Tuesday, July 15, 2008

'New Yorker' cover might help dispel lingering anti-Obama prejudices


Six months ago, my mother sent me and various other members of our family an email string she had been forwarded with the subject heading, "read it - spread it - scary!"

The original emailer, some guy named Sam Meerkin, wrote, "I'm not an American, but I'm frightened at this revelation. Please tell all of your U.S. friends to beware."

The email went to list the litany of anti-Barack Obama prejudices with which we news junkies are now well familiar. This despicable underground campaign has been simmering in certain circles for months, even forcing the Obama campaign to launch its own website to counter the smears.

Now the shit hit the fan yesterday with the release of the New Yorker's latest edition, specifically the magazine's controversial cover illustration by the Canadian-born, Connecticut-based artist Barry Blitt, titled 'The Politics of Fear' (pictured). The Globe has a great piece today detailing the controversy.

The New Yorker says it intended the illustration as a satirical thumb in the eye of those who have attempted to smear Mr. Obama as unpatriotic or a terrorist sympathizer.

Initial reaction has been swift and predictable. The Obama campaign condemned the illustration, calling it "tasteless and offensive". The John McCain campaign agreed.

At the Huffington Post, the novelist Trey Ellis said that, while, "I get the intended joke ... dressing up perhaps the next president of the United States as the new millennium equivalent of Adolf Hitler is just gross and dumb."

A coalition of African-American media and political organizations called for the magazine to be pulled from store shelves, while irate readers deluged the publication's midtown offices with phone calls and e-mails that were met with automated responses.

Commentators on the right, who were the caricature's presumed target, reacted with glee. Many promised to sell T-shirts bearing the image.

I think those right-wing types simply expose their own stupidity by reacting this way. My initial reaction to the illustration was also mild outrage. Then I saw the media explosion that ensued yesterday in reaction. Clearly, the New Yorker has hit the mother load with everybody now talking and thinking about its latest issue.

Will this cover and the ensuing controversy actually hurt the Obama campaign? I highly doubt it. Quite the opposite.

Will it help expose these underground rumours and falsehoods that continue to make the rounds as the lies we know them to be? It may just. By bringing these whispers out into the open, we help dispel them. Such crap can't withstand the shining light of full public discussion.

The New Yorker cover is satire at its best.

1 comment:

Joseph said...

I'm glad someone finally said it. Thank you!

I think this is a blessing in disguise, and the best example - and usage - of satire I've seen in a long long time.

Sometimes you need to slap that mirror right in the face of the unsuspecting.

This cover is not "offensive." It just exposes the shitty little message conservatives hope to exploit (under the surface) in this election.

I say shine the light on it and force them to campaign on ideas for once, not just fear and prejudice.

Kudos New Yorker.