What if they tried to similarly satirize John and Cindy on the cover of The New Yorker?

Debate and commentary of the ‘satirical’ cover of The New Yorker, which depicts Obama as an American flag burning Muslim and Michelle as an afro-haired camo-wearing guerilla warrior has flooded the blogosphere. For a good round up, see Michelle Obama Watch here or take in Jill’s link-filled piece at Feministe here. And, to sign a letter calling upon the magazine to pull this issue from news stands, see The Feminist Majority petition here.

What the question posed in the title of this post tries to get at is that John and Cindy couldn’t be characterized in this way because the cultural imagination does not trade in ready made racist stereotypes for white men or have an array of images with which to animalize/otherize white women. Further, John and Cindy have not been put under near the same amount or kind of scrutiny as Obama and Michelle.

Perhaps if John was displayed in a KKK cape carrying a dead pregnant woman while calling a drug-upped Cindy a cunt with a “Bomb Iran” poster hanging in the background we might approximate the ‘satire’ in the above image. But, then again, no. This is nowhere near anything similar because what is displayed in The New Yorker cover feeds into FALSE accusations and media generated stereotypes, while the John and Cindy caricature I suggest is based on truth – John McCain’s policies are racist, his ‘pro-life’ agenda is anything but, and his bomb happy demeanor is all too true. This is why the first caricature happened, and the second never would.

Of course, the caricature that did run also came about because we live in a racist, anti-Muslim, anti-(black)-woman society. An image like this of a white presidential couple wouldn’t fly – you might be able to mock their sex lives (ala Bill and blow jobs) but as for questioning their patriotism or their religious faith, nope, ain’t gonna see that on any covers anytime soon.

That’s why this cover is not funny-it’s appalling. And I don’t care how many “smart New Yorker’s” are going to “get the joke.” The point is that this satire misfires, and will likely ignite a whole heap of neo-con orgasmic chortles because the real joke, it seems, has been had by the corporatist media when even so called progressive publications trade in this type of racist misogynistic tripe masquerading as humor.

(Note: After emailing The New Yorker, I recieved an automatic reply that read in part as follows:

Our cover, “The Politics of Fear,” combines a number of fantastical images about the Obamas and shows them for the obvious distortions they are.  The burning flag, the nationalist-radical and Islamic outfits, the fist-bump, the portrait on the wall- all of them echo one attack or another. Satire is part of what we do, and it is meant to bring things out into the open, to hold up a mirror to prejudice, the hateful, and the absurd. And that’s the spirit of this cover. In this same issue you will also see that there are two very serious articles on Barack Obama inside…

Ok, but why put the “serious articles” on the inside where only readers will find them while leaving this imagery on the cover (and completely out of context) for many more people to see? If the magazine wanted to show these “obvious distortions” it could have put them inside the magazine and instead displayed satiric images that skewered the mainstream media for creating these attacks in the first place on the cover.

The cover as it stands does not “hold up a mirror” to prejudice, but perpetuates it. One thing it has brought “out in the open” is The New Yorker seems more interested in selling mags and generating PR via incendiary images than through putting a stop to “the hateful, and the absurd.”)

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8 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. When I saw this on CNN yesterday, it took me a while to realize what the New Yorkers intentions were. I can tell you it really upset me even though I knew what were the issues they were incorperating. It might have been intended for the more ‘informed’ public but the little kid walking along the magazine isle in the supermarket isnt going to process the satire.

  2. India,
    Thanks for your comment. Your point that “the little kid walking along the magazine isle in the supermarket isn’t going to process the satire” is excellent– that’s why I think it was especially poor judgement to put such an image on the cover — an editorial cartoon with text would have been one thing, but a cover with no explanatory caption or anything is quite another.

  3. Doc, I think people understand satire–they really do. Even the dumb ones. But I couldn’t agree more that it was just tasteless and disgusting. The sad thing is, nothing will be done about it. I know they point to their earlier covers and say “we do satire on political figures all the time,” but it’s missing the point. All it does is reinforce these negative misconceptions on a historic election and gives his opponents more reasons to believe that he is a Muslim.
    If you could send me the email to the New Yorker, that would be great. Otherwise, I’ll see if I can find it.

    fyi… the link to my blog from your blogroll is incorrect (missing a dot). just thought i’d let you know. =)

  4. Minority Militant,
    I agree with you that the cover reinforces negative stereotypes. And though people “get satire,” as you suggest, I think (as you also suggest) this cover will reinforce many misconceptions – especially for those who only see the image and don’t “process” the intent behind it or read the articles inside the magazine that supposedly criticize the MSM’s racist, anti-Muslim stance.

    As for the email, I see you posted a link to it on your blog already. For others who want to join the Fem Majority Foundation’s protest, if you click on the FMF petition link near the start of the post, they have a pre-written letter of protest or you can write your own. When I did this, I heard back from the mag (albeit in a standard issue letter I am sure) the same day.

    And, sorry about the incorrect blogroll link. I will fix that! Thanks for letting me know.

  5. Wow. Without cable and the internet at my home this summer I am really missing out on some important issues. I have nothing to say more about this cover…its the most horrid thing I have ever seen. I can’t even believe they used such a drawing as the cover. Satire is fine, but this pushes it way to far. Maybe if the voting audience was 45 plus and everyone would understand the satire behind it but voting age can be as early as a high school senior with a D average.

  6. A proper apology package from the New Yorker would include just such a satirical image of McCain. If they’re really as liberal as they claim, they shouldn’t have any problem with it…

  7. Waking Life,
    With covers like that, you might be glad to be ‘missing things’ this summer…

    Jason,
    Thanks for the comment. Do you draw? Maybe you could submit the McCain cover. :) I can’t draw at all but would love to see my suggestion in comic form!

  8. I wish I could draw but alas I cannot :( I’d love to see one though.


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