed to be alone with sharp objects. Let's draw up that cover - cause you know anybody who sees that it came from metafilter will totally get the context.
posted by cashman at 9:04 PM on July 13, 2008 [16 favorites]


> OMG! All the unsophisticated Republicans out there who read the New Yorker aren't going to
> understand the context of this cartoon!

OMG! I bet they do. I bet they're all like "The faster he lurches toward the center and looks like politics as usual the harder they'll have to push the image that he's revolutionary change incarnate." OMFG! Unsophisticated Republicans catch New Yorker in dorky Tina Brown flashback moment. They'll have fun with this one on Fark. LULZ!
posted by jfuller at 9:05 PM on July 13, 2008


The guy's mistake was using the concept of patriotism in his own defense in the first place.

I'd really like to see anyone here define "patriotism" without using an equally meaningless phrase such as "love of country." It can't be done, because it doesn't mean anything. It's the beginning, or the end, of an ad hominem argument, and nothing more.
posted by facetious at 9:09 PM on July 13, 2008


Look, it's a New Yorker cartoon. I am pretty sure it makes no sense.

"I wish I was taller."
posted by krinklyfig at 9:09 PM on July 13, 2008 [5 favorites]


As dhammond says, there's really, really obvious context to anybody who has ever picked up The New Yorker. The cover struck me as funny because it's so obviously all untruths - it wouldn't be funny if there was even a hint of any of these "criticisms" being real.

I guess I just have never understood outrage over satire by people who are on the "same side" of the topic as the satirizer. Though I suppose I understand the point that some idiot somewhere won't get that The New Yorker isn't really Obamaphobic and will think the artist "makes some good points". I guess I tend to just write off that (hopefully tiny) minority anyway; maybe that minority isn't as small as I like to tell myself it is.
posted by BaxterG4 at 9:11 PM on July 13, 2008


If I saw the image without knowing it was from the New Yorker I would think it expressed someone's sincere view of Obama.

Bingo. In fact, I'm pretty sure it does express someone's sincere view of Obama, even if that someone is not any of the people who orchestrated its creation or put it on the cover.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:15 PM on July 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


Seriously? Crying offense and demanding balance?

Let the fucking Bushies demand that everyone on their side is 'on message,' let them screen the attendees at their political rallies, let them preemptively deploy the word "controversial" to slant the debate. We don't have to be so cowardly that we quail at how some imagined ignoramus understands what's on the cover of our intellectual newsweekly.

The last few years have shown that political correctness -- long supposed a lefty ill -- is very much a disease of the right wing. You don't have to try and win back that mantle.
posted by grobstein at 9:15 PM on July 13, 2008 [3 favorites]


It seems to be quite obvious satire (of the caricature) to me... but I have a sort of backward reaction to this sort of thing, and often think the Fox news grabs on I see the net are some sort of skit show, before I remember.

Essentially, the (obviously monolithic and nuance-free) US media borg has used up all its leave passes on this sort of thing, which is a very big shame.
posted by pompomtom at 9:16 PM on July 13, 2008


In fact, I'm pretty sure it does express someone's sincere view of Obama, even if that someone is not any of the people who orchestrated its creation or put it on the cover.

Uh, that's the whole point. Most good satire has a social context which wouldn't work in those honkey backward red states where 'irony' is merely the opposite of 'woody' and the world is 4.56 thousand years old and aren't they all stupid compared to us New Yorkers hahahahaha.
posted by jimmythefish at 9:25 PM on July 13, 2008


peaceay writes: That's as ridiculous as it is offensive to the rest of the world.

Y'know, you're entirely right, at least about the second half of the sentence. I led off with the concept I set out to disparage and ended up appearing to climb on board it, simply by not taking the time to edit. Please substitute 'something to be proud of' or some near equivalent for 'better', at least in the second instance.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:34 PM on July 13, 2008


Did anybody think Jonathan Swift really wanted poor Irish kids to be eaten by the rich? I guess probably someone.
posted by BaxterG4 at 9:36 PM on July 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


here's what a commentator on andrew sullivans blog had to say
Here's what's going to happen. Fox News is going to have a whole day where they talk about nothing but this and repeatedly show the image just like they did with Wright. Then Limbaugh will be saying "Well look, these liberals can make drawing like this and we call it harmless satire, so why did they give me so much grief when I played the song Obama the Magic Negro on my show. It's liberal hypocrisy I tell you!
I think that's about right. This isn't about "All the unsophisticated Republicans out there who read the New Yorker" This is about everyone who is going to see the image. on TV while people "Talk about it". The picture is on the front page of Hillaryis44.org (which is still going strong and hating on Obama)

I think that Obama is more visibly annoyed by the media — in an eye-rolling sort of way — than any other candidate I've ever seen.

I haven't been watching much TV. Or any TV actually, so I have no idea. But from what I've been reading the media has been pretty idiotic.
posted by delmoi at 9:42 PM on July 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


Heh.

America is stupid.
posted by Artw at 9:48 PM on July 13, 2008


I saw this and thought: There is No Way a black person drew this cartoon. I googled Barry Blitt and although the only portraits I can find are drawings, I'm pretty sure that I'm right. What an asshole.
posted by serazin at 9:52 PM on July 13, 2008


It is patently false that she has always received the short end of the stick.

That merely puts her in a better position to help those that have, not a worse position from which to judge.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 9:59 PM on July 13, 2008


Oh yeah, and -

isbarackobamamuslim.com
posted by Afroblanco at 10:04 PM on July 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


For what it's worth, when John McCain was born, it was called the New Amsterdamer.
posted by allen.spaulding at 10:08 PM on July 13, 2008 [11 favorites]


let's just hope the NYer does a 'satrical' cover on McCain and his lovely wife.

The pig says, "My wife is a slut."
posted by Poolio at 10:08 PM on July 13, 2008 [4 favorites]


Oh yeah, and -

isjohnmccainold.com
posted by ALongDecember at 10:23 PM on July 13, 2008


My favorite stat is that 1% of Americans think Obama is Jewish.
posted by wolfewarrior at 10:34 PM on July 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


Context is everything. But I think even if I did see that on the cover of National Review, I would assume it was a slam against the ridiculous rumors. As a right-leaning guy, I think those stupid rumors only work against conservatives. Unfortunately, polls have shown that too high a percentage of people actually believe them.

I get some of those anti-Obama e-mails, and I always reply with a Snopes link, and a simple sentence that there may be plenty of legitimate reasons to not like Obama, but making up reasons is not productive.

Oh, and whenever I fist-bump someone now, I comment that it's a black-power-terrorist symbol.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 10:37 PM on July 13, 2008


ericb tells us the cartoonist wrote "It seemed to me that depicting the concept would show it as the fear-mongering ridiculousness that it is.'"

I can't wait for the next issue, targeted to white voters in Kentucky and West Virginia, depicting the Obamas singing about how beneficent "massa" is while picking his cotton, shoving watermelon and fried chicken into their liver-lipped mouths, collecting welfare checks and then raping innocent white women.

I man, if you really want to address middle bitter America's real fears about an Obama presidency.
posted by orthogonality at 10:39 PM on July 13, 2008


I "got" it immediately. I laughed. It's funny.

There is an email being relentlessly forwarded claiming that Obama's campaign is getting millions in contributions from foreign hostile governments. I heard a member of a group of Hispanic women for McCain interviwed on National Public Radio; she was adamant in her belief that Obama attended a Muslim school in Indonesia as a boy, even after the interviewer corrected her facts.

I'm trying to picture what a similarly satirical cover cartoon about McCain and his wife would involve.




Still trying.
posted by longsleeves at 10:39 PM on July 13, 2008


The image in question is already being described as "great" and "awesome" on FreeRepublic, with a few commenters mentioning that they'll be buying a copy and taking the cover to Kinko's to make posters.

Thanks, New Yorker. You've managed to outdo Der Sturmer for fascist masturbatory material.
posted by Avenger at 10:48 PM on July 13, 2008


I'm trying to picture what a similarly satirical cover cartoon about McCain and his wife would involve.

Probably something like this. I don't usually like "can you imagine" arguments, but do you think some conservative magazine would run a cartoon like that on it's cover "ironically"? Sure, the McCain as crazed PTSD former POW/VC Collaborator has never had any purchase (unlike the claims against Kerry)

Also, apparently before Clinton was first elected someone made the claim that his passport files had been broken into and that he was or had been a KGB agent because he traveled to Moscow, or something like that.
posted by delmoi at 10:54 PM on July 13, 2008


I took one look at it and laughed. Then I moved on. But I'm probably smarter than most of you.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 10:57 PM on July 13, 2008


I'm trying to picture what a similarly satirical cover cartoon about McCain and his wife would involve.

McCain napping in a Barcalounger next to a flaming Constitution with Cindy passed out clutching a bottle of pills?
posted by Bromius at 10:57 PM on July 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


I wonder if it would be a good investment to buy ten copies and stash them away.
posted by longsleeves at 10:59 PM on July 13, 2008


"McCain napping in a Barcalounger next to a flaming Constitution with Cindy passed out clutching a bottle of pills?"

Sincere thanks, Bromius. That's it exactly and funny as hell. I feel sorta obtuse now.
posted by longsleeves at 11:04 PM on July 13, 2008


McCain napping in a Barcalounger next to a flaming Constitution with Cindy passed out clutching a bottle of pills?

It's only funny if Cindy has an afro.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:07 PM on July 13, 2008


longsleeves writes "I'm trying to picture what a similarly satirical cover cartoon about McCain and his wife would involve. "

Thought bubble over McCain's head depicts him bloody and dangling by chained arms from a wall in the Hanoi Hilton while runty grinning buck-toothed Japanese-stereotype North Vietnamese beat and electrocute him.

Below is the actual McCain who is thinking this thought bubble, who is mimicking the remembered Vietnamese torturers, doing exactly the same to a Muslin prisoner shackled just like remembered McCain. To the side, Cindy is popping pills from a giant bottle labeled "American Amnesia".
posted by orthogonality at 11:37 PM on July 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm glad shit like this is our primary discourse on the merits of our Presidential candidates.
posted by dirigibleman at 11:39 PM on July 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


Some highlights from the comments on this Politico thread:
FINALLY.... the democrats are getting some of their own medicine. John McCain might be old, but he loves America! I LOVE THIS COVER!!!! It speaks a thousand words!

WOW. It sure took some cajones to put that on the cover of the New Yorker. In all honesty, this is what a vast majority of people are thinking but won't say out loud due to political correctness. If Obama is elected, God only knows how far this country will sink.

All they did was put into one picture what a lot of people are thinking.

Looks like Obama and Omama to me. Did anyone notice the burning flag in fireplace ? very fitting,,,New yorker rocks,,,
In other words, the right wing will now uncritically accept this as their image. Now those who love droll irony will drolly appreciate the irony of this. The practical effect, however, is just terrible. This image is acceptable ground now, the right wing's newest hit — and see, a lefty magazine printed it!

Can't take the heat, can you DEM LOSERS!
posted by argybarg at 11:47 PM on July 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm glad shit like this is our primary discourse on the merits of our Presidential candidates.

Try to talk about wiretapping and see where that gets you.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:48 PM on July 13, 2008


,,,New yorker rocks,,,

HAHAHA, these nitwit dittoheads should tell that to my neocon parents who canceled their New Yorker sub (an Xmas gift from my sister!) a few years ago when it got too "anti-American" for them.
posted by scody at 11:53 PM on July 13, 2008


I have to agree with wendell and I think jonmc here: this doesn't work, because it's done in that drippy oh-ho-ho-ho aren't-we-the-New-Yorker style that sucks out all the emotional content. An artist with a bit of guts could have really made this work.

The satirical McCain cover would have him staggering all around the stage, leering, pointing at an explosion, and crapping his pants.
posted by furiousthought at 11:54 PM on July 13, 2008


It's nice that you see "New Yorker" and it instantly has all this context for you, but the thing will appear in tons of places with no context. Even with "the New Yorker" plastered on there, that means nothing to a huge segment of the population.

You know, if the vast right wing conspiracy's Smear-O-Matic Panopticon Machine, until recently treated as all but omnipotent by friend and foe alike, can do no better, in the run-up to a crucial election, than to wilfully misconstrue a satirical New Yorker cover illustration - indeed if anything from the pages of The New Yorker stays in the Machine's feeding cycle for even a single 24-hour period, because lord knows nothing Seymour Hersh wrote on those pages about the Bush Administration ever lasted that long in that stinking maw - if this is the case, if this is really all they've got, with several months already gone to begin preparing for the inevitability of Obama's nomination?

Well, then as an observer from just north of 49, let me say I'm really looking forward to President Obama's second term.
posted by gompa at 12:12 AM on July 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


One of my acquaintances, who is not my friend, keeps sending out mass e-mails that she believes prove that Obama is Muslim. She is the stupidest person I know but she will vote on November 4th. There are lots of people like her out there. If there weren't, then the rumors would not have any traction in the first place.

If the point of the joke is the ridiculousness of the rumors, then the target is the ignorant and racist people who believe them. The audience for the joke would be people who read the New Yorker and recognize the absurdity of the caricatures. That's a very thin slice of America. So the trade off here is a nasty elitist joke aimed at credulous fools versus having this image out there. It's not a good trade.
posted by rdr at 12:15 AM on July 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


if the vast right wing conspiracy's Smear-O-Matic Panopticon Machine, until recently treated as all but omnipotent by friend and foe alike, can do no better, in the run-up to a crucial election, than to wilfully misconstrue a satirical New Yorker cover illustration

Heh. It reminds me of Bill O'Reilly titling his latest collection of bloviations A Bold Fresh Piece of Humanity after what Sister Mary Lurana called him in third grade, apparently still unaware after all these years that "bold, fresh piece of humanity" is Nunspeak for "disrespectful, rude piece of crap."
posted by scody at 12:26 AM on July 14, 2008


Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning.
Funny, I don't see Barry Blitt on that list.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 6:58 PM on July 13 [+] [!]
No, but you do see that the 2008 prize went to Michael fucking Ramirez, don't you? That alone should tell you that the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning isn't worth shit.
posted by Guy Smiley at 12:49 AM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Did anyone notice the burning flag in fireplace ? very fitting,,,New yorker rocks,,,

See, right wing rags wouldn't do this (parody McCain). They correctly judge the capabilities of the audience.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:55 AM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


The New Yorker: cartoons of contemplative dogs and hapless businessmen.
posted by ryanrs at 1:01 AM on July 14, 2008


My point was that it is patently false that she has always received the short end of the stick.

No, she got something which is in its way worse, because I can promise you this (and speak from personal experience) that when you're a brown person with an Ivy League law degree and a prestigious job, it doesn't stop the "loss prevention officer" from following you around Neimans or Nordstroms when you're shopping for the clothes to wear to said job, and the social events which go along. It doesn't make the taxi cabs magically stop for you. It doesn't stop the police from following you when you drive through the "wrong" neighborhood, especially at night, and running the tag on your car to make sure it's not stolen, because how many brown people legitimately drive nice cars like that? (Ask Jonny Gammage about that. Oh wait, you can't.) It doesn't stop the assumptions, it just makes you subject to a whole new set of them, the most insidious being the "oh, an affirmative action hire" slur or the backhand of being praised for being "articulate" or enduring surprise that you're well-educated.

It doesn't make you safer to be in certain parts of this country on your own, especially at night. It doesn't take away the worry when you're in questionable places about whether or not you're going to get static, or worse. It doesn't insulate you from having your body, hair style and the predominant colors in your wardrobe, even your name not simply assessed, but assessed in comparison with that of white majority peers, and found lacking when it's insufficiently similar.

And it puts a weight on you, because you know that you could have law degrees from Harvard, Yale, Columbia and Princeton but it wouldn't make you able to untie a single noose hung to intimidate, save the James Byrds and Esmin Greens, undo the utterly shoddy representation given Mychal Bell or the Newark four. There are, if you're self-aware enough, many moments of despair when you know that your efforts -- unless you become part of an embarrassingly small number and get elected to Congress or higher -- aren't going to make significant inroads in the lingering disproportionate rates of poverty, miseducation, violence, incarceration and other social factors which sap the power and restrict the progress of your peers who have received the short end of the stick for their entire lives.

No, Michelle hasn't received the short end of the stick. She's received the barbed end.
posted by Dreama at 1:31 AM on July 14, 2008 [57 favorites]


More proof that the USA has dumbed itself down: presidential candidates have to apologize for saying that children should learn things.
posted by DreamerFi at 2:25 AM on July 14, 2008


[a cartoon of a dog looking at a cartoonist: "On the internet, nobody knows you're being ironic."]

On the one hand, American political cartooning needs less hand-holding and stating of the bleeding obvious. (If your cartoon Obama wears an 'OBAMA' badge, please consider another career.)

On the other hand, that cover is the kind of 'satire' that saw the light turning red, slammed on the brakes in the wet at high speed and overshot right into the middle of the intersection. Steve Bell most likely could have pulled it off, but as wendell rightly says, the New Yorker's house style (best summarised as 'stick up the arse') is a humour desiccant.

Jesse Helms' death reminded me of Bill Hicks, for obvious reasons, and I had no fucking idea who Helms was when I first heard that damn descent into the comedy underworld. This just reminds me futher that presidential politics remains at a basement mezzanine level of sophistication.
posted by holgate at 2:41 AM on July 14, 2008


Needs more E.B. White.
posted by Haruspex at 4:59 AM on July 14, 2008


I think that Obama is more visibly annoyed by the media - in an eye-rolling sort of way - than any other candidate I've ever seen.

If Jesse Ventura announces tonight that he's going to run for Senate, you'll have a fresh competitor for that title.
posted by gimonca at 5:18 AM on July 14, 2008


DU: America: Love Being A Minority Female And Therefore Getting The Short End Of Almost Every Stick There Is OR LEAVE IT

Uh, as of 2004, both Black and Asian-American women have higher personal incomes than White American women. And, yes, the study omits cases with zero income, so these numbers are not skewed by so-called stay-at-home moms. So who's getting the short end of what?
posted by kid ichorous at 5:22 AM on July 14, 2008


I like the cover. If the mouth breathers think it validates their claims about Obama then that makes it even funnier.
posted by wrapper at 5:28 AM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


DU was implying that because she is an African American woman she was justified in her feelings because she had always received the short end of the stick. My point was that it is patently false that she has always received the short end of the stick.

In other words, "I said something to obfuscate the situation using a statement I mistakenly believe is literally true, so you can't criticize my attempt, because objective literality is the only measure of a statement's valence." Or something like that.
posted by Mental Wimp at 6:21 AM on July 14, 2008


This must be some new use of "obfuscate," to mean, "Make a point I disagree with."
posted by grobstein at 6:25 AM on July 14, 2008


Some of you seem to think that this is harmless, perhaps at best satire that missed the mark, but I think you grossly underestimate the stupidity of many voters and the power of such images and themes to strike fear into their hearts come election day. Remnick's stupidity though is clear. By this lame satire he has achieved what Karl Rove never could in other leading publications, or perhaps that was just Karl on his knees in front of Remnick.
posted by caddis at 6:29 AM on July 14, 2008


Uh, as of 2004, both Black and Asian-American women have higher personal incomes than White American women.

You're reading that wrong. The study may omit zero-income stay-at-home moms, but all it demonstrates is that when you're married to a white man, there is less pressure on you to shoulder an equal share of the economic burden. The black male/female incomes are separated by a gulf of $4000. The white male/female, $14,000.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 6:30 AM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Uh, as of 2004, both Black and Asian-American women have higher personal incomes than White American women.

Nah kid ichorous. That's a Wikipedia typo. Here's the graph with the numbers at census.gov. Someone input White, Non-hispanic women's income (18,379) in the spot for Black women in the Wikipedia link. The correct figure is 17,383 to White (non-hispanic) Women's 18,379.



but continue with the "we're losin the country man!" stuff if you want, it's pretty funny.
posted by cashman at 6:31 AM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the corrigenda, cashman, but why is the observation that the broad-brush term "minority" is not necessarily synonymous with "underprivileged, low class" equivalent to some kind of lamentation about "losing the country?" Are all statements about "minorities" immune to any factual validation?

Though apparently an error was made on the value for African Americans (first time I've ever been let down by WP, actually), it still appears that Asian American men and women do sit at the top stratum of the personal income graph. Doesn't this fact alone call for a more nuanced use of the word "minority?"
posted by kid ichorous at 6:43 AM on July 14, 2008


The "What" Of What's Wrong With Barack Osama TNY Cover

Barry Blitt Defends His New Yorker Cover Art Of Obama:
I think the idea that the Obamas are branded as unpatriotic [let alone as terrorists] in certain sectors is preposterous. It seemed to me that depicting the concept would show it as the fear-mongering ridiculousness that it is.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:54 AM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


That's fine with me, dude. It was the "So who's getting the short end of what?" part that prompted my signifying of Chris Rock's "we're losin the country, man!" stand-up comedy segment.

I didn't even get engaged with that discussion, because it's not really a prominent part of the problem I have with this cover. Honestly that wasn't really even the locus of DU's argument really. Even so, enough African Americans have served this country when the country didn't even consider them true citizens, that I think anybody jumping on Michelle for what she clumsily said really seems to have pretty ill intent. And DU saw that and I guess reacted and responded, and now to pick over the semantics of the word "minority" seems to be taking a tangent, then a tangent off the tangent, and it's just really not an interesting discussion at the moment. But sure, nuance is good. But if we're going to unpack the term minority, we're going to have to do that with why personal income is higher and a whole bunch of other things. That's too far away from this topic, for me, at the moment.
posted by cashman at 6:56 AM on July 14, 2008


Inside the New Yorker is a long article on Obama's political experience in Chicago.

Interview with New Yorker editor David Remnick.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:00 AM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Can't wait for the next "OMG Muslims totally freak out cartoons, LOL!" thread.
posted by Artw at 7:04 AM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


No, that's fine, it's just that I don't think Michelle Obama really needs any overbroad "brown people" litanies to justify her statement. Felix Betachat upthread does a fine job of arguing why a Patriotic American with a political conscience (and a spine) might say the same thing.
posted by kid ichorous at 7:10 AM on July 14, 2008


Today Show: Does Magazine Cover Got Too Far? [video | 03:58]
posted by ericb at 7:54 AM on July 14, 2008


Not to derail, but aren't you Canadian? Or is that Krrlson? I can't keep you conservative k-trolls straight.

Also, she said her adult life. So that's like 30 years. Plus, can't you love your country while being disappointed in it?


First, I am not Canadian. Second, I am not a troll, as I mean 95% of the things I write on this website, and 100% of the things that I have written in this thread. You should know better than to throw that word around. Third, your correction is noted. Fourth, my comment was that whether or not Michelle Obama is unpatriotic, the charge certainly isn't preposterous. Of course you can love something and be disappointed in it, but to never be "proud" of one's country is not the mark of a patriot in the eyes of most people who manage to think dispassionately.

Personally, I have little use for patriotism, as it tends to work its way into war and fealty to the state, both of which I loathe.
posted by Kwantsar at 7:58 AM on July 14, 2008


I wish they would stop publishing A Modest Proposal; I am certain that the proles view it as advocacy of babby-eating.
posted by everichon at 8:02 AM on July 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


Also: that Today Show clip makes me despair.
posted by everichon at 8:05 AM on July 14, 2008


From the interview (linked by kirkaracha above) with New Yoker's editor David Remnick:
"Normally I'd want the work to speak for itself — normally I'd not want to explain jokes, or short stories, or a piece of non-fiction that we publish — people always read things the way they're going to read them. In this case, since I see that it's stirred the pot somewhat, and some people have misinterpreted it very quickly, I'm talking to you. The image tries to be as clear a possible. The title tries to make sure of that. (Ed. The title does not appear on the cover, but is listed in the Table of Contents, in the magazine and online.)"
posted by ericb at 8:13 AM on July 14, 2008


everichon--I'm not buying the Swift analogy at all.

everyone--for a good and clever argument on why this cover is so offensive and misses its supposed satirical mark, see here.
posted by ornate insect at 8:14 AM on July 14, 2008


Anger, anguish and analysis: Bloggers react to New Yorker cover
"On the right, some conservatives agree the cover is offensive and tasteless, not just to Obama but to them. It is meant to show conservatives as 'ignorant racists', says Philip Klein at the American Spectator. If Obama loses, says Jim Geraghty at National Review's Campaign Spot, the magazine will blame it on 'Republican smear artists.' Ed Morrissey at Hot Air says Obama is lucky the cover will divert attention from the article inside.

David Brody, a Christian conservative blogger at CBN, says the cover perpetuates stereotypes and creates danger for Obama: 'While The New Yorker may think that portrayal isn’t accurate, Obama’s critics on the right think the picture is spot on. I mean, this thing has ‘copy and paste' written all over it. Expect to see this jpeg picture popping up in conservative emails everywhere.'"
posted by ericb at 8:19 AM on July 14, 2008


everyone--for a good and clever argument on why this cover is so offensive and misses its supposed satirical mark, see here.

Clever? The whole thing centers around the incredible strawman suggestion that David Remnick would object to a cover satirizing McCain. And what is meant by your use of "supposed"? Implying that the cover was not satirical is a ridiculous bad-faith tactic, like Hillary's "he's-not-a-muslim-as-far-as-i-know."

Remnick: "Oh, we get around to everybody I hope." Search for New Yorker covers on "Bush."
posted by grobstein at 8:36 AM on July 14, 2008


It's like when liberals laugh about the way Reagan used "Born in the USA" as a campaign song. "Ha ha," they said, "didn't they listen to the lyrics?"

"Ha ha," the Republicans said. "No, we didn't. And neither did he voters. Thanks, Bruce!"
posted by Bookhouse at 8:40 AM on July 14, 2008 [13 favorites]


grobstein--if and when the New Yorker satirizes McCain on its cover, I can guarantee it won't be half as incendiary as this cover is. To do so it would have to show McCain being tortured Guantanomo style, threatening to nuke Iran, or making love to George Bush. I've read Blitt and Remnick's defense of the cover and I understand it's meant as satire. But I'm not alone in thinking the satire misfired, and misfired badly.
posted by ornate insect at 8:44 AM on July 14, 2008


On further reflection, I'm not getting why this childish scrawl is being treated as some kind of Promethean technology irresponsibly leaked into enemy hands. Is anyone suggesting that the National Review couldn't just have hired a 5 year old to create its like, or that numerous such... specimens don't already exist, aren't already circulating as nitwit email attachments?

Or, see it this way: if 50 percent of the country already believes a bunch of libelous apocrypha about your candidate, you can't afford to treat it as a non-issue. Bringing the myth front and center as early as possible might be the best strategy.
posted by kid ichorous at 8:49 AM on July 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


All right, I made the two-word Danish remark way up the thread last night, alluding the the popular sentiment (well, the non-Muslim populace) that: Hey, it's just a cartoon!

But a secondary thread has emerged here, on loving one's country, and I want to say I'm with McCain on this one. I was in Scandinavia for a half a year or so in 1972 when the U.S. government was bombing the hell out of North Vietnam. I had been active in the anti-war movement for a long time, but being in Sweden, especially...boy, there was a lot of anti-Americanism, which I pretty much endorsed. I was not proud of what the U.S. was doing.

But after a while, I really began to miss my home country: its multicultural wonderfulness, its music, its huge beautiful landscape, its aspirations...I know I am pointing out the obvious difference between loving one's country and loving one's government.

Of course, I love every country I've been in for different reasons. I would rather pledge allegiance to the world than the flag, but, then, I'm an elitist Henrik Hertzberg fan.

And speaking of elitism, wouldn't you rather have a real elitist like Adlai Stevenson or John F. Kennedy or Barack Obama in office than a non-elitist like Nixon or a pretend non-elitist like George Bush? Isn't the leader of a nation traditionally drawn from the elite? In principal, I like the idea of a smart blue collar president, but that's not the way politics works in the USA.

It's always one millionaire against another. Obama, it must be said, was not born into the elite, and that is one very big difference.
posted by kozad at 8:51 AM on July 14, 2008


1) Never underestimate the ignorance of the majority.
2) Never underestimate the readiness of the power elite to exploit that ignorance.
3) ----
4) Profit to the exclusion of all others.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:58 AM on July 14, 2008


I disagree that the cover "misses it's supposed satirical mark"; it seems to nail it pretty handily. A significant chunk of people are convinced that Obama is a muslim--many more than are convinced that he is "property", or a slave, or whatever that goofy Kos pisstake was alluding to.

I don't really equate Blitt's cover to the genius of Swift. I'm just disgusted at the hand-wringing I'm seeing here by people taking the magazine to task as though its rightful mission was to step carefully and avoid riling up ignorant voters.
posted by everichon at 8:59 AM on July 14, 2008 [4 favorites]


everichon--I can assure you there are many more voters who will not vote for Obama because he's black (though most won't admit it) than there are those who won't vote for him because of the nonsense that's he's a muslim terrorist. Indeed, the "rumors" of the latter are just thinly disguised excuses for the former.
posted by ornate insect at 9:06 AM on July 14, 2008


Hendrik Hertzberg, senior editor for The New Yorker, defends the cover [video | 06:53].
posted by ericb at 9:08 AM on July 14, 2008


The whole thing centers around the incredible strawman suggestion that David Remnick would object to a cover satirizing McCain.

No, it doesn't. That was a side point. I'm a little amused that you missed the point of the article's satire, given the thread topic. I guess another lesson is not to use (clumsy, tacky, student-newspapery) satire if you want to make a clear, unambiguous point, especially -- and here's the article's real point -- if your satire is going to involve violent racist imagery.
posted by dirigibleman at 9:15 AM on July 14, 2008


A significant chunk of people are convinced that Obama is a muslim--many more than are convinced that he is "property", or a slave, or whatever that goofy Kos pisstake was alluding to.

Oh, and *thank you.* Democrats really need to understand this: the GOP isn't taking potshots at Obama's race - to do so would be counteractive, as overt racism against Blacks is a significant taboo, even in their camp. Instead, they're using the whiff of a foreign, enemy religion, a myth they've successfully attached to him based on little more than an exotic name and a passport. This is a far more conniving malfunction than simple racism.
posted by kid ichorous at 9:16 AM on July 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


You may be correct about the subtext of the "muslim" thing, ornate, but are you really saying that the New Yorker has some kind of obligation to be a more circumspect component of Obama's election campaign? I don't think that it has such an obligation.
posted by everichon at 9:17 AM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


everichon--you are correct that the New Yorker has no such obligation, but neither do we have an obligation to simply accept the argument that the satire is successful as satire. If this image was on the cover on the National Review it would be equally offensive. Four years after the Swiftboating of Kerry, I'm weary of how easily these distortions take hold in the public consciousness. To reiterate: if the New Yorker publishes an equally incendiary image of McCain, the playing field might be leveled somewhat. I'm not holding my breath.
posted by ornate insect at 9:35 AM on July 14, 2008


The pig says, "My wife is a slut."




Now that's a complaint.
posted by Zambrano at 9:50 AM on July 14, 2008


ornate, you and I both want Obama elected, it seems, and I am weary of "how easily these distortions take hold", too. I am skeptical, though, that the "cost" of this cover--some perceived risk that the New Yorker is going to clumsily cost Obama the election--is greater than the benefit, which is cracking my shit up at the expense of dumb people who are convinced that the cover is documentary.

Here's hoping that Obama does win, and that the NYer does not inadvertently cost him the election.
posted by everichon at 9:58 AM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Seeing Michelle Obama depicted as someone with a big afro, army pants, combat boots, and an AK47 made me realize that, as much as I like her, she could be so much more awesome.

If Barack takes the presidency, I think she should totally embrace this look. It would instantly make her the coolest first-lady ever.
posted by quin at 10:04 AM on July 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


"It's the classic problem of American journalism, and American society, vis-a-vis Democrats and the left. Tangentially suggest that getting shot down doesn't necessarily qualify John McCain to be president and you are the one who hates America. There's no discussion, no debate. The question simply cannot be asked because the conclusion is 'obvious' and unworthy of debate, and debate itself is deemed offensive. But portray Barack Obama and his wife as a walking racial - nay, racist - stereotype, and it's not just acceptable, but anyone who would question the propriety of such a portrayal is, again, un-American.

Criticize McCain, you're un-American. Defend Obama, you're un-American.

Now, imagine had Barack Obama said that he didn't love his country until he was a 30-something. Do you think Obama would face criticism? Do you honestly think he'd even survive as a candidate in post 9/11 America? And then imagine were John McCain mocked on the cover of the New Yorker, dressed in POW garb, with a drug addicted, pill popping, gun-toting wife and depicted in a manner that suggested that he loves Osama bin Laden and hates America. Would the corporate media be talking about pro-McCain PC-ists who can't take a joke? Or would the New Yorker get Dixie Chicked?" *
posted by ericb at 10:07 AM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Will the New Yorker give equal time to unfair McCain smears?
"The New Yorker maintains that the illustration on the cover of its current issue (right) is meant to satirize, not spread, the smears and rumors about Sen. Barack Obama -- that he is an unpatriotic Muslim with terrorist sympathies who hates the American flag..

I take the editors at their word and await the upcoming cover in which they give the same ha-ha-isn't-it-silly? treatment to the rotten things people say about John McCain: Say a cartoon showing him looking about 150 years old and spouting demented non-sequiturs in the middle of a violent temper tantrum while, in the corner, his wife is passed out next to a bottle of pills.

It's only satire, right?"
posted by ericb at 10:10 AM on July 14, 2008


Gosh, imagine how difficult a job it is choosing the covers for the New Yorker when the outcome of the election (even several months in the future) hinges on your choices. Oh well, luckily they can always pull the puppet strings the other way at some time in the future. I wonder who they'll force upon us for President in the end? Perhaps in some terrible editorial mixup, we'll end up with a Sempe violinist as commander-in-chief? Oh, how droll that would be.

I say the cover is hilarious satire, and I say the hell with you.
posted by yoink at 10:24 AM on July 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


evirichon--of course I don't think the NYer alone might cost Obama the election; but I'm not convinced its attempt at satire here will help him either. Obama has already been asked (via the Jeremiah Wright fracas) to "prove" his "patriotism" repeatedly (something McCain's not been asked to do, since white Republicans are mostly just assumed by the media to be "patriotic"). In the grand scheme of things I think the NYer cover will fade, but the political theater of Obama having to defend against the new McCarthyism is likely to continue. Of course, if anyone can move American politics beyond this inane crap it's Obama.
posted by ornate insect at 10:27 AM on July 14, 2008


I've been a reader for a decade. Anyone that doesn't immediately see the point of this, i.e. to make the unceasing poorly-veiled race-baiting and/or ideology misdirection out to be the fodder of cloven-hooved inbred chromosomally under-funded cylopean mouth-breathing retards (no offense intended) is a fucking idiot. The Obama camp should've shut up and let this fly under the radar.
posted by docpops at 10:38 AM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


So I went to their website to check this out and got distracted by this really terrific piece about children's libraries and Stuart Little. Somehow the New Yorker never stays on my shit list for very long.
posted by naoko at 10:41 AM on July 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


docpops--I've been a reader for over two decades. Anyone who can't separate one's ability to see the satire from one's ability to criticize the satire as failed satire, given the context of the political moment, is a bit dense.
posted by ornate insect at 10:46 AM on July 14, 2008


Anybody who saw Borat know how anti-semitic Sacha Baron Cohen is.
posted by BaxterG4 at 10:46 AM on July 14, 2008


Has any other Irish-American candidate ever gotten this much grief?
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:58 AM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


BaxterG4--how about a NYer cover w/McCain and Lieberman dressed as Hassidic jews pledging allegiance to the Israel flag while burning the American one and pointing to a map of Iran with a note that says "Nuke Iran." Would that satire be successful?
posted by ornate insect at 10:59 AM on July 14, 2008


I'm not sure how one defines satire as successful. Is it unsuccessful if people don't find it palatable? Satire is subjective, of course, but you don't get to call yourself a champion of free expression and then turn around and vilify it's practitioners. It's fine to say you think it's trash. Projecting any further, especially such hyperbole as it possibly contributing to the electoral downfall of a candidate, is embarrassing.
posted by docpops at 11:04 AM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Would the corporate media be talking about pro-McCain PC-ists who can't take a joke? Or would the New Yorker get Dixie Chicked?

How the other side would react to something similar is not relevant to the correct or liberal response to this cover. The contemporary right-wing political machine is deeply illiberal, and has mastered the technique of quashing criticism by appeals to a twisted political correctness. This is one of the worst things about our current government and its political allies, and lies at the root of many of our other problems (how many disasters might have been averted if Bush wasn't immune to criticism?).

What then to make of the quoted article's unspoken-but-obvious call to "Dixie-Chick" the New Yorker, that is to say to use accusations of offense and disloyalty to bludgeon it into submission or irrelevance? It's disturbing, because it shows that (some of) the supposedly "liberal" wing of the Democratic movement has learned exactly the wrong lessons from the illiberal Bush years -- it's learned that liberalism can be thrown under the bus to great political profit; it should have learned that illiberal dishonesty both is contemptible and breeds disaster. This mirrors the problem with George Lakoff's clumsy political writings (and to varying extents to the many similar books now being published). These books diagnose the problem as right-wing mind control, and prescribe as the solution some form of left-wing (would they even say "liberal"?) mind control. No -- do this and you are part of the problem.

I have a former roommate who insists that the Democrats really are more liberal -- more honest and open, less obsessed with message discipline -- and he is probably right for now, but there's a big movement to turn the ship around. When you get up in arms about a satirical cartoon that clearly makes a valid (and sympathetic!) point, when you impugn the New Yorker's good faith by putting "satirical" in scare quotes, when you demand they give "equal time" to your choice of counter-message, and so on --

you're not being liberal anymore.
posted by grobstein at 11:04 AM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


I've been a reader for a decade. Anyone that doesn't immediately see the point of this, i.e. to make the unceasing poorly-veiled race-baiting and/or ideology misdirection out to be the fodder of cloven-hooved inbred chromosomally under-funded cylopean mouth-breathing retards (no offense intended) is a fucking idiot. The Obama camp should've shut up and let this fly under the radar.

Do you seriously think the "obama camp" could have prevent this from being "in the radar"? Do you think campaigns can highhandedly control the media cycle? They can certainly inject things but they can't remove things. Obama's spokesman had something to say about it because he was asked. Obama was asked directly about the cover and said he didn't want to say anything about it.
posted by delmoi at 11:08 AM on July 14, 2008


Apart from this particular instance and whether it's satire that "works" or "fails," that this is what our politics is reduced to -- both Obama's and McCain's campaign hacks trying to outshout each other with how much mock outrage they can muster over each successive news cycle's perceived mortal insult to their candidate's patriotism, manhood, honor, saintliness, etc., etc. -- is a symptom of an election process that is completely running off the rails. I mean, how can we, as a nation, as a polity, already have forgotten the blatant outrage from Thursday morning of Jesse Jackson threatening on camera to emasculate Barack Obama? How fickle can we be?

And it's still seven weeks before Labor Day!
posted by blucevalo at 11:08 AM on July 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


I've become completely convinced that the "Obama is a Muslim" meme is mostly a fabrication of the media. Yes the emails get passed around, but i have yet to see any substantive proof that they have any more effect than "get pen1s bigger now lucy dog monkey" emails. Lest we forget, all year we've had a steady stram of "thongs that are going to bring Obama down" hysteria, none of which has actually derailed his campaign in the slightest.

Looking bacl at the primaries, it is pretty damn clear that he had the nomination wrapped up on Super Tuesday, but we still had to endure months of Rev. Wright, 3am phone calls, white-working class voters, what does hillary want,and so on. And none of it meant a damn thing.

Just as this doesnt.

Why? Because not thatmany people truly believe he's a muslim.What they believe is that he's Black. Which he is. But for the small percentage of Americans for whom that descriptor is an epithet, the media is giving them an easy out with the "muslim" thing. And the truth is, I don't think there are that many of them.

The polls say 10% of americans believe Obama is a Muslim,. What's that, approximately 30 million people? Send someone out to get 30 million signatures from people in this country whom, when presented with the barest of facts,would affirm that belief. I would bet every dollar I had they would fail, and by a large margin.

If you ask me, the media has latched on to this, and a lot of other Obama storylines, because they (and our society at large) doesn't really have a ready-made shorthand narrative for Who Obama is, and what he's on the verge of doing. And I don't mean that as a statement on racial bias. It's about media bias in general.

It's like the "hooker with a heart of gold" scenario. If you have a story about a hooker, she has to either be dead, about to die, or Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. The media is full of ready-made stories, that the public has ready-made reactions to. Everything outside of that box might as well be a David Lynch movie. As of right now, "Black man as boss of everybody" is outside of that box, and the narrative of Blacks as "other" is one they're completely and historically invested in.

Another way to think about it is to frame it against Obama's support among Black Americans. Not really a story that's burning up the airwaves. Why is the supposed 10% that think he's a Muslim more important than the 10% who want him to win more than anyone could even imagine? Black America is already measuring Mt. Rushmore for a new head, and that's being downplayed as inconsequential.

No matter how you feel about that, the fact that Black America actually believes he can win, the fact that Black America is finally really proud of their country speaks so much more to what this election is about than all of the New Yorkers imagined smears combined. The real satire is not us seeing him as scary, it's the media portraying him as safe.
posted by billyfleetwood at 11:11 AM on July 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


docpops--I don't think I've vilified the NYer in my comments, and I don't think it will cost Obama the election. I don't think the NYer is morally wrong here, just playing with political fire and perhaps overestimating the ability of people to get their point. I admit my view that the satire at best falls flat and at worst backfires is subjective and debatable.

grobstein--when you fail to distinguish criticism of satire from calls for censorship you're not being honest anymore. No one is calling for censorship or boycotts. The NYer had every right to print their cover, just as we have every right to either criticize it (while acknowledging that yes it is/was satirical) or applaud it. I don't see the problem here.
posted by ornate insect at 11:16 AM on July 14, 2008


BaxterG4--how about a NYer cover w/McCain and Lieberman dressed as Hassidic jews pledging allegiance to the Israel flag while burning the American one and pointing to a map of Iran with a note that says "Nuke Iran." Would that satire be successful?

The point that some of you are missing is that what this New Yorker cover is satirizing is a series of complete untruths about Obama. Obama isn't a muslim, at all, he isn't a terrorist, at all, he isn't a flag-burning American hater at all. The point here is that there are absurd fantasy projections, and therefore self-evidently (or, at least, so I would have thought) the target of the cartoonist's derision. "Ha Ha," he is saying, "look how absurd it is that there are people who imagine that this in any way corresponds to reality."

The problem with the "well, would they do THIS about McCain" equivalencies that people keep trotting out (like the one above) is that you're talking about an over-the-top satirical attack on positions that McCain to some extent does in fact hold. That is, McCain is extremely supportive of Israel and (in your view, and, I'm sure, the view of the New Yorker's editorial staff) in ways that are so unbalanced as to be counter to American interests. Now, what would be the point of the cartoon that you sketch here? It wouldn't be clear what its target was? Is it in fact excoriating McCain for being overly pro-Israel, but doing so in a rather offensive and stupid way, or is it attacking those who do go overboard in their attacks on McCain? It's simply unclear.

In order to find an equivalently absurd McCain cartoon you need to find attacks on McCain that are utterly without foundation--just like the attacks on Obama that are being satirized in this cartoon. So, no--the fact that McCain is very old is not comparable. He IS old--so the point of the cartoon would again be unclear. The fact that McCain is irascible is not comparable. He is apparently irascible. Etc. etc.

The fact is that there is no consistent set of absolute lies about McCain that are being perpetually flung at him by the left, so there really isn't any comparable opportunity for a cartoonist in that direction. That is why there couldn't be an exact counterpart to this cover with regard to McCain.
posted by yoink at 11:16 AM on July 14, 2008 [10 favorites]


"thongs that are going to bring Obama down"

I've seen those thongs, and they are spectacular.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:21 AM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Why were the cowards in the Obama camp afraid to say "Well done, New Yorker"?

Why do these politicos always need to pander to the stupid? Rise above it and maybe you'll get my vote.
posted by Zambrano at 11:25 AM on July 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


yoink--it's not about tit-for-tat or logical equivalency, it's about the probability of an equally incendiary cover appearing on the New Yorker about McCain. That probability seems to me low. Obama has had to work overtime to deflate the McCarthyite nonsense thrown at him. I understand the idea of refuting the notion that he is a sleeper cell terrorist or Black Panther through satire, I just really wonder if that is how this image will play in Peoria. Maybe it will, maybe it won't. Either way, I'm not frothing about this, just perplexed why criticizing the cover as irresponsible is seen by some here as knee jerk.
posted by ornate insect at 11:26 AM on July 14, 2008


delmoi, I challenge you to show me anyone who can tell you what the last New Yorker cover showed, including their own readers. To most people the very mention or sight of the magazine induces a soporific haze. Perhaps "the Obama camp" is a misnomer (I was just quoting what seems to be the convenient meme. Maybe it's the VanPattens.
posted by docpops at 11:30 AM on July 14, 2008


ornate insect it's not about tit-for-tat or logical equivalency, it's about the probability of an equally incendiary cover appearing on the New Yorker about McCain

But my point is that this cover isn't "incendiary." Nobody actually thinks that the message of the cover is "OMG Obama is a terrorist muslim!!!!!!!" What they think is that someone else will think that because they're too stupid to be trusted to take part in the democratic process.

So, you're looking at a pro-Obama cover and asking "will they attack McCain as fiercely as they've attacked Obama here"? It just doesn't make any sense. Will they do a cover attacking McCain in future? Yes, it's very likely--the New Yorker is a left-wing magazine that has carried a great deal of superb commentary on the appalling excesses of the current Republican administration and its editorial position is clearly far more in sync with Obama's positions than with McCain's. Will it generate a media shitstorm like this one? No, because everyone will say "oh, of course the New Yorker is opposed to a McCain presidency--big deal."
posted by yoink at 11:40 AM on July 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


yoink--it's potentially incendiary because it is so easily misused. The intent can and likely will be easily forgotten, and the old "questions" about Obama's fidelity to the flag will return. I think everything you say is logical enough, but it's not the logic of it that I'm concerned about. I'm just not confident enough that Obama has, in the eyes of the swing voter and middle-of-the road white voter, overcome all the b.s that's been thrown his way. Maybe this cover's satire is in fact the best way to redress the b.s.--i.e by taking it head on. Or maybe it will backfire b/c so easily misused, etc.
posted by ornate insect at 11:45 AM on July 14, 2008


how can we, as a nation, as a polity, already have forgotten the blatant outrage from Thursday morning of Jesse Jackson threatening on camera to emasculate Barack Obama?

Be thankful Jackson isn't White. Were he, you'd still be hearing about how castration was used in centuries bygone to punish slaves, how the remark was racially seated, and so on; meanwhile, the whispered "Islamist" smear propagates unchecked.

I'm optimistic that the net result of this silly cartoon might be, if the media is adroit enough, a wider realization that Obama's Achilles-heel never really was and never will be his race; it's even deeper than that - it's his name.

The GoP can sell a Black woman named Condoleeza, because, even with its idiosyncrasies, her name is essentially Southern-fried Italian. To put a face to it involves scanning your memory for the pleasantly familiar: 'I once worked with a girl named Leeza...' or 'I vaguely know 'con dolce'... Romantic in origin, perhaps Italian, or Spanish...'

The Democrats, on the other hand, are trying to sell a phonetic scarecrow, and they know it: Barack Hussein Obama. It's child's play to make dress-up with this scarecrow. Failing a single letter, it includes the names of the two (presently) most magnified villains of the American imagination. It's not at all an unreasonable comparison to suggest that this would be like running a candidate named George Bush in an Arab democracy.

I'm sure this has already been talked to death in campaign headquarters - how to sufficiently logo-ize and soften the name, how to draw focus to the halo-like "O," how to minimize appearances of the "Hussein" in print, and so on. They knew they could grow a myth around this man - one he himself had started by penning the words audacity and hope - and now the myth has grown beyond expectations but also (like all myth) beyond authorial control. For mythos, to the Greeks, meant not only story but also the word or name that carried it, and this, if anything, should forewarn about the power of the names in the stories that take shape and crystallize around them.
posted by kid ichorous at 12:08 PM on July 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


ornate insect: docpops--I've been a reader for over two decades. Anyone who can't separate one's ability to see the satire from one's ability to criticize the satire as failed satire, given the context of the political moment, is a bit dense.

Anyone who doesn't make blanket comments that immediately put down entire points of view in the hopes of sidelining them before they are examined... is obviously not participating in this thread.
posted by JHarris at 12:18 PM on July 14, 2008


I've already commented above about the foolishness about taking New Yorker covers as being horribly illustrative of anything. I admit that it looks bad to the unfamiliar eye, and that there are a depressingly large number of unfamiliar eyes in the U.S.

But speaking as perhaps the only person here who LIKES New Yorker covers, likes how they don't beat the reader over the head with a comic point but will rely on understatement to get it across, and will let it go over the head of those who aren't receptive....

What this whole thread is about, to me, is the death of casual whimsy. One of the New Yorker's typically sweet and sly covers is being knifed from both sides: from one by idiot talk show hosts who haven't exactly made a study of New Yorker covers in the past, and the other by people who claim the New Yorker was irresponsible for printing a fucking cartoon. What, are we fundamentalist Muslims now, unable to abide a depiction of our Allah?

NO I DO NOT MEAN THAT AS IMPLYING THAT OBAMA IS A MUSLEM RAGE RAGE RAGE
posted by JHarris at 12:33 PM on July 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


I despair.
posted by fcummins at 12:35 PM on July 14, 2008


and the other by people who claim the New Yorker was irresponsible for printing a fucking cartoon.

This is like trying to laugh away nakjed spread eagle women on network tv sitcom intros by chastizing anyone who complains with a "how can you claim nbc is irresponsible for showing a fucking human body."

Nobody is suggesting anybody be killed or that anything near violence should come of the cover, so leave the Danish thing alone, it's off the mark.
posted by cashman at 12:39 PM on July 14, 2008


The Obama haters love it.
The Obama lovers hate it.
It will change no one's mind.
I think the cartoon fails as satire because it plays into the hands of the right wing idiots.
But so what? They will find anything to tear down Obama.
If Obama loses the election because of this cartoon then maybe we really are in trouble because we must surely live in a country full of idiots.
But I don't think we do.
Now about that FISA vote....
posted by Rashomon at 12:40 PM on July 14, 2008


You have to be sorry for Remnick -- despite his Pulitzer, despite his millions, despite the golden parachute Big Media will grant him when he's done with the New Yorker, he got wront the one thing he shouldn't have -- he was slobbering all over Bush's war, only to later try a sad 180 unleashing Sy Hersh against Bush when even he realized that it was a bad mistake.

William Shawn, for all his faults, was editing The New Yorker during Vietnam, and he chose the right side. Nothing else matters, in the long run. Remnick chose the wrong side -- he rooted for the war when it mattered, when America still had a choice, now even Republican Senators pretend to be against it .

This is much worse than being the weakest, blandest editor in the history of the New Yorker -- which he is, obviously (unless you don't cut poor Bob Gottlieb as much slack as I do, then Remnick is the second-weakest and blandest). Tina Brown must be laughing her ass off.
posted by matteo at 1:06 PM on July 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


Even with "the New Yorker" plastered on there, that means nothing to a huge segment of the population.

And? Are we to only produce commentary, art, satire, documentaries, etc. about things and through media that a huge segment of the population is familiar with? I really don't understand what the point is here. If it's "it will be misunderstood" so what? Many things are misunderstood and yet they remain in the public eye. Recall people burning Beatles records because they failed to understand that John Lennon was commenting on the ridiculous of their fame. Thankfully he didn't try to curb his wit and worry about the consequences of speaking his mind.

Turn off the computer and go outside. People see things and hear things long enough, and it becomes reality.

Some people perhaps, but outright bullshit doesn't become reality just because some people believe it. If the majority of people can't understand the concept of satire then the reaction shouldn't be lets curb our satire. Maybe something like, let's improve education so that the arts are no longer ridiculed in contrast to math and science. This would be a good example to use.

Put enough images (false and imagined or real and warped) out there and it will become reality to many, many people.

So what? Really.

And sorry, but there are just too many people without access to websites that deconstruct these things, without computers even, without folks constantly challenging ideas.


Ok. And?
posted by juiceCake at 1:07 PM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


delmoi, I challenge you to show me anyone who can tell you what the last New Yorker cover showed, including their own readers.

Huh?

To most people the very mention or sight of the magazine induces a soporific haze. Perhaps "the Obama camp" is a misnomer

It was. Apparently you mean "anyone who wants Obama to win", but obviously all of those people are not going to be able to coordinate, some of them are going to get really offended and complain about it. And furthermore, lots of people are going to comment on this even if they don't want Obama to win, they're going to talk about it because they think other people are going to care about it, and they want people to listen to them.

Blaming this on the Obama campaign (or Obama fans in general) is like blaming a fire for having gasoline thrown on it.

---

Anyway, I think discussion about why the cartoon "fails" as satire is interesting. I think part of the reason it failed was because it was so subtle, the Obamas were portrayed as calm and normal while doing this stuff, rather then full of rage. Since the scene was portrayed as everyday "this is how they are" it don't seem as over the top as it should be.

And I don't think the "we're going for subtlety" defense works because the symbolism is so over the top, but not the Obama's emotional reaction or investment in the symbolism.
posted by delmoi at 1:09 PM on July 14, 2008


I mean, he got it wront and wrong, to boot
posted by matteo at 1:14 PM on July 14, 2008


One of the New Yorker's typically sweet and sly covers

Right, if you've gotta be "sweet and sly" about every damn thing in the world, it doesn't mean you're smart or sophisticated, it means you're self-absorbed.
posted by furiousthought at 1:24 PM on July 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


grobstein--when you fail to distinguish criticism of satire from calls for censorship

Ornate, you're misunderstanding me. None of my points are specifically about censorship, and I don't even use the word "censorship." Illiberal behavior can stop far short of actual censorship. "Dixie Chicking" is not censorship. Shouting down other voices with trumped-up claims of offense is not censorship. As I noted in my post, the Bushies were able to seriously debase our political culture with nary any censorship at all.

And the game goes on: if you go after McCain's war record, you won't be censored. You'll just face a relentless froth of bad-faith criticism about how "offensive" you've been. This kind of thing is toxic to our political discourse, and it is just as toxic when it's appropriated by the Democrats. It's this -- not censorship -- that I'm accusing the campaign and its sympathizers of doing here.

Therefore, "it's not censorship," is a poor response to what I was saying.
posted by grobstein at 1:35 PM on July 14, 2008


It's not at all an unreasonable comparison to suggest that this would be like running a candidate named George Bush in an Arab democracy.

President-elect Obama just needs to get a name change. Something nice and American: Obamann, Obamore, Obaminton, Obamush. Yeah, that'll do it. Terrarist B. Obamush.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:39 PM on July 14, 2008


(I should point out that there's a distinction between going after the cover as "offensive" (as the Obama campaign and some of the linked blogs have done) and going after it as merely unstrategic. I think both criticisms are wrong, but only the former really gets me up in arms, and my comments upthread should be read as applying mostly to the former.)
posted by grobstein at 1:40 PM on July 14, 2008


Obamination.
posted by kid ichorous at 1:45 PM on July 14, 2008


And? Are we to only produce commentary, art, satire, documentaries, etc. about things and through media that a huge segment of the population is familiar with? I really don't understand what the point is here.

See Chappelle, David. See the part under the quote (and revisit the whole story, if you're familiar with it).

Maybe something like, let's improve education so that the arts are no longer ridiculed in contrast to math and science. This would be a good example to use.

That's ok. That's pretty vague, weak and essentially a useless retort. Like watching somebody get robbed and yelling "You may have festering issues that a therapist could help wiiiiiiith" as the thief flees. No, this cover was tastless, just like a Sambobama image with him having huge red lips would not serve as a clever satire of the racists portrayed on that ABC news video of voters in West Virginia.

Ok. And?

And I hope anyone who thinks that the idiot contigent is either small or inconsequential would wake up and take a walk around the city. It's easy to hang around a spot like Metafilter and think it's all well and good, but I know people with medical degrees who watch fox news and nod in approval. It's not all idiots - a lot of people just have faith that if the talking head on television is saying something, it's okay, it's true. So to see the image splashed up there - lots of people just digest it unquestioningly.

I would absolutely love if the whole pre-cog angle worked. I just don't think it will at all, and we'll be talking about this cover a year from now, as we analyze the thing-by-thing that led to president McCain. Ever have those moments, those sinking feelings where you think you're right, but you really, really want to be wrong?
posted by cashman at 1:47 PM on July 14, 2008


matteo: he was slobbering all over Bush's war, only to later try a sad 180 unleashing Sy Hersh against Bush when even he realized that it was a bad mistake

That's a pretty extreme characterization of Remnick's position. It also ignores the fact that Hersh was writing for the magazine at the time of 9/11 and was never in any way muzzled by Remnick. It also ignores the fact that the most consistent editorial voice on Bush's Iraq adventure in the New Yorker has been Hendrick Herzberg, who has provided some of the most lucid and compelling criticisms of that catastrophic disaster from anyone in the mainstream press.
posted by yoink at 1:49 PM on July 14, 2008


we'll be talking about this cover a year from now, as we analyze the thing-by-thing that led to president McCain.

"And he'd have become president too, if it weren't for that gosh-darned New Yorker cover."

Time for a few of you to breath into a paper bag for a while.
posted by yoink at 1:55 PM on July 14, 2008


You quoted the "thing by thing" part, but then talked like I would pinpoint this as the muhahaha single item that "did it". Lame.
posted by cashman at 2:05 PM on July 14, 2008


Whether the merits of this cover are right or wrong, if it can be reduced to that simple, binary state, the satire it invokes certainly brings up the as-of-yet unspoken matter of latent racism in the GOP's opposition to Senator Obama's campaign.

For the mainstream media, it's the elephant in the room no one wanted to touch, because it exposes a nasty undercurrent in the GOP's campaign against Obama. Better that the racial tension is dealt with now, before the VPs are selected and the general election process is underway.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:05 PM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Matteo: re Remnick "slobbering all over Bush's war"--here is a link to a Remnick piece from March 2003 just as the war is getting under way. Yes, he clearly--at that time--still felt that, on balance, military action against Saddam Hussein was justified (it's almost quaint to see how confident he is that the weapons of mass destruction will be imminently unveiled). On the other hand you'll notice that the dominant point of the piece is that the US is conducting the invasion and gearing up for the occupation in the stupidest ways, and that if they continue down that path they are likely to be headed for disaster.

Even as cruise missiles are in the air, the papers are hinting at dispiriting details of the Administration’s version of reconstruction. A news story by Neil King, Jr., in the Wall Street Journal last week described how the U.S. government is taking bids in the hundreds of millions of dollars from American corporations wishing to rebuild the Iraqi infrastructure; the inside track on the bidding, King reports, appears to have already been seized by Halliburton, a former employer of the Vice-President, and other companies whose enthusiasm for the Republican Party has yielded a fortune in campaign donations. This is not an edifying spectacle. What’s more, if the world begins to see that American companies are suddenly getting privileged access to Iraqi wells, every “blood for oil” suspicion of conspiracy will be vindicated.

If this is "slobbering" support for Bush's war, what the hell was the NRO et al. providing?
posted by yoink at 2:10 PM on July 14, 2008


pretty extreme characterization of Remnick's position.

Not at all, it's accurate -- he was for it, very much so. If you feel like patting his back for not spiking stories that made the administration look bad, go ahead -- it tells us more about the low standards you're using to try and get Remnick off the hook. Yeah, he didn't censor Hertzberg's and Hersh's pieces, this doesn't change Remnick's position. He endorsed the war from the pages of his magazine, period. He didn't have to. Nobody cared about what he thought, he did what he did to make a point, to endorse the war. He didn't have to.

And as all "liberal hawks", he got badly burned AND dropped by the Republicans soon thereafter -- talk about useful idiots.

Anyway let's hear it from someone who was there:
Q: Did Remnick's overt support for the war have anything to do with your decision to leave The New Yorker in 2003?

Spiegelman: Remnick did something unusual in writing a "Talk of the Town" about being a reluctant hawk. And that was rather shocking, because it's not like the magazine is required to have an editorial. It's not like The New York Times in that way or The Wall Street Journal, where it's important to know exactly where the magazine is coming from.

The absolute cowardice of the mainstream American press at that time was overwhelming.
posted by matteo at 2:12 PM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Cashman: You quoted the "thing by thing" part, but then talked like I would pinpoint this as the muhahaha single item that "did it". Lame.

I assumed that you meant "thing by thing" in the sense that "thing A" lead to "thing B" which in turn lead to "thing C" that prevented Obama becoming president. Try as I might, I can't see what else you meant by it.

If that is what you meant by it, then it's hard to see out "if only thing A hadn't happened, then Obama would be president" isn't a necessary corollary.

Sorry if I misunderstood you, but I think perhaps you didn't express yourself as clearly as you may have thought.
posted by yoink at 2:13 PM on July 14, 2008


If this is "slobbering" support for Bush's war, what the hell was the NRO et al. providing?

full service.

but then, if you want to argue that The New Yorker wasn't as shameful as a White House PR operation such as NRO, OK, yes, I'm ready to concede that.

Remnick might have had a tagline there -- "The New Yorker -- We're not as bad as the National Review". Until he ran this piece of shit of a cover, he might have had a point, not anymore really.
posted by matteo at 2:18 PM on July 14, 2008


matteo: Not at all, it's accurate -- he was for it, very much so. If you feel like patting his back for not spiking stories that made the administration look bad, go ahead -- it tells us more about the low standards you're using to try and get Remnick off the hook.

It is accurate to say that Remnick supported military action against Iraq. It is "an extreme characterization" to say that he was"slobbering all over Bush's war." That is why I used the word "characterization" rather than, say, "falsehood" or "that's the opposite of the truth." Whaddaya know, words actually have meanings!

And, no, I'm not trying to get Remick "off the hook" (oh, the terrible, terrible hook of incurring matteo's displeasure!) by pointing out that he did not interfere with Hertzberg and Hersh. You used your "extreme characterization" of Remnick's position to suggest that there was something fundamentally wrong with the magazine that he edits (remember that we're talking about a cartoon in the current edition of the New Yorker). I was pointing out that it's poor reasoning to suggest that the political opinions held by the editor (a fortiori those held some years in the past) must somehow inflect every product of the magazine. The fact that Remnick supported the war did not in any way prevent him from publishing trenchant critiques of the war; similarly, the fact that, in your opinion, he is ideologically unsound doesn't prove anything about the secret ideological agenda of the cartoonist who made this cartoon. QED.
posted by yoink at 2:21 PM on July 14, 2008


I said in a previous comment, it's a plus one. In other words, straw by straw, not link by link in a chain. You're thinking i'm saying it's a link in the chain that hooks his boat to the dock. No, I'm saying it's one wave. But enough waves and...okay, who turned the analogy-3000 typesetter on?

Anyway, I'll delight in being wrong when President Obama takes office.
posted by cashman at 2:23 PM on July 14, 2008


furiousthought: Right, if you've gotta be "sweet and sly" about every damn thing in the world, it doesn't mean you're smart or sophisticated, it means you're self-absorbed.

Wow. I'm speechless. Nice is the new evil, got it.
posted by JHarris at 2:26 PM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Anyway, I'll delight in being wrong when President Obama takes office.

Me too. What would really please me would be to hear that President Obama had put a signed and framed copy of the cartoon up on the wall of the oval office.
posted by yoink at 2:28 PM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


oh, the terrible, terrible hook of incurring matteo's displeasure!

yeah, my displeasure, that's right. what about the displeasure of the thousands who have lost a relative, or their lives, or various limbs? that's fucking funny, isn't it. the Iraq war is obviously all about my displeasure. face it, Remnick endorsed it, from a choice piece of media real estate. is it demonstratum? I hope so.


the fact that, in your opinion, he is ideologically unsound doesn't prove anything about the secret ideological agenda of the cartoonist who made this cartoon

yeah, my opinion. the fact that he was wrong about the most important issue of his editorship is just about my low opinion, it's debatable, right? or are you saying that the war went well so he was right and, uhm, "sound"?
posted by matteo at 2:33 PM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


What would really please me would be to hear that President Obama had put a signed and framed copy of the cartoon up on the wall of the oval office.

Please continue this President Obama fan fiction, preferably with some Firefly crossover.
posted by kid ichorous at 2:36 PM on July 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


are you saying that the war went well so he was right and, uhm, "sound"?

Right, that's exactly what I'm saying. Uh-huh. Oh, but you missed the bit about the chocolate ponies and the gumdrop trees.

what about the displeasure of the thousands who have lost a relative, or their lives, or various limbs? that's fucking funny, isn't it.

Well--as far as desperate, flailing straw men go in the humor lines, that one's pretty fucking funny.

Please, do feel free to explain to us all how saying "you are mischaracterizing Remnick's position" involves any express or implied endorsement of Remnick's position. That could get almost as funny as the above.
posted by yoink at 2:47 PM on July 14, 2008


Please continue this President Obama fan fiction, preferably with some Firefly crossover.

"And in a startling development on this Inauguration Day, President Obama has unveiled what will be the first Executive Order of his administration, the immediate resumption of production of Joss Whedon's Firefly. Whedon, already at work on the breakout hit series Dollhouse commented, "As soon as I finish putting the pieces in place for the new Buffyverse spin-off series, I'll be delighted to do anything to oblige my new President."

How's that?
posted by yoink at 2:53 PM on July 14, 2008


I'm just not sure that qualifies as hope I can believe in. *stifled sob*
posted by kid ichorous at 2:58 PM on July 14, 2008


Thread = tl;dr

All I know is that most Americans are too stupid to recognize satire unless they are told it is something else, ala Colbert Report.

But, those stupid Americans vote, so there you have it.
posted by Ynoxas at 3:08 PM on July 14, 2008


Wow. I'm speechless. Nice is the new evil, got it.

To put it another way, if you completely subordinate the subject matter of your art to the tone or atmosphere you wish to convey, and you don't consider what subject matter is going to be appropriate to your tone, your art is going to be based on an emotional lie, and it's not going to work. Interpret that as "nice is the new evil" if you like. I don't think the cartoon was evil or offensive, it just doesn't work, because it's trying to be droll without actually being very sophisticated. Like a lot of New Yorker cartoons.
posted by furiousthought at 3:21 PM on July 14, 2008


yoink, give it up, he did endorse the war. it was a yes or no issue, he said yes -- you can't be half pregnant. deal with it.
posted by matteo at 3:23 PM on July 14, 2008


yoink, give it up, he did endorse the war. it was a yes or no issue, he said yes -- you can't be half pregnant. deal with it.

O.K., now this is satire, right?
posted by yoink at 3:35 PM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Don't assume that we don't get satire down in the deep south. We're steeped in it. Ask Faulkner or Toole.
posted by ColdChef at 3:44 PM on July 14, 2008


Secret email chain reveals the New Yorker's upcoming covers.
posted by ericb at 3:45 PM on July 14, 2008


Frog: Can I ask you something?
The Bandit: Sure.


Frog: Do you think we have anything in common? I mean, besides being chased around the country in that feckuckteh car?


The Bandit: Yeah. Like what?


Frog: Have you ever seen the Broadway show Chorus Line?


The Bandit: No.


Frog: You like Elton John?


The Bandit: No.


The Bandit: Do you know who, uhhhh, Casey Tibbs is?
Frog: Baseball player.!?


The Bandit: Close. Richard Petty?
Frog: No.


The Bandit: Waylon Jennings? No.
Frog: No.


The Bandit: When you tell somebody somethin', it depends on what part of the United States you're standin' in... as to just how dumb you are.


Frog: Mr Bandit, you have a lyrical way of cutting through the bullshit.


The Bandit: And you have a unique way with the English language, Miss Frog.
posted by Artichoke Dance Off!! at 3:46 PM on July 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


Interpret that as "nice is the new evil" if you like. I don't think the cartoon was evil or offensive, it just doesn't work, because it's trying to be droll without actually being very sophisticated. Like a lot of New Yorker cartoons.

You said it was self-absorbed, when all New Yorker covers tend to be is whimsical. (Note: I'm talking about the covers. New Yorker cartoons are a different matter. I also disagree that they are self-absorbed, but I can better understand how one might think that they are.)

I admit I overstated things a little, but it galled me, a little, to see that one of those depressingly few things that I'd point to as examples of light and joy in the world is so easily dismissed as self-absorbed. Not nearly as galled, though, as hearing right-wing talk show hosts use that unworldliness and viciously twist it for political ends. If anything is evil, really, it's that.
posted by JHarris at 3:46 PM on July 14, 2008


I’d go for McCain holding his black baby… which is actually Barack Obama!*

* I may have in whole or in part ripped this off from TDS/Colbert
posted by Artw at 3:48 PM on July 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


Matteo, the fact that you mischaracterized Remnick's support for the Iraq war as "slobberingly" pro-Bush, when in fact (as I proved) he supported a military removal of Hussein but was always critical of the way that Bushco went about it is actually irrelevant to your argument and irrelevant to my main objection to it.

You want us to draw conclusions about the political beliefs and intention of the cartoonist from your beliefs about Remnick's political beliefs and intentions. Now, even if you weren't (as you, alas, are) wrong about Remnick, the claim that "everything published by the New Yorker must be considered to be intended to further Remnick's beliefs" is disproved by the fact that the New Yorker published expressly anti-war commentary at the time when (as we all agree) Remnick supported the war.

Can I reduce this to words of one syllable?

Remnick bad man: him wrong about war.
Hertzberg good man: him right about war.

Remnick let Hertzberg say war bad in Remnick's mag.
Remnick's mag says things Remnick not think right.

Matteo say toon in Remnick's mag must be what Remnick think.
Yoink prove that Remnick's mag say things Remnick not think.

Matteo's claim is not true.

QE--fucking-D.

Oh, I know, I know--I'm saying that hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis don't matter a damn because of um...some random crap you'll pretend I was actually saying.
posted by yoink at 3:53 PM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Don't assume that we don't get satire down in the deep south. We're steeped in it. Ask Faulkner or Toole.

I originally read this as "Ask Faulkner or Tootie," and I thought, my goodness, ColdChef certainly has a different reading of The Facts of Life than I do.
posted by scody at 3:58 PM on July 14, 2008 [4 favorites]


Ornate, you're misunderstanding me. None of my points are specifically about censorship, and I don't even use the word "censorship." Illiberal behavior can stop far short of actual censorship. "Dixie Chicking" is not censorship. Shouting down other voices with trumped-up claims of offense is not censorship.

The Dixie Chicks had their albums burned.

(At corporate sponsored parties, no less God bless Clear Channel). I don't know if that’s "censorship" but it sure as hell isn't something I'd like to see "the left" emulating.

Please continue this President Obama fan fiction, preferably with some Firefly crossover.
Barackula is a short political horror rock musical about young Barack Obama having to stave off a secret society of vampires at Harvard when he was inducted into presidency at the Harvard Law Review in 1990. Obama (Justin Sherman) finds that he must convince the vampire society that opposing political philosophies can coexist or else the society may transform Obama to the dark side.
posted by delmoi at 5:07 PM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think everyone gets the joke, everyone knows who it's aimed at, everyone knows who the intended audience is, there's really no misconstruing it, and there's nothing offensive about it. Pointed political cartooning - a time-honored form and style.

This, to me, is a giant non-flap.
posted by Miko at 5:09 PM on July 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


verbal cartoon:

Two horses are sitting at a bar.

Horse #1: Remember when the Left had a sense of humor about itself?
Horse #2: I think my wife is cheating on me.
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:48 PM on July 14, 2008 [5 favorites]


I don't think horses can sit on stools in a bar, far less talk to each other in English.
posted by ericb at 5:58 PM on July 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


I don't think horses can sit on stools in a bar, far less talk to each other in English.

No, but evidently, they can get married, WHICH IS ALL THE FAULT OF TEH GAYS.
posted by scody at 6:11 PM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


If this thread is any kind of indicator about how a bunch of educated left-leaning blah blah MeFi demographic digests this cover, when I think of how the rest of voting America is taking it, I want to turn on the theme song to M*A*S*H and take my little black pill.

Jesus. Fuck.
Not an actual intimation of suicidal ideation. Comment is intended for recreational purposes only. Not available in all states.
posted by everichon at 6:38 PM on July 14, 2008


Wow. America. Land of the thief, home of the slave(krs1). It's totally shocking. Another group of detached upper-middle class people just made lots of buzz, and more importantly, money, off of ignorance, fear, and race. I can't wait for the real crap to manifest itself. Give it a few months. The pit is bottomless.
posted by Flex1970 at 6:59 PM on July 14, 2008


I'm pulling a flip-flop. I get it now. It's still going to help confirm fears for those 'factory' workers who see the cover. But, I'm alright with it now. Not that it matters to ANYONE ON THIS EARTH. Good job New Yorker, you forced me to grow up a little bit.
posted by Flex1970 at 7:41 PM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


...the fact that Black America actually believes he can win, the fact that Black America is finally really proud of their country speaks so much more to what this election is about...

Just needed to be repeated.
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:43 PM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh, and by the way, I thought it was a satire of a New Yorker cover, for what it's worth.
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:59 PM on July 14, 2008


From the Economist's "Democracy in America" blog:
the campaign's reaction makes the story. The New Yorker's circulation is almost entirely concentrated in true-blue coastal enclaves. It might have gotten some play on hard-right chat boards and blogs, but those audiences are a lock for John McCain as surely as Manhattan is a lock for Mr Obama. Now, however, the cover is plastered all over the cable news shows, for the viewing pleasure of millions who would never have seen it otherwise. And the reason, of course, is that the cover is "controversial". Try to imagine the same story running had the Obama campaign said something along the lines of: "Oh, yes, we saw that and were tickled; it really shows effectively how absurd and desperate some of the rumour-mongering on the right is." Would it be running then? Of course not—and if it did, PowerLine would have an anyeurism [sic] about the news devoting air time to Obama propaganda.
posted by grobstein at 9:07 AM on July 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Try to imagine the same story running had the Obama campaign said something along the lines of: "Oh, yes, we saw that and were tickled; it really shows effectively how absurd and desperate some of the rumour-mongering on the right is."

Yes, yes, a thousand times YES. If they had simply said, "yep, we know it's satire, because obviously that the notion that Obama and his wife are flag-burning terrorists is absurd," that would have been the end of it.
posted by scody at 9:52 AM on July 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Really? How did that tactic work out for John Kerry?
posted by rdr at 10:51 AM on July 15, 2008


Are we still pretending Kerry was electable?
posted by Artw at 10:54 AM on July 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Anyone care to see the National Review equivalent for McCain?
posted by Class Goat at 12:24 PM on July 15, 2008


Gasp! America's supposedly left-wing cartoonists sure do hate Obama. I've unearthed yet another racist, fear-mongering cartoon clearly aimed at besmirching Obama's good name. Oh shame, SHAME! How will he ever recover from these attacks?
posted by yoink at 12:28 PM on July 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Funny you should mention that.
posted by furiousthought at 1:11 PM on July 15, 2008


"It's a cartoon…and that's why we've got the First Amendment," Obama said. "And I think the American people are probably spending a little more time worrying about what's happening with the banking system and the housing market, and what's happening in Iraq and Afghanistan, than a cartoon. So I haven't spent a lot of time thinking about it."

"I've seen and heard worse," he said. "I do think that, you know, in attempting to satirize something, they probably fueled some misconceptions about me instead. But, you know, that was their editorial judgment."
posted by cashman at 6:24 PM on July 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


"It's a cartoon…and that's why we've got the First Amendment," Obama said.

And that's why it's great to have surrogates in your campaign who can condemn things as offensive while you play it cool.
posted by grobstein at 9:38 PM on July 15, 2008


Jon Stewart Takes On Media, Obama For Overreacting To New Yorker Cover: "It's Just A F***ing Cartoon!"
posted by ericb at 8:22 AM on July 16, 2008


I think Stewart overreacted to the overreaction. But I guess there is only so much eye-rolling you can do before the eyes cramp up.
posted by wendell at 5:27 PM on July 16, 2008


That's ok. That's pretty vague, weak and essentially a useless retort. Like watching somebody get robbed and yelling "You may have festering issues that a therapist could help wiiiiiiith" as the thief flees. No, this cover was tastless, just like a Sambobama image with him having huge red lips would not serve as a clever satire of the racists portrayed on that ABC news video of voters in West Virginia.

It is weak, but it wasn't meant as a retort or an on the spot action, but a completely obvious observation on how horrible the state of the Union is if large groups of people fail to understand this or are willing obtuse. It's also born out of a question spurred by total bafflement. As for your comparison, it's complete bullshit and hyperbole, but you know that. As for your opinion, you're welcome to it and I respect it, but I completely disagree with it.

And I hope anyone who thinks that the idiot contigent is either small or inconsequential would wake up and take a walk around the city.

Me too. I don't see anyone like that in this thread.

It's easy to hang around a spot like Metafilter and think it's all well and good, but I know people with medical degrees who watch fox news and nod in approval.


That's great. Whose pretending it's all well and good?

It's not all idiots - a lot of people just have faith that if the talking head on television is saying something, it's okay, it's true. So to see the image splashed up there - lots of people just digest it unquestioningly.

And? I must be one of the idiots, I don't understand your point.

I would absolutely love if the whole pre-cog angle worked. I just don't think it will at all, and we'll be talking about this cover a year from now, as we analyze the thing-by-thing that led to president McCain. Ever have those moments, those sinking feelings where you think you're right, but you really, really want to be wrong?

I don't care for precognition outside of PKD. It'll be wonderful if we're talking about this a year from now. It's a great example of how a simple thing may well be entirely misunderstood.

Yes I have those feelings.
posted by juiceCake at 7:37 PM on July 17, 2008


McCain, older than Reagan and dumber than Bush.

(this phrase shamelessly stolen from someone else who used it on the internet, but now I don't know where I say it)
posted by caddis at 8:58 AM on July 18, 2008


Psychologist: Brains Take Obama Cover Literally
posted by homunculus at 5:29 PM on July 28, 2008


Minisculer homunculus:

"Psychologist: BRAAAAINS"
posted by grobstein at 7:32 PM on July 28, 2008


In seriousness, the problem with the psychologists' critique of the Blitt cover is that it applies with equal justice to any satire. If we flatly accept that restating wrong positions just reinforces them, then satire is always wrong. The argument is incapable of distinguishing between "good" and "bad" satire; it's all too dangerous to let out into the world because ordinary humans are too dumb.

Since empirically it seems like satire is sometimes effective, the stark position staked out by Banaji and others like him cannot be right.
posted by grobstein at 7:37 PM on July 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


I disagree, grobstein. The article discusses well documented affects, rather than "it seems like". What I think may be problematic about your argument is that the article seems to talk about the effect as it happens over time. So perhaps when you are feeling like "it seems like satire is sometimes effective", that's in the short term, or when it's immediately evident in the moment.

Over time, however, your brain may code those things just like it would the actual offensive material. This kind of points to it.

Satire is something that, to borrow your terminology, seems like it works when you're actively deconstructing things you encounter. But I think that over time things are stored and your mind works the collection of them in together to form your opinions.

We've all had those moments. You remember something a boyfriend or girlfriend said and did, that turned out to be a joke, as the fictitious scenario. It gets encoded and humans' poor source memory over time means that after a while, your brain treats it as how you initally thought it and encoded it.

Kind of like how even though Saddam had nothing to do with 911, the preponderance was there and people encoded that in their brains, so that they still think to this day that it happened.

I know I've had that happen plenty of times, and I have to snap myself out of it. That video Baracky has an example. Show that to people who have been following closely and it shouldn't surprise you that many of them wouldn't be able to point to the satirical portion that was used literally. (it's about a minute in)

So perhaps right now, it's all fine and dandy. But when the mental question comes up months from now, at the obviously-this-is-going-to-happen prodding of the opposing party - do you trust him - isn't he a secret muslim? That memory of the cover will serve a lot of otherwise neutral people as a mark in the plus column, not one in the minus (no, he's not) column, unless they conciously snap the context back into their brains for that specific item, which requires recalling that specific item. Possible, sure. Probable - I don't think so.
posted by cashman at 9:30 AM on July 29, 2008


I can't watch the video, and as you suggested I don't have any hard data on the effectiveness of satire. I think the writers and scientists are overgeneralizing from "well documented [e]ffects," but leave that aside.

Even accepting everything you say as true, the problem I identify in my first paragraph only becomes more troubling: your and Banaji's argument shows that all satire is wrong. In fact, we can go further than that: any kind of debate where you take the other side seriously is wrong, because you reinforce their position by repeating it, and so on. I say this not to equate "Barack is a Muslim" with a serious argument, but to point out that the logical consequences of the point you're making stretch far beyond the current context. If this point is true with the generality and strength that its proponents attribute to it, then all the norms of civilized discussion are wrong and counterproductive. We should treat people not as deliberative subjects but as targets for finely honed signals meant to pierce psychological defenses. Advertising already largely operates under this principle, but the extreme neuro-politics position says that all speech should be like advertising.

This is an extreme and to me extremely disheartening position. Some people will be glad to accept it. For me, a pop-psych op-ed based on some narrow experiments is not enough to toss out the liberal, "old-Enlightenment" model of discourse. Yes, we should know something about the "sleeper effect;" no, it doesn't vindicate the "offense" over this cover.
posted by grobstein at 9:59 AM on July 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


(As a sidenote, Lakoff's "old Enlightenment" epithet is pretty misguided:
There is a lesson here, but it is not about politics. It's about the intellectual integrity of scientists, specifically mind-scientists, who wish to apply what they know across borders. Cognitive scientific ways of speaking help us understand things more deeply only if they reveal something new, or give thicker and richer texture to an understanding we already have. Lakoff's premise- that the Enlightenment portrayed us as perfectly rational- is flawed. What about Hume, who famously argued that we are fthinkers (remember "reason is a slave to passion"?), or Adam Smith, Rousseau and Voltaire, all of whom thought profoundly about the role of sentiment? It was Smith, in fact, who first distinguished empathy from sympathy.

Lakoff ends the book with this: "we are far more fascinating creatures than Plato, Aristotle, Rousseau, Hobbes, Locke, Marx, J. S. Mill, and Rawls for instance- thought we were". Like most of the linguistic objects in this cacophony, this, as best I can tell, is just noise from neurons.
Link.)
posted by grobstein at 10:11 AM on July 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


You either glossed over or failed to address the time aspect of the discussion. That it is possibly properly delivered and accepted when first encountered, but that it subsequently is stored in a manner that does not fit with the satirist's original intent. That's not a "right" or "wrong" thing simply.

Additionally, I'm not sure if you're using good versus bad satire facetiously as in good versus evil, or, seemingly more appropriately, well done satire versus poorly done satire.

Are you arguing that satire cannot be poorly done? If satire can be poorly done, then perhaps part of the criteria which comes into play when deciding what poor satire is, is the imagined cataloging of the image or satire.

Take the bag-of-glass guy from snl. Presumably I don't need to find the link since you can't watch the video anyway. It was a satirical play on industry representatives, specifically a toy manufacturer, arguing that a bag of glass was a nice toy for children, and that any toy was just as dangerous.

Now, simply repeating an image (or encapsulating it) is not, I argue, well done satire in the case of the new yorker cover, and likely most instances of memorable satire. If the bag-o-glass guy had instead come onto the program to defend a teddy bear that had a small button, or [insert actual toy product and actual industry-appointed-defender], that would not have served as satire, rather it would have shown up and likely been coded as a legitimization or equivalent image, rather than a complete parody.

So then the question is, is this poor parody and therefore harmful based on what will be encoded and how it will play out in the human mind - i think it is. So to further extend the argument, if you want to make it seem like any critique of satire means that all satire must be wrong, then perhaps when attempts at satire fail, as this seems to have for a lot of people, is it even satire. When does it become satire?

I think it was a poor attempt at satire. The continued defense of it really speaks more to me of being in touch with a lot of the intelligentsia and out of touch with those who are uninformed, but still a hugely sizable part of the population. It's all too easy to sit in a metaphorical ivory tower and bring in old texts and grand theories instead of walking around the streets for a few days and meeting the masses of people who aren't capable of deconstructing images like these in their free time, don't have the luxury of even a high school diploma, work with people whose values wash over them and everyone else around them, have limited access to differing viewpoints, and don't have the time or resources to be on the internet reading hundred-comment threads.

We can play all the intellectual games we want to. It's no secret what kind of effect the image will have. We still live in a society that censors certain images, sights, sounds and ideas. The editor should have done a better job. It's a harmful image, and I don't think trying to pass it off as either it goes out there as-is or society is lost (due to the banning of satire) is a good position.
posted by cashman at 1:39 PM on July 29, 2008


Cashman, let me just clarify my position from my most recent non-parenthetical comment, because some of our disagreement results from my not communicating clearly.

"Right" and "wrong": when I say Banaji's argument implies that all satire is "wrong," I mean it implies that one should probably not engage in satire. I'm aware of the short-term versus long-term distinction made in the experiments Banaji discusses. But if the result of satire is short-term amusement and long-term propagation of slander (etc.), the case against satire writes itself. To go from this to "wrong" is no leap at all.

"Good" and "bad" satire: I meant well-executed as against poorly executed satire. When I say that Banaji's argument doesn't distinguish between good and bad satire, I mean that although he says the cover was bad (inept) satire, the logic of his "scientific" argument applies equally well to the best-executed satire. As your examples show, you and I can intuitively distinguish many possible grades of satire from good to bad. But the logic of Banaji's position as he states it in the Chronicle doesn't permit those gradations. The science, as he summarizes it, is not good enough to make the distinction. This is of course a common pitfall of trying to derive real-world advice from narrow lab results.

Banaji would be compelled to disapprove the "bag of glass" skit because it would be stored in the long-term as a straight routine, and parents might falsely believe that bags of glass are actually safe or something. Whether he would want to condescend to the cast members about how they don't understand the brain is another question.

Finally, I have no interest in crying censorship or the "banning" of satire. My argument isn't about what should be legally allowed (for now we all agree on that), it's about whether (and which) satire should be eschewed and condemned on the grounds (variously) of "offense," political strategy, etc.

The notion that this is "a harmful image" is laughable to me, and I think the absurd overbreadth of Banaji's neuropsych argument emphasizes the point. I think deploying an argument that logically shows all satire is harmful in the service of showing that this one image is harmful betrays an unfortunate lack of reflection.
posted by grobstein at 8:15 AM on July 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the clarifications. Is any satire harmful, in your eyes?

Many clothing or cologne companies catch flack for their print ads. Benneton and Calvin Klein come to mind. The charges are typically that the folks depicted are too young, in inappropriately suggestive positions, et cetera.

For satire, to hyperbolize the criticisms against them, let's say one of these companies comes out with an image of a kid appearing to be inviting a sex act with dozens of adult partners in a dark alley. Through the typical clever positioning, there's no nudity. It looks pretty real, and the creators explain it by saying it's satire against what its critics say they put out. Is it laughable in your eyes for someone to critique that as a harmful image?

Or is your argument just that this particular (new yorker) image doesn't strike you as harmful? And through what criteria have you made that judgment, and does it perhaps apply in this situation in others' value systems?

Is it possible in your eyes to create a harmful image that is satire? That is to say, don't get caught up on this specific example, and instead see the point that I'm getting at, and address that idea.
posted by cashman at 9:08 AM on July 30, 2008


Maybe the interaction between that and, y'know, actually thinking is how Satire actually works?
posted by Artw at 10:08 AM on July 30, 2008


I think Lakoff's point is that "actually thinking" reliably fails to occur. He may (who knows?) be right, but I can't say I'd want to live in a world in which that is the case, or could bear to advocate the kind of meretricious political "debate framing" that Lakoff thinks we should copy from the conservative Right.

I also think that if he and Banaji are right we all ought to be firmly convinced that the eating of Irish babies was once part of English government policy. And yet, oddly, we're not.
posted by yoink at 11:16 AM on July 30, 2008


Vanity Fair posts a McCain cartoon.
posted by russilwvong at 6:17 PM on July 30, 2008


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