Tuesday, July 15, 2008

THE NEW YORKER OBAMAS COVER "CONTROVERSY"


I was waiting to get my copy in the mail so I could scan the cover (and may well do that when it arrives and add it). [done]

But several friends have emailed me asking what I think, so I thought I'd just go ahead and post this without the cover.

In case you haven't heard, the cover depicts, in a cartoony (New Yorker cartoony) way, the Obamas—Barack and Michelle—fist bumping but dressed in terrorist gear.

Obviously it's a satiric comment on Fox News starting the mini-"controversy" over Barack and his wife doing a fist bump in celebration of his winning enough delegates to be the presumptive nominee for the Democratic candidate for president.

The actual fist bump, at an enromous rally that Barack had just addressed, was almost sheepish, since these two are basically very attractive but very intellectual and relatively reserved folks. It made for a really cute picture.

But the right-wing managed to turn it into something else and the mass media went along, as always, like marionettes on strings being manipulated by them.

The New Yorker cover makes fun of this stupidty, the way I see it. But, like clockwork, the right-wing picked it up as "elitist" New Yorker blah blah blah and not just the mass media, but the left fell for it, as so many on the left have been doing in the past several years and in this campaign.

It's a joke. And if there are people out there who actually might view this cover and believe it translates into the Obamas are terrosists, they weren't going to vote for Barack in the first place, and if they were, they shouldn't.

I want him to win, very much so, but I also want to see his campaign and the media initiate their own stories and subject matter and stop reacting to everyone else's.

The mass media thrives, obviously, on controversy, be it celebrity behavior or political "wars" etc. They're always using that term "war" as if McCain and Obama were about to line their troops up and begin shooting real bullets at each other.

Obama has to get control of his campaign in a transparent and concrete and precise and compltete way, so that he doesn't fall prey to the syndrone I predicted the right would try and trap him into back when he first began running, the Adlai Stevenson one.

He lost to Eisenhower by allowing the right to depict him as an aloof intellectual far removed from the common man, an egghead who might even be a secret sympathizer with communists! While Ike was just a regular guy who regular folks could identify with, and who also happened to have won the bloodiest war of the 20th century.

McCain is doing his best Ike imitation, especially today with his "I know how to win a war" pronouncements. Which war was that he won? Viet Nam? Of course not (even though that's the only one he fought in). He means Iraq. As though we've won something.

But the Obama campaign's response to this is more studied and nuanced intellectual reasons why we haven't won in Iraq and why we need to win in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Unfortunately, not one great sound bite in Obama's speech.

I don't know if it's the people from Hilary's campaign that his has taken on who are getting in the way, or if his strategy of counting heads in electoral districts and counting on grass roots and local oragnizing to win for him, or if it's just a belief that he can convince the electorate with speeches. But it ain't working. he should be leading McCain by tweny points after what the Republicans have done to this country in the past seven yerars, let alone the world.

The New Yorker cover is just a diversion. An amusing one if you like that kind of satire. I laughed. But the only threat is in diverting our attention from the real issues.

Obama is dealing with a world used to not just sound bites but computer bytes. He needs to get his message out much more directly and boldly as he is obviously capable of doing, but has backed off from, for reasons that may be noble and/or well intentioned, but aren't working.

11 comments:

-K- said...

I was anxious to get my copy too and when it arrived this evening I was relieved to see how it is so obviously a joke, totally over the top.

I suppose I have to give a little credit to The New Yorker for being something other than it's usual milquetoastish self,

There's also a good "Talk of the Town" piece by Hendrik Hertzberg. He doesn't let him off the hook for FISA and acknowledges there's a little pandering going on, but also offers some documentation that Obama's more of centerist and more of a pragmatist than others have wanted him to be.

harryn said...

good points michael, but i've always been a little too sensitive about stuff like this ...
the words we speak, write, cyber - the images we make - the stuff we do for effect; humor, satire, irony ...
these days it seems a little reckless , and even irresponsible to divert our attention too far from the facts - something the world is desparately in need of ...
i still see abuse disguised as humor [satire, irony, etc.], as still being abuse ...

Caitlin said...

Paul, I agree. Our local NPR station had a call in discussion on this topic yesterday. Most folks agreed it wasn't appropriate for the front page, or even inside (as some suggested). The basic jist(sp?) was that a picture is worth a thousand words and this one will be viewed by all those folks who pass it on the news stand but don't get the "joke". I'm afraid I agree with that general idea too. Oh, and you can view it if you don't have a news stand or a subscription at New Yorker.com, so yes I've seen it and got the joke but...

harryn said...

good to know you're out there caitlin, and hope all is well with you and yours ...

Toby T. said...

The problem with the drawing may be its point of view. If the scene were framed by a TV screen, perhaps with the Fox News logo, the viewer would understand from whence it came. As is, it seems an intimate look at a private reality; a peek through the window pane. "The New Yorker" was mistaken to have run it.

Lally said...

Hey, I hear you Paul and Cait, and maybe Toby's suggestion is the best one. Now that I've seen it in person, the framing (the flag burning in the fireplace etc.) would make the point of the joke more accessible if it were the tube with FOX News on it etc.

Lally said...

PS Although the way it is now, it's obviously supposed to be the oval office, so that's the point of the artist's joke, that this is how the right is portraying his possible presidency, etc.

harryn said...

let's just cut to the chase - wrong is what it is - despite all the justifications we can invent for the sake of humor, wit, etc. ...
muslim garb - the pic of bin laden - all muslims aren't terrorists - just like all the other hideous stereotypes - the fro, the flag burning, the oval office, facial expressions, and everything else that can be manipulated or interpreted ...
the publicity that this generates [the effect] may negatively impact some on the fence voters that don't share the artist's [or editors] propensity for wit and profit ...
this election is no joke - it's serious business and the spread on the polls isn't as great as the apathy among liberal voters to campaign more aggressively ...
the comic relief can wait - the laissez faire inaccuracies are unacceptable ...

AlamedaTom said...

Satire is indeed a tricky beast. Consider: In the wonderful movie "The Producers," Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder dream up a Broadway show that they believe is so offensive that everyone will despise it, and thus the show will be an utter failure, which is their aim. Instead, the public views it as brilliant satire and the show is wildly successful. Compare with the New Yorker staff, who obviously believed that everyone would recognize their intention was satire, only to find that a large share of the public viewed the exercise as appalling and insulting, not only to the Obamas but Muslims. Go figure!

Here is something from the extensive Wikipedia entry on "satire," which may also shed some light on this thorny issue:

Misconception of satire

Because satire often combines anger and humour it can be profoundly disturbing - because it is essentially ironic or sarcastic, it is often misunderstood. In an interview with Wikinews, Sean Mills, President of The Onion, said angry letters about their news parody always carried the same message. "It’s whatever affects that person," said Mills. "So it’s like, 'I love it when you make a joke about murder or rape, but if you talk about cancer, well my brother has cancer and that’s not funny to me.' Or someone else can say, 'Cancer’s hilarious, but don’t talk about rape because my cousin got raped.' I'm using extreme examples, but whatever it is, if it affects somebody personally, they tend to be more sensitive about it."[19]

Common uncomprehending responses to satire include revulsion (accusations of poor taste, or that it's "just not funny" for instance), to the idea that the satirist actually does support the ideas, policies, or people he is attacking. For instance, at the time of its publication, many people misunderstood Swift’s purpose in "A Modest Proposal" – assuming it to be a serious recommendation of economically-motivated cannibalism. Again, some critics of Mark Twain see Huckleberry Finn as racist and offensive, missing the point that its author clearly intended it to be satire (racism being in fact only one of a number of Mark Twain's known pet bugbears attacked in Huckleberry Finn).

harryn said...

all these schisms of 'isms'; racism, terrorism, fundementalism, feminism, elitism, protectionism, conservatism, sarcasm, expressionism, modernism, post and neo ...
once defined, it's time to move on - that's the nature of change ...
til now, this campaign has been so incredibly historical with the efforts of obama, clinton, the old guard same old shite; the consciousness shift of the american public, hope, etc ...
but it ain't over - i saw the public take their eye off the ball in the last election with john kerry, where humor, ridicule, stereotypes, and false allegations [from both camps] became more topical than campaign strategies and platforms to defeat gw ...
everyone is beginning to tire from the length of time and rhetoric that this campaign is fostering, but i fear this is the chink the conservatives will use to defuse the dems momentum - divide and conquer - while one-trick mccain keeps sending out a clear and understandable message [despite its lack of truth] - it just looks more presidential ...
i just don't want to risk the future on clever intellectualism, circle-jerk humor, and any assumption of winning til i see barak take oath in january ...

Another Lally said...

This is all the imagery that the Hillary campaign dredged up against Obama and his wife.

How did this get blamed on the GOP, Conservatives or Right Wingers?

What we have previously known as journalism has become little more than a tabloid press operation.

They fawn. They get tingly feelings down their legs. They follow Obama like he is the Anti-Christ saying great things.

The McCain cartoon of him and his wife was far more kind and humanizing. He suffers illness (similar to JFK and his deteriorating body from Addison's Disease). His wife overcame addiction to prescription drugs. McCain's age can be viewed as either frailty or accumulated wisdom.

Good satire always has the barb but also the objectivity and honesty that is filtered through our perspectives.