Opinion: That New Yorker cover, a round-up


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Not since the map of a tribally categorized New York City has a New Yorker cover been the subject of such chatter (although this one will probably appear on fewer shower curtains). This week’s issue features Michelle and Barack Obama doing the dap in the Oval Office, Michelle strapped with bullets and donning camo and an afro, Barack in vaguely Arab garb, which here is code for scary stealth Muslim. Cartoonist Barry Blitt hasn’t avoided controversial covers before, but I guess no one minds when you make fun of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Larry Craig. Obama himself had no comment, though a spokesman called the supposed-to-be-satiric cover tasteless, as did a John McCain rep. Here’s what bloggers have to say.

Over at Top of the Ticket, Andrew Malcolm explains why the cover could be dangerous:


A lot of people won’t get the joke. Or won’t want to. And will use it for non-humorous purposes, which isn’t the New Yorker’s fault. A problem is there’s no caption on the cover to ensure that everyone gets the ha-ha-we’ve-collected-almost-every-cliched-rumor-about-Obama-in-one-place-in-order-to-make-fun-of-them punchline.

At Pandagon, Jesse Taylor agrees that the cover doesn’t work as satire, particularly because it has to be explained:

It’s not actually satirizing the phenomenon of right-wing e-mail forwards, it’s just creating the ultimate version thereof. To put it in a different context, it’s like holding a satirized Klan rally by holding a Klan rally...with a laser show that makes a three-story image of a burning cross. A bigger, badder, better version of the thing you’re attempting to mock doesn’t constitute mockery, it just constitutes a gaudier version of the thing you’re addressing.

The Plank also thinks it doesn’t work, because of the magazine’s elitist posture:

And that, of course, is precisely what’s wrong with the cover: the image is satirical only because it appears on the cover of the New Yorker, which, we all know, is a right-thinking magazine read by right-thinking people who couldn’t possibly be among the 10 percent of Americans who believe Obama’s a Muslim. The New Yorker assumes everyone knows it’s being ironic with its cover, sort of the way the white hipster in a gentrifying neighborhood assumes everyone knows he’s being ironic when he wears a ‘Stop Snitching’ t-shirt. But put that image on the cover of National Review, or that t-shirt on a black person in a crime-infested neighborhood, and the message takes on a very different meaning.

Times columnist Jonah Goldberg chimes in at The Corner:


What I find interesting about the New Yorker cover is that it’s almost exactly the sort of cover you could expect to find on the front of National Review. Roman Genn could do wonders with that concept. Of course, if we ran the exact same art, the consensus from the liberal establishment could be summarized in words like ‘Swiftboating!’ and, duh, ‘racist.’

Michelle Obama Watch too wonders about liberal racism:

Does anybody remember that loon from Daily Kos that thought it was a good idea to show Michelle Obama being lynched and tortured because he had a really good point to make?

Michelle Malkin is most concise in her take, and tells Obama to ‘grow a pair.’ Althouse, on that note, wonders why everyone is talking about nuts.

Salon‘s War Room blog, like Althouse, makes it past the cover:

In this case, though, there’s a tangential relationship, as the magazine’s Ryan Lizza has a really interesting profile of Obama, done by looking through the lens of his rise in Chicago. In fact, if I were Lizza, I’d be pretty upset at my editors today, as this controversy has ensured that his article is going ignored. Like so many articles in the magazine, it’s long, complicated and detailed, and reporters and commentators who are discussing the cover are skipping over the article, presumably for reasons of time.... Lizza’s article isn’t a hit piece, but it paints a complicated and at times unflattering portrait of Obama, one that would have had some potential to be politically damaging to the presumptive Democratic nominee were it not for the attention the cover’s getting instead.


See New Yorker editor David Remnick’s defense here, the cartoonist’s response here, and the article here.