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Joseph A. Komonchak July 14, 2008 - 1:41pm
Here's the controversial New Yorker cover.http://www.thenewyorkerstore.com/product_details.asp?mscssid=CQK93C8DTDVA8LV722PPL53Q27HD7N4C&sitetype=1&sid=125383&did=4Do you think those it satirizes will recognize it as satire? What will its impact on the campaign be?
Yes, but.....Can't be good.This cover illustrates poor judgment on the part of its creator and the person(s) who approved it.
I don't they they should use this cover, but I doubt that the people who think Obama is a Muslim will be influenced one way or another by anything The New Yorker publishes.
I think it's brilliant, in that it's generating mainstream talk about something that has been scurrilously whispered about on the margins for many months. I'm a fan of shining light in dark corners and under rocks. Hopefully, the conversation that ensues from this cover puts the unfounded rumors to rest once and for all.
The cover is a gift to Obama--for days (maybe even a full week) the media will be filled with sympathetic stories about the poor, maligned senator ... African American groups that might otherwise have shared Jesse Jackson's crude point of view will rally to Obama's defense ... journalists will search high and low for any "other" examples of the New Yorker's complicity with the vast right wing conspiracy, and we'll all be lectured ad nasuem on how we White Folk still don't "get it" ... etc., etc.If Obama does make it to the Oval Office, he'll likely want to hang a frame copy of the cover on one wall.
IMO the statement issues by the magazine in defense of the cover wasn't very convincing:"The cover combines a number of fantastical images about the Obamas and shows them for the obvious distortions they are.The burning flag, the nationalist-radical and Islamic outfits, the fist-bump, the portrait on the wall? All of them echo one attack or another. Satire is part of what we do, and it is meant to bring things out into the open, to hold up a mirror to prejudice, the hateful, and the absurd. And thats the spirit of this cover. I have two problems with the cover. First, the fist-bump isn't enough to overcome the strong negative images that were included in the piscture. If the cover had instead been a cartoon with a caption inside the magazine, the satirical nature of the image might have been more clear. Second, for those in the world who don't know of The New Yorker's refined sense of satire, it will be easy for them to separate the image from its context, and the image itself will unfortunately take on a life of its own. The New Yorker is often on the money with its satire, but this image, especially the burning flag conveying the idea that Obamas are "un-American," is very wide of the mark.
One might say that this is exactly what was made so much fun of tongue in cheek in that infamous New Yorker cover showing New York taking up a vast geographic range of territory compared to the rest of the U.S. This cover embodies what that cover was making fun of -- and it's certainly a testament to the editor's lack of self-awareness of the phenomenon.
There are times that the New Yorker thinks it is just a bit too clever and oh-so-you know "New York!" for it's own good. Bad taste is bad taste, even in the New Yorker.
The cover feeds into the worst fears of Americans; they are prejudicial fears at that. Maybe the New Yorker subscribers will get the satire, but the rest of the world will not. It's not a good picture to people living outside of America, and once again tarnishes the American reputation. Come on, New Yorker editors. Do your job!
David Remnick, in a rather velvet-glove interview on NPR, opined that you don't have to live on the Upper West Side to get a joke.I don't get the joke.
ISTM the problem with the cover is its ambiguity. Satire exaggerates somebody's or some group's fault. So who is being satirized by this cover? The cartoonist and editor say it's not the Obamas. So who is this image directed at? If it were on the July issue of KKK News it would no doubt be taken as a satire of the Obamas, and nothing in the cartoon itself nay-says that.
Those who don't like the Obamas will be rooting in the trash cans behind bookstores and magazine stands to get copies of the cover from issues not sold.(Of course, they likely wouldn't know what to do with the rest of the magazine, anyway :)
There is no excuse for this cover. This is a personal attack on the Obamas and is not an example of satire.
I must admit I am not a regular The New Yorker reader, though my mother is. But being somewhat familiar with the content of The New Yorker, I am somewhat astonished at those who hold the position that the cover is not satire. I could understand if they argued that it was a failed attempt at satire, though reluctantly since I believe it is well executed. If it is not at least intended to be satire, one would have to believe that the magazine is not fully behind Obama in this general election. Having read a few articles recently, including one unfair portrait of John McCain, it is rather difficult to accept that the magazine is not generally behind Obama. Except for the portrayal of the "fist bump," which Obama actually did do, all of the other images seem to refer to either internet rumors about Obama being Muslim or Obama's association with 60s radicals. But both the radicalism and the Muslim aspects of the cover are depicted so incredibly out of proportion in the cover that it is obviously intended to be a satirical work.Now there is another popular argument that I've seen floating around the internet. This argument is hilarious as it reflects some of the elitism that many liberals, including Obama, have been accused of over the years. Some believe that while the cover is a satirical portrayal of all the internet rumors and gossip surrounding Obama and his intellectual and religious background, it is dangerous nonetheless as it will be misinterpreted by people unfamiliar with the publication. This is the criticism that David Remnick is trying to deflect with his comment about not having to live on the Upper West Side to be in on the joke. I don't know what you would accurately call this argument. It portrays some contempt for the mental abilities of those in the "fly-over states." Maybe it could be called "coastal paternalism."I understand that both the Obama and McCain camps have criticized the cover, finding it to be in bad taste. I would hope both parties have a better sense of humor than that, and maybe they do. It is difficult to gauge in election years as candidates often embrace opportunities to be aggrieved to such an extent that it appears there is something in this act that is not quite disagreeable to them.
The satire really fails because the images are too charged to be effective. It is an attempt to soften criticism by exaggerating the critiqued. Time will tell if it works. It is telling that the New Yorker would not dare to do something like this about the pope or the bishops. I guess Donahue is good for something, or someone.
Bill, the New Yorker wouldn't put the bishops on their cover because they are of only limited interest to its readership. The New Yorker has published some extremely hard hitting articles about the sex abuse scandal and wrongdoing of bishops. I recall three articles specifically, and there are probably more. One article, in particular, talked about what it called the "treatment charade" by which priests were sent to a particular rehab facility that was completely ineffective. Give the New Yorker its due.
I guess Barbara. But a picture is worth a thousand words, n'estce pas?
There's a good piece in this morning's Washington Post.http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/07/14/AR200807... One of the author's central points, and one with which I fully agree is this:"The main problem with the New Yorker cover -- if it's a problem at all -- is that its humor is intended for a relatively insular, like-minded readership: subscribers to the New Yorker, a presumably urbane audience with strong Obama tendencies. No matter what the New Yorker says about holding up a mirror to prejudice, the cartoon certainly didn't do that. It was more like a spyglass."The cover, like so many self-deprecating, wryly funny, overly self-referential New Yorker covers before it, is just another prism through which New Yorker readers confirm something that is true and easily caricatured at the same time: They are an elite, a minority, and while they might be more educated or sophisticated or adept at the play of humor, they will always be outvoted by Texas. And Kansas. And the rest of the states beyond reach of the A train. The cover says as much about the political influence of Manhattan as it does about the prejudice of the rubesoisie."In other words it is, as Barbara mentioned, simply another version of the famous Steig map of Manhattan dominating the US, if not indeed the universe. Insularity is by no means restricted to fundamentalists, Southerners, right-wingers, and the like, and perhaps is even more offensive when it is propagated under the mask of enlightened cosmopolitanism (all fair minded people will agree with me and my ilk because we're so obviously right. . . etc. etc.)It's a bit like considering western, southern, or New England writers to be "regionalists" while those who write about Manhattan are presumably universalists, or some such word.
Frankly what's irked me more than the New Yorker cover is the national discussions going on on the talk shows seem to imply that only New Yorkers will "get it." Well, shucks and durn! I knew what that pitcher was about the minute I seen it.Seemed perfectly clear to me that it's satirizing not the Obamas but the unfounded fears people have about them--their scary (i.e., Arab) name, their scary race, their scary peacenik ideas. If you find the cover horrifying, it's because you recognize that those stereotypes are unfounded and promulgated by the frightened and ill-informed.Whether the cover is funny or not is moot. It strikes me as more bitter and lacerating, like Swift's "Modest Proposal." In fact, when Raber saw the illustrations news coverage last night in which there was a lot of huffing about poor taste, he remarked, in mock horror, "You can't eat babies!!!"
Nicholas Clifford, thanks for the link, that was some good analysis. Here is the bit I liked the best:"The prissy tone of dudgeon from the Obama campaign was a relatively well-pitched political twofer: It distinguished them from the New Yorker and its untouchable demographic (educated, literate, well-informed people from New York or New York-ish enclaves) and it gave them a news cycle on the high ground of victimization, defensively crouched against credulous souls misreading the New Yorker in coal mines, truck stops and smoky saloons. "
Manhattanites are really hard to categorize. It might be closer to the truth to say that you can find everything and anything in Manhattan. It is saints and sinners in extremis. Lack of confidence that goes with the lavish penthouse. Million dollar rings with compensatory Prozac. Sophistication combined with stoned drunkenness. it is Jerome confessing his sin in advance as he reads Cicero. Athanasius is there with the truth while Rogers says we must listen. It is the Donatists militating for a better church and and Augustine constantly changing his mind---because he is sensitive. And don't forget Commonweal is in the uppermost West Side. Pray for them/us. Augustine would understand.
Tom Toles has got it right today - 16th Julyhttp://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/opinions/cartoonsandvideos/toles_ma...
Jonathan Swift's classic satire par excellence, "A Modest Propsal," did not satirize the Irish, it satirized the British stereotype of the Irish right up its brutal suggestion of roasting Irish babies to feed the starving Irish.Not all satire is funny; it can be cruel and bitter too. Consider Mark Twain, Orwell, Vonnegut.The New Yorker's cover was a "In your face, you merchants of sleaze, smear, and fear." Unless we were in a comma, we heard the rumors and gossip about Obama. And in this context, the magazine held up a mirror for all of us to look in.Please don't censor this effort or suggest that it should have been watered down. I'll take my satire straight, like I do my whisky. It's good for my health.c
Perhaps one of the problems with the New Yorker's protestations of innocence is that while they often treat their own readership (or demographic) with a gentle and humorous irony, they stop short of treating it satirically. But then, satirizing oneself, or one's ilk, or indeed those who pay one's bills (subscribers, advertisers) is pretty rare.
Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, professor emeritus of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York.
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