Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Its up to you New Yorker! New Yorker!

"These little town blues, are melting away
Ill make a brand new start of it - in old New York
If I can make it there, Ill make it anywhere
Its up to you - New York, New York."

As Amba at Ambivablog and Ann Althouse said about the New Yorker cover "everyone is talking about it. " So I have no choice but to declare a "Yossarian", as I have periodically done before and paraphrase Joseph Heller's famous protagonist from Catch 22 - "What if everyone was blogging about the New Yorker cover?" I can only respond as did Bomber Pilot John Yossarian: "Then I'd be a damn fool not to".

Since, as usual I am a day late and and a dollar short, I don't have a lot to add to the volumes written about the the cover itself. The cover is exactly what illustrator Barry Blitt intended, a humorous and brilliant slap down of the more inane attacks on Obama by the rabid right. No matter, the cover is not the real story. The real story is the reaction to the cover by Obama, his campaign and his supporters. As always, the tone is set at the top, with staff and supporters taking their cues from the leadership. Obama's reaction:
"ABC News' Sunlen Miller reports that when he was asked about the controversial cover during a press avail today, Obama shrugged and then said, "I have no response to that."
So, Barack Obama is pouting. Think how differently this story evolves if Obama instead looks at cover, laughs out loud, says "That's great. They missed a few points, where is Reverend Wright?"

But he did not say that. Instead we get an official Obama spokesman taking offense:
"The New Yorker may think... that their cover is a satirical lampoon of the caricature Senator Obama's right-wing critics have tried to create," said Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton. "But most readers will see it as tasteless and offensive. And we agree."
And so the Obama acolytes who understand only too well that electing Barack Obama is much, MUCH too important to laugh about, go into high dudgeon and pile on.

But what do I know. Perhaps the Obama campaign is right. Perhaps it is important for every President and political candidate to immediately respond with righteous indignation on every political magazine cover. Perhaps Hillary Clinton and George W Bush should have responded to previous New Yorker covers in kind. Consider:

Hillary certainly could have sniffed about this New Yorker cover when the Monica Lewinsky scandal was breaking in ...

May 1994
"The New Yorker may think that their cover is a satirical lampoon of the First Lady's presidential ambitions..." said a Clinton spokesman "But during this time of personal family crisis and pain most readers will see it as tasteless and offensive. "
Or when she decided to run for New York Senator in...

July, 1999
"The New Yorker may think that their cover is a satirical lampoon of the caricature that Hillary Clinton's political opponents have tried to create of her Senate campaign." said a Clinton spokesman "But most readers will see thie portrayal of her as a dilettante tourist about to get mugged by tough New York politics it as tasteless, sexist and offensive. "
And if Presidential candidates need to respond to cartoon covers, shouldn't Presidents also respond in kind?

December 2006
"The New Yorker may think that their cover is a satirical lampoon of the caricature President Bush's left-wing critics have tried to create." said a Bush spokesman "But most readers will see the cover's portrayal of President Bush as a meek housewife subservient to a slovenly Dick Cheney head of the household as tasteless and offensive. "
January, 2007
"The New Yorker may think that their cover is a satirical lampoon portraying an out of touch imperial President who is fiddling while the country burns." said a Bush spokesman "But most readers will see it as tasteless and offensive. "
Yeah. That's the ticket.

By the way, the article itself - you know - inside the magazine - is great. I suggest everyone try to get past the cover and read it for real insight into the making of Barack Obama.

And for any who worry that satire is just too sophisticated for your average American, who fear that the great unwashed need to be protected from sophisticated humor, noted conservative blogger Jon Swift has the answer:
"The next time the New Yorker tries to run a satiric cover, they should include a label that says "Satire" in very big letters just as they label all of their advertisements. Although I am not generally in favor of solving problems with legislation, the time may have come when the government needs to mandate warning labels for satire like they do for cigarettes."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The only reason that this Mr. & Mrs. Obama satire DOES have impact — and may very likely spread — is because like all good satire, or good humor for that matter, there’s more than a germ of truth in it. Otherwise, the satire would utterly roll off the Obamoids’ backs, having no impact.