The Cycle

If satire isn’t your thing…The New Yorker isn’t for you

If the goal of The New Yorker’s July 21 was to grab attention, it has succeeded – maybe beyond the wildest dreams of the magazine’s editors.

Here’s some reaction to the cover – which depicts, satirically, Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) and his wife in garb associated with al Qaeda and a 1960s radical leftist group, respectively – from around the Web:

  • Huffington Post’s Rachel Sklar notes that the cartoon “could have run, irony-free, on the cover of the National Review.” In response to one of her questions, New Yorker editor David Remnick says: “I can’t speak for anyone else’s interpretations; all I can say is that it combines a number of images that have been propagated, not by everyone on the right, but by some, about Obama’s supposed ‘lack of patriotism’ or his being ‘soft on terrorism’ or the idiotic notion that somehow Michelle Obama is the second coming of the Weathermen or the most violent Black Panthers. That somehow all this is going to come to the Oval Office. The idea that we would publish a cover saying these things literally, I think, is just not in the vocabulary of what we do and who we are…We’ve run many, many satirical political covers. Ask the Bush Administration how many.”
  • An outraged Jeffrey Feldman, also at the Huffington Post, dreams out loud that the “New Yorker could and should translate some of the publicity it has generated to host a large public gathering for Americans seeking to express outrage at an election hijacked by cynicism.”
  • The Los Angeles Times’ Andrew Malcolm comments: “That’s the problem with satire. A lot of people won’t get the joke. Or won’t want to. And will use it for non-humorous purposes, which isn’t The New Yorker’s fault.”
  • Michael Scherer of Time’s Swampland blog references former Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who once said that “it is clear that our political discourse would have been considerably poorer without [satirical images].”
  • And, somewhat remarkably, both the Obama and McCain campaigns agreed – that the cover is “tasteless and offensive.”

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