Only Muslim Extremists Get Upset About Cartoons

Good line, purportedly from Jon Stewart:

Obama is not upset about the cartoon that calls him a Muslim extremist. Who gets upset about cartoons? Muslim extremists.

via Steve Garfield.

See “New Yorker Obama Terrorist Cover” for background and commentary on the story.

UPDATE:  Amusingly, I see via Memeorandum, the hubbub goes on.  Obama is continuing to beat this dead horse:

Democrat Barack Obama said Tuesday that the New Yorker magazine’s satirical cover depicting him and his wife as flag-burning, fist-bumping radicals doesn’t bother him but that it was an insult to Muslim Americans.

“You know, there are wonderful Muslim Americans all across the country who are doing wonderful things,” the presidential candidate told CNN’s Larry King. “And for this to be used as sort of an insult, or to raise suspicions about me, I think is unfortunate. And it’s not what America’s all about.”

Obama blamed himself for not being forceful enough in challenging some of the rumors about him, including that he is Muslim. Obama is Christian.

This is bizarre on so many levels.  First, Obama clearly knows that the cover was a satire and one which is helping him.  Second, he seems to be implying — while touting all the fine things Muslims do — that “Muslim” is some sort of slur.

Meanwhile, even those on the Left are defending the New Yorker.  Editor Katrina vanden Heuvel and others at The Nation :

[A]s comedian Bill Maher observed, “If you can’t do irony on the cover of The New Yorker, where can you?” I tend to agree.


It’s interesting how through time, especially in these last years, images seem more powerful, troubling, provocative and threatening than words. Why is that? Hard to fully fathom. Perhaps the speed with which images, unmoored from their original home and context, zip around the 36/7 Internet? Whatever the full range of reasons, it seems to me that one fact is that a caricature is almost by definition provocative, often offensive. It’s a misrepresentation, an exaggeration for effect, a parody.

While I understand why many object to this cartoon–and to images which they believe reinforce stereotypes (and there are many at The Nation who found the New Yorker cartoon offensive), I believe satire–even if it flops or offends –has a place in our culture and politics.

She then has some of the magazine’s cartoonists weigh in. Steve Brodner’s take is especially keen:

So basically we have the Wolf Blitzers pretending not to get this to rev up ratings which rely, largely, on the “outrage of the day.” However, in that process a dialogue is forced, satire is discussed, the truth about Obama is put on the table. And so, even if it’s taking the long way to get there, Barry Blitt’s strong image does what we need it to do: put these issues up for discussion and in a very real way, educate America.

Christopher Hitchens has a withering piece for The Mirror. Some excerpts:

Satire, according to Jonathan Swift, is “a mirror wherein every man will commonly discern every face but his own”.


Ludicrous as it might seem to have John McCain enlisted as an art critic, and obvious as it should be that the New Yorker would never do anything deliberately to hurt the Democratic nominee, it remains the case that a Newsweek poll has just found 12 per cent of voters believing that Obama is a practicing Muslim and another 12 per cent (possibly the same 12 per cent) convinced that he used a Koran for his swearing-in ceremony at the United States Senate. These are of course exactly the sort of people who do not read the New Yorker, or go in very much for the ironic and the satirical, so that as usual the aesthetic effort is somewhat lost on what ought to be its target audience.


If reassurance is what was wanted, it would have been nice to hear Barack Obama agreeing with the New Yorker’s people that the cover was (a) a joke and (b) a pro-Obama joke and then adding (c) that he and his wife “got” the said joke. No such luck. A statement of extreme lugubriousness from Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton announced that “most readers will see it as tasteless and offensive — and we agree”. So in other words, the Obama team disagrees strongly with those readers who don’t see it as tasteless and inoffensive, as well as those who interpret it as an attempt to draw the sting from a whispering campaign against Obama. Take that, you broad-minded and humorous rabble! Satire can do no more.

Finally, Salon‘s Gary Kamiya makes the unkindest cut of all:

It’s official: The Bush era has made liberals so terrified of right-wing smears it has caused them to completely lose their sense of humor. Much as I hate to repeat one of Rush Limbaugh’s flat, stale and unprofitable applause lines, that’s the only conclusion I can draw after witnessing the left-wing blogosphere’s bizarre reaction to the New Yorker cover. . ..


I don’t know what lugubrious planet these people are on, but I definitely don’t want any of them writing material for Jon Stewart.


If you satirically depict Obama as an Islamist terrorist, in this view, you are only reinforcing and giving broader currency to right-wing smears. Since the essence of satire is exaggerating negative stereotypes, this means that satire itself is off limits. Or, at least, all satire except that which the cowering — but oh so semiotically sophisticated — left-wing commentariat deems to be sufficiently broad-brush and polemical to pass its funny test.

If nothing else, this controversy has apparently revived the word “lugubrious.”

FILED UNDER: 2008 Election, Humor, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Bithead says:

    I usually have no use for Stewart, but if he did come up with this one I’ll buy the man a beer.

  2. yetanotherjohn says:

    Rush did the same bit earlier. I don’t know if Stewart ripped him off or came up with it independently.


    You left out the greatest irony about Obama’s crocodile tear over the cartoon.

    Two Muslim women at Barack Obama’s rally in Detroit on Monday were barred from sitting behind the podium by campaign volunteers seeking to prevent the women’s headscarves from appearing in photographs or on television with the candidate.

    So apparently Obama’s campaign does think Muslim is a slur and just don’t want to be slurred. Is the new age of transcendent tolerance so much better than that old stuff.

  3. Dantheman says:

    I liked this reversal of the cartoon, showing what a conservative satire of McCain would look like (except all of the items shown have some semblence of truth to them, as opposed to the Obama one).

  4. Bithead says:

    Rush did the same bit earlier. I don’t know if Stewart ripped him off or came up with it independently.

    Oh? Interesting. I can’t get Limbaugh’s show in this bldg I’m in.