A Few More Leaden Comments on the Obamas, the New Yorker and Satire
Nothing is as tedious as solemn pronouncements about humor. Seemingly everyone, from Barack Obama and John McCain and David Remnick to op-eders and talking heads everywhere, has weighed in on the July 21 New Yorker cover with Obama as a Muslim and Michelle as a terrorist, and I do mean weigh. So here are some parting shots:
1. Like most people, I first saw this cover as a postage-stamp-sized illustration on the Internet (I suppose others saw it held up on TV). Either way, the obvious satirical intent was blurred when all you saw was the central figures in miniature. The actual cover, with half of Osama bin Laden's face above the fireplace and with the American flag burning in the fireplace below, plus the details of the Oval Office, signals the satiric intent loud and clear.
2. Maybe too loud? Whether it's actually funny is another matter. An art director I know suggested that it might have been sharpered with Cheney and/or Bush leering in through a window. Maybe.
3. The furious initial response from the Obama campaign seemed a little, well, humorless. Better to shrug it off, as Obama did, tho he had his peeps registering the requisite moral outrage.
4. And yet, as reinforced by a recent TV sampling of supposed lifelong Democrats at various baseball games all saying they would vote for McCain because everyone knew Obama was a Muslim, it is a dangerous area in which to tread. Who will get the joke?
5. But how many people who know Obama is a Muslim read the New Yorker, anyhow?
6. The New York Post, which runs the stupidest, crudest political cartoons anywhere, picked up on a wonderful one from the Cincinnati Enquirer. A satire of Saul Steinberg's famous 1976 New Yorker cover showing a New Yorker's (satirical) view of America, with only a few sketchy, cliched landmarks visible west of the Hudson, it showed a cover with "Satire-Free Edition" emblazoned beneath the New Yorker logo and a map of the United States stretching from east to west exactly as you would see it on a real map. THAT was funny.
7.Let's lighten up, guys 'n' gals, and move on to the next scurilous political distraction, of which there will be many between now and November.