As offensive satire goes, you would have thought this week’s The New Yorker magazine cover lampooning all the lies, distortions and attempted character assassination of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama fell somewhere between those Danish cartoons of Mohammad wearing a bomb for a turban and that insane “art” work from a few years ago depicting an image of Jesus Christ in a jar of urine.
This much we learned though, for a nation, which once prided itself on feisty, testy social commentary, we’ve sure become a culture of humorless, politically correct hand-wringers.
The brou-ha-ha revolved around a New Yorker cover featuring an Oval Office setting with Michelle Obama in a sort of Patty Hearst/Angela Davis pose dressed in military fatigues, sporting a huge Afro, cradling a machine gun in one hand while fist bumping her husband decked out a Arabesque ensemble. A picture of Osama bin Laden hangs over the mantle while an American flag burns in the fireplace.
All in all, it was a darn fine piece of political satire, perfectly capturing all the fibs and attempts to cast Obama and his wife as Islamic terrorist sympathizers who hate America. By the way, I have been a faithful subscriber of The New Yorker for more than 40 years. The magazine’s covers historically rank among the finest, sharpest, most dead on social commentaries you find anywhere in American journalism.
To be sure the cover had its desired effect - sort of.
The magazine was attacked for insensitivity, which is , uh, sort of the point of satire in the first place.
And the resulting national debate about its propriety also underscored what a strong piece of political humor ought to accomplish - debate, discussion, social intercourse.
Perhaps the problem with the cover though, is that is many respects we have also become a nation of complete idiots who: A) have precious little sense of history about this sort of stuff and/or B) sadly actually believe the images published by The New Yorker are (sigh) true.
The other day my son arrived home from a friend’s house, where the parents are well-educated, fairly affluent people to tell me these folks also believe the now famous fist bump Michelle Obama playfully traded with her husband on the night he clinched the Democratic Party presidential nomination is really some kind of terrorist gesture. Yes, you may now start drinking heavily.
And despite voluminous evidence to the contrary, there are people out there who believe Obama used to the Koran when he was sworn into the U.S. Senate.
What does this suggest? Perhaps it is there are citizens among us who are wilfully clueless - and proud of it.
Have we lost our humor bearings somewhere along the line?
If the public is going to get all huffy over a magazine cover, I wonder sometimes if a much revered biting comedy series like “All In The Family” would ever be allowed on the air today. I tend to think not.
Gracious even time-honored satirical shows like “Saturday Night Live” seem more tempered and measured than in its earliest days.
If you are one of those individuals who got the vapors over The New Yorker cover, let me recommend a piece of reading for you.
“Infamous Scribblers” was published a couple years ago by veteran television correspondent Eric Burns.
It’s a terrific book on the very earliest days of American journalism. The title comes from George Washington view of newspaper people.
If you think The New Yorker cartoon was offensive, or unfair, or insensitive, it was mere child’s play when compared to the editorial abuse our beloved Founding Fathers experienced from the journalists and cartoonists of the day.
And yet, somehow the nation survived. The Founders survived. Journalism survived, too.
What can be expect from a future New Yorker? John McCain as a druid, perhaps?
One can only hope.
Posted by Florri Dakoff, Holiday, Fl on 07/20 at 12:51 AM
Right on Daniel!! We have evolved into a humorless, illiterate society (perhaps emulating our Worst President Ever). I thought it was great and I am an Obama Supporter. Are you anywhere on TV or Radio these days. I miss you.
Posted by Ronnie Moore, on 07/18 at 05:21 PM
I grew up in tampa,I have always enjoyed your column,and i work on the road alot and its hard to find a tribune,I recently purchased a computer and now I can read your column all the time,though i dont always agree with you,I enjoy reading anyway.Hillsborough county government needs a reality check from time to time just dont stop writing and i’ll keep reading,thanks for the laughs
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