Is this Satire?
One of the side effects of writing Doug’s Darkworld is an increased interest in politics. Although not because I am becoming interested in politics per se, but because it is a central theme in the tightly interwoven matrix that is human culture and society. In simpler terms, politic is important because effects us all. And sometimes things happens in the political realm that are interesting enough to blog about, so once again I will deconstruct some current event and see what I can see.
And today I am talking about the infamous cover that is running on the 21 July 2008 issue of the New Yorker magazine. The cover of the magazine shows a caricature of Obama and his wife. He is dressed in traditional Muslim garb, just like the picture of Osama Bin Laden on the wall. His wife is a caricature of a sixties black radical with the afro and carrying a gun. An American flag burns in the fireplace behind them. The New Yorker magazine claims this is satirical in nature, lampooning those who have spread the nasty rumours that Obama is a Muslim terrorist.
Right. I’m a little unclear here, dictionary.com defines satire as :
1. The use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like, in exposing, denouncing, or deriding vice, folly, etc.
2. A literary composition, in verse or prose, in which human folly and vice are held up to scorn, derision, or ridicule.
Wikipedia describes satire as “In satire, human or individual vices, follies, abuses, or shortcomings are held up to censure by means of ridicule, derision, burlesque, irony, or other methods, ideally with the intent to bring about improvement.”
So, I’m confused, what vices, follies, abuses, or shortcomings of Obama and his wife are being held up for examination and improvement here? The New Yorker claims that they are satirizing the people who are making the claim that Obama is an America hating Muslim and terrorist sympathizer. I don’t see Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, or other right wing pundits on the cover, I see Obama and his wife. So how is illustrating the oft repeated claim that Obama is a Muslim terrorist sympathizer on a national magazine “satire” of the people making these basically racist and insulting claims?
I am a big fan of satire and strongly believe that satire is protected free speech (and thankfully the Supreme Court agrees) but this seems like a rather back handed way to satirize someone. In fact one can make the claim that this seems more designed to hurt Obama than satirize his critics. That troubles me to no end, the people making the decision to print this piece had to have known it would be controversial and get a lot of attention. What, exactly, is the point of drawing national attention to rumours that are baseless, racist, and insulting?
On a very gut level this sort of imagery is going to reinforce those rumours, I suspect the typical response from the anti-Obama crowd will be some version of “hahaha if he can’t take the heat he should stay out of the kitchen.” Yet I suspect we won’t be seeing McCain any time soon on the cover of the New Yorker depicting him as a war criminal deliberately bombing innocent Vietnamese babies now, will we? I’m not getting all in a tizzy about this, but I do see it as more proof that the “liberal media bias” is nothing of the sort, and there is an all-pervasive corporate/conservative bias to the media if anything. And the agenda as it were is “don’t rock the boat, everything is fine.”
And Obama, as a populist (arguably) candidate for change, is far scarier to the powers-that-be than McCain, who is completely in bed with America’s corporate/military power elite. So Obama is getting tons of press coverage, but if it’s press coverage like this, I don’t think it’s going to help. In fact I agree with a friend of mine, this magazine cover is a subtle form of swift-boating, it’s affect is going to be far more ugly than it’s purported intent. I am afraid this magazine cover is one more signpost on the road to President McCain next year.
A road that frankly may lead to Hell. Oh well, at least we’ll all be roast mutton together.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is not being used for profit, is central to illustrating the post, is a low-resolution, grey-scale version of the original, and it’s use here in no way interferes with the copyright holder’s commercial or artistic use of the image. It is also arguably an historically important image. Credit and copyright: New Yorker magazine. Personally I find the image offencive, as I would an image showing McCain bombing babies. Though it does bring to mind the question, who did McCain bomb in Vietnam? I’ll try to research that for a future post.)