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July 14, 2008 7:25 PM

Satire vs. Sneer

Posted by Lynne Varner

The left and right of American politics are on talk radio, news shows and the blogosphere debating the intent of The New Yorker magazine's cartoon portrayal of The Obamas. Democrats say appropriate satire. Republicans say it was a misfired sneer at some Americans. Stop arguing: it was both.

The magazine knows its audience, high-income, well-educated readers with a penchant for sneering at anyone unfortunate enough to live outside of urban zip codes. As editor in chief David Remnick explained, the July 21 cover depicting the Democratic presidential nominee in Muslim garb and his wife Michelle in camoflauge, an Afro and an AK-47 slung over her back, was a thumb in the eye of those Americans who - despite the facts - suspect Obama is a Muslim aligned with Osama bin Laden.

The thumb misfired. Instead, Obama is joined by Republican nominee, Sen. John McCain, in denouncing the New Yorker. The cartoon managed to hurt Obama and inflame Americans who rightly feel mocked (however tempting it is to mock anyone believing Obama is a terrorist waiting to connect the red phone in the White House to bin Laden's hideout. What do you think?

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Posted by David Martin

7:27 AM, Jul 15, 2008

I think it was a racist piece of crap. Satire makes fun at facts, whereas this played on stereotypes and lies: defamation of character.

The New Yorker printed this piece, knowing full-well what the outcomes would be.

This is merely a racist piece of propaganda. To honor this piece of crap is to feed into the racist undertones the author wishes to imply.

I have stated that this current Presidential Administration has created a society liken to Deutschlandís Weimer Republic; now I see just how accurate I was and it scares the hell out of me.

Posted by Kris

10:07 AM, Jul 15, 2008

David, you liberals play the white guilt race card quicker than Billy the Kid and Doc Holiday could draw their pistols.

It's not defamation of character if the facts support the New Yorker "piece of crap". There are several facts and indicators out there to demonstrate Obama may be a Muslim.

What does the "current Presidential Administration" have to do with the satirical cartoon? Do liberals always lay everything they don't like at the feet of Bush?

Posted by Sean

12:19 PM, Jul 15, 2008

Personally, I cannot figure out which is more amusing, the ideas/speculation and facts which gave "inspiration" to this drawing, the people that published this drawing, or the various reactions/spin in the media regarding this drawing.

Posted by oldhonky

5:54 PM, Jul 15, 2008

A cute drawing, mildly funny -- but I worry that it may be misunderstood by low-IQ voters. There's always that risk with satire. Hopefully it will help wrap all the lies about Obama into a neat bundle so that they can be disposed of for good. The downside is that a few morons who are registered to vote will take it as confirmation of their worst fears. Hopefully those folks don't read The New Yorker.

Posted by Ellen Hilburn

7:12 AM, Jul 16, 2008

I think the New Yorker got what any magazine hopes for...recognition. If they just had another pretty cover and a magazine packed with more unfunny funnies, it would have been business as usual. But in these dire financial times, sometimes you gotta stir the pot and stick with the "freedom of speech" excuse.

Posted by Helen

12:20 PM, Jul 16, 2008

I want to know one thing... even if Obama was a Muslim, which I don't think he is, so what? Is it a crime to be Muslim? People say it like it's a bad word. I would hope Americans could see past all the negativity presented by the media of the very few extremist Muslims in the world (which are the ones who make the headlines unfortunately) and realize the vast majority of Muslims, American or not, are lovely people.

Posted by Lynne Varner

12:38 PM, Jul 16, 2008

Helen,
Sen. Obama is not a Muslim. He's a Christian. And I agree with your question, if he were Muslim so what? Unfortunately, it would make a difference for some voters. Religon, and suspicion of one's allegiance, made a different for John Kennedy (Catholic) when he ran for president also for Joseph Lieberman (Jewish.)

Posted by Dave

4:00 PM, Jul 16, 2008

Helen & Lynne - I agree that Obama calls himself Christian and the evidence backs him up on that. However, I don't know what's in his heart anymore than I know what's in McCain's heart, as to what "Christian" means to him. I imagine it means something different to me than it does to you two too.
I also agree that there should not be a religious test to hold office. That would be unconstitutional, unethical, and nonsensical.
That being said, I do have to respectfully disagree and say that it is perfectly legitimate to make religious belief part of the criteria that one makes their decision on. There are so many issues that don't get addressed during a campaign and so many unexpected situations that come up during a term in office (e.g., 9/11, Katrina, Darfur, court decisions, etc.) that you can't make a candidate selection on the basis of specific issues completely. You have to know the worldview that he has as a foundation and make a decision trusting that he'll be true to that worldview. That worldview can include conservative/liberal, hawk/dove, Smith/Keynes, religious/darwinist, Protestant/Catholic/Muslim/Buddhist/Atheist, etc. All of it plays in and to deny religion a chance to make a difference denies the values of both the candidate and the voter.
Unfortuantely, the use of the word "unfortunately" again portrays a sad bias and condescension that I've addressed in other conversations on this blog. It indicates that religious beliefs should be left out of the decision-making, freedom from religion rather than freedom of religion (granted in the same amendment as freedom of press, Lynne).
There's always the chance that some will use the religion as the sole criteria on which they make their decision, but is that any worse than any other single-issue voter (e.g., Iraq, global warming, abortion, race)?
Yes Helen, people need to see past the extremists and not stereotype individuals, which was a point the New Yorker was making.
No Lynne, it's not unfortunate that religion makes a difference to some people. The difference just needs to be used in the right way. Let's not throw out the baby with the bathwater.

Posted by badcleats

7:47 AM, Jul 25, 2008

It was a known Liberal magazine that published it.I never hear any outrage about the other Seattle daily paper. It has a house cartoonist with a blog, and for years, he has been depicting stuff like this of George W Bush on a weekly basis. You can access his sight right now, and get his 25 favorite cartoons of George W Bush. Like I always say, if it's not your sacred cow, that's O K. I don't hear W crying about all the abuse he has been getting, especially in Seattle. The cover was trash, but if he wants to be President of the USA, he's going to have bear a lot more than that.

Posted by William S

1:59 PM, Jul 25, 2008

For those of us that watch Fox News for its entertainment value, the New Yorker's cover seems ever more pertinent. The cover image shows Mr. and Mrs. Obama exchanging a fist pound (think "high-five"). E.D. Hill, former commentator for Fox News' "America's Pulse" described the exchange as a "terrorist fist pound". The most viewed news network postulates whether a fist pound between the Democratic Presidential nominee and his wife is terrorist related; to which audience does that station pander? A video of this commentary can be found at the link listed below. What I find surprising about the negative reaction to the article is that it is the high-earning, well-educated liberal individuals who seem to take most offense to the cover. This select bracket is seemingly inoculated against the reality that a sizable number of American's (see: Bush Election 2000, 2004; Fox News viewership ratings) strongly believe that Obama is a Muslim with links to Indonesian terrorist cells. From my personal experience working in The South, the people with whom I spoke believed every falsity portrayed on that cover. The New Yorker did nothing less than conduct on informal survey on Mr. Obama amongst Red State voters and produce a cartoon as final product. I congratulate the New Yorker for exposing the delusion that a large portion of our society believes.

http://mediamatters.org/items/200806060007

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