If you havent seen the cover of the latest New Yorker, Google it. Even though it was important enough for us to comment on it, we dont think its appropriate to print. And neither should the New Yorker.
The cover shot is a cartoon by Barry Blitt showing Barack Obama wearing sandals, a robe and a turban giving the terrorist fist tap to his wife Michelle, whos dressed in camouflage and combat boots with an assault rifle over her shoulder. The pair are shown standing in the oval office with an American flag burning in the fireplace and a picture of Osama bin Laden on the mantel.
Statements by the New Yorker, including an interview with the editor in chief David Remnick, said the cartoon was designed as a satire using irony, sarcasm or ridicule to poke fun at a practice or belief in hopes of reform. Remnick said the picture pools all the vicious and racist attacks and rumors and misconceptions about the Obamas
What we set out to do, Remnick said, was to throw all these images together, where are all over the top and to shine a kind of harsh light on them, to satirize them. Thats part of what we do.
But wheres the line between constructive satire and sheer sarcasm? Is that image on the cover of a prominent magazine with national circulation really going to make the public chuckle and shake their heads at the conservative exaggerations exemplified in the cartoon? More likely, it will confuse people.
According to ABC news, one in 10 Americans still believe that Sen. Obama is a Muslim. Numerous media polls have shown most voters dont follow the issues as closely as they should and the vast majority doesnt even vote. While there are exceptions, much of America doesnt invest the time or resources to find out the truth. And what will these viewers think when they see a national, upper-crust magazine print a picture of Obama as a terrorist? Thats not completely true is it?
But the public shouldnt have to ask these questions; they shouldnt have to discount major media publications because Ivy League editors thought everyone could take a joke. And whos laughing? Certainly not the far left, and as the conservative Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote, the far right isnt laughing either. This cover actually does reflect not exaggerate, not satirize the views of a sizeable portion of Americans. That image is exactly what Fox News thinks of Barack and Michelle." Those who understood it didnt laugh, and those who didnt get it probably believed parts of it.
Remnick said the cartoon was part of a journalistic enterprise, and that journalism does not publish for the sake of a political campaign. True, the goal of journalism is to provide the public with objective and accurate information in a way that best enables them to get involved in the world around them, especially the political world. Ideally its for the good of the people, to defend the defenseless, serve as the watchdog and give an unbiased view of the world. That cartoon is none of the above. It doesnt inform the people or better enable them to make wise decisions. It is episodes like these that give the media a reputation for being sensational and extreme.
A satire was a good intention, but the road to hell is paved with those. And no ones laughing now.