New Yorker Obama Terrorist Cover
The liberal blogs are in a tizzy about the cover of the July 21 New Yorker, an illustration by Barry Blitt which shows the Obamas in terrorist outfits, doing a fist bump with a big portrait of Osama bin Laden over their mantle with an American flag burning in the fireplace:
Given that this is the liberal New Yorker and that the magazine is aimed at liberal urbanites, it’s rather obvious that this is poking fun at conservatives, not the Obamas. It’s provocative, sure, but how better to generate buzz and sell extra copies at the newstand? Quick: What was the last New Yorker cover that generated any discussion at all? No, I don’t remember, either.
That was essentially Kevin Drum‘s initial reaction, too. He quickly changed his mind:
Maybe it’s because this kind of satire just doesn’t work, no matter how well it’s done. But mostly it’s because a few minutes thought convinced me it was gutless. If artist Barry Blitt had some real cojones, he would have drawn the same cover but shown it as a gigantic word bubble coming out of John McCain’s mouth — implying, you see, that this is how McCain wants the world to view Obama. But he didn’t. Because that would have been unfair. And McCain would have complained about it. And for some reason, the risk that a failed satire would unfairly defame McCain is somehow seen as worse than the risk that a failed satire would unfairly defame Obama.
HuffPo’s Rachel Sklar is similarly thoughtful:
Presumably the New Yorker readership is sophisticated enough to get the joke, but still: this is going to upset a lot of people, probably for the same reason it’s going to delight a lot of other people, namely those on the right: Because it’s got all the scare tactics and misinformation that has so far been used to derail Barack Obama’s campaign — all in one handy illustration. Anyone who’s tried to paint Obama as a Muslim, anyone who’s tried to portray Michelle as angry or a secret revolutionary out to get Whitey, anyone who has questioned their patriotism— well, here’s your image.
Okay, what do we do about this? I want suggestions. This is what we have to deal with in America, as Democrats. A liberal media that bends over so far backwards to be “fair” that it becomes just as bad as FOX News. A liberal publication like the New Yorker thinks it’s funny to make Mrs. Obama some radical black panther, Barack Obama basically a terrorist (you’ll note that he looks just like Osama bin Laden on the wall), and they’re even burning the American flag in the Oval Office (that’s supposed to be the White House, get it?). They put Osama bin Laden on the wall of the Oval Office. And this is funny? Is the New Yorker so out of touch that they don’t realize that much of America, or at least too much of America, harbors these very concerns about Obama and his wife? I’m sure the New Yorker thinks they’re actually poking holes in the myth by making light of the stereotypes. Yeah, and tell us how this pokes fun at the stereotype? It reinforces it.
Taylor Marsh wonders, “Is the appreciation for political satire dead?”
The only way to combat a myth is to broaden it, hype it, make a satirical target out of it. The cover of The New Yorker does just that, but does it make the further statement? Does it go far enough, instead of simply repeating the smears in another form? Where’s the slap at the smear artists, which is obviously who the artist is mocking? The [Village Voice] Hillary image [featured and discussed in the post] has the same problem. It doesn’t depict the fighter rising from the battle. Is simply repeating wingnut talking points enough or does that provide more fuel for the smears instead of mocking them?
Barack Obama wasted no time in fanning the flames out outrage — and Team McCain joined in:
The Obama campaign quickly condemned the rendering. Spokesman Bill Burton said in a statement: “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.” McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds quickly e-mailed: “We completely agree with the Obama campaign, it’s tasteless and offensive.”
Whether the image is “offensive” is a matter of opinion, I suppose. Certainly, it’s far less so than any number of editorial cartoons that come out every day. (Consider the work of Ted Rall, for example.) But, yeah, it’s probabably “tasteless.” The cover of the New Yorker is simply different than a political cartoon inside a paper.
I do, however, think it will achieve its desired effects. First and foremost, it’s already generating more buzz than any issue in the magazine’s recent history. More importantly, though, it will lead to a round of discussion of the “Obama is a Muslim” nonsense on the various talking heads shows. This, in turn, will force Republican operatives to state, over and over, that they don’t think Obama is a Muslim, a terrorist, an America hater, and so forth. That’s probably the only way this silly meme goes away.
Memeorandum has tons more reactions: QandO, Top of the Ticket, HorsesAss.Org, Pajamas Media, American Power, Ketchup and Caviar, Taylor Marsh, BLACKFIVE, Blue Girl, Red State, Polimom Says, Macsmind, Gateway Pundit, Riehl World View, The Plank, The Page, Roger L. Simon, Althouse, JammieWearingFool, Doug Ross, The Strata-Sphere, The Volokh Conspiracy, Moonbattery, The Daily Dish, Blog of the Moderate Left, AMERICAblog News, Feministe, Wake up America, Pensito Review, The Raw Story, Michelle Obama Watch, Buck Naked Politics, Newshoggers.com, Ben Smith’s Blogs, The Corner, NO QUARTER, Scripting News, THE ASTUTE BLOGGERS, Flopping Aces, TalkLeft, The Confluence, FOX Embeds, Eunomia, The Sundries Shack, Sister Toldjah, TBogg, Pandagon, Macsmind and Viking Pundit