When I first heard about the New Yorker cover flap, I figured I’d take a look at it and find that not a whole lot of people know from satire and dismiss it or chastise the complainers. But I have to tell you, I’ve looked at that cover over and over again, studied it, stared at it from every which way, and I don’t see the satire. Obama and his supporters have a right to be angry.
It’s a great drawing, that much is true. Especially the caricature of Michelle. If only!
But on the cover, without cover language, or without the context of being attached to an article inside, the desired effect is lost. If, as Kelly McBride, head of the ethics faculty at the Poynter Institute has said, the cartoon’s title, “The Politics of Fear,” appeared on the cover as well, there would have been no problem. Or if the drawing was inside the magazine surrounded by an article giving it context. But alone on the cover without context – and with such a dead-on depiction of the way the Obamas are perceived and/or smeared by right-wing nutjobs – is too dry and removed to qualify as successful satire. The New Yorker is wrong, and I can’t remember such an egregious misstep by the magazine.
I’d still love a poster of it, though.
The cover controversy, by the way, is the best thing the Obama campaign could have hoped for – just the latest example of Barack’s spooky good fortune. Why? First, every media outlet in the land is proclaiming as loudly as they can that the Obamas are not radical Muslims who hate America. If only the media had defended the patriotism of John Kerry and Michael Dukakis as loudly.
More importantly, the controversy draws attention away from the actual article, which reports on an Obama who is, ahem, not exactly what he seems. In Jesse Jackson and failed satire, Obama continues his amazing run of having the right enemies and opponents.
And is the Tribune editorial board trying too hard? The notion that “they” laughed at the cover and the rest of us are idiots is preposterous. I’m quite certain I have a better sense of humor and sharper appreciation of satire than anyone on that board. Their editorial strikes me as calculated – something they had to talk about before determining that they laughed. Or maybe it was a laughter that came after the fact – after reading all about the silly little contretemps. But imagine yourself seeing the cover image for the first time without context. Is it still funny? I think not.