That New Yorker cover, a round up
Jess McCabe // 15 July 2008
So, the New Yorker ran a blindingly offensive cover (see right). It’s meant to be a satire of the racist & sexist bullshit aimed at Barack and Michelle Obama, but as you can see, manages to indulge and replicate that same bullshit in the caricatures.
Reactions from around the blogosphere:
Michelle Obama Watch has a number of responses, including this from Gina:
Well folks here we go again with the “satire.” IE Liberals excuses to engage in racist depictions of Black people because they have a really good point to make.
My current live-in partner, who works at the New Yorker, just couldn’t believe that so many people responded so angrily at the cover at the Daily Kos and other sites. He “wanted to see [my] reaction.” When I emphatically told him that I didn’t find it funny, he said, “You’re so angry.”
“Of course I’m angry. What do you expect? This is my reaction is to your employer doing something so racist.”
“I’m trying to have some fun here.”
Humph, you gotta love hipster racism.
I define hipster racism (I’m borrowing the phrase from Carmen Van Kerckhove) as ideas, speech, and action meant to denigrate another’s person race or ethnicity under the guise of being urbane, witty (meaning “ironic” nowadays), educated, liberal, and/or trendy. This racist and sexist balderdash that’s the New Yorker cover fits squarely into that definition. So, honestly, does the behavior of my partner, who prides himself on coming from a California family of educators who taught him to be colorblind and on working at a magazine renown for being, well, urbane, witty, educated, liberal, and trendy yet likes to view me as the Angry Negress.
Satire isn’t a synonym for “mockery”. It isn’t something that is easy to do right, and it certainly isn’t accomplished by simply rehashing elements that have been used by a group that’s in political opposition to the person doing the satire. It’s not enough to say it’s satire because “everyone” knows the object of mockery is ridiculous, especially when there are plenty of people who obviously don’t.
Feminocracy asks why the ‘angry black woman’ stereotype was called into play:
Could you tell me what the point of Michelle’s curly afro is? How about that flag burning in the fireplace? Please. You can’t have satire without the introduction of the “angry black woman” trope complete with gun and reduced bustlines-remember, black women aren’t really women. They’re too masculine and angry. Good thing no one really believes this sort of thing nowadays, its so good to live in a world where black bodies aren’t subject to ugly stereotypes and we can safely poke fun at the beliefs of racists by drawing images that adhere to their beliefs wait.
Echidne of the Snakes says:
Using exaggerations as a way into sarcasm about the wingnuts is almost impossible, and that should tell you how extreme they are
TransGriot considers the ramifications:
In the context of a racially polarized electorate contemplating putting an African-American in the highest political office in the land for the first time in our country’s history, and the historical course-changing stakes of this election, the cover was irresponsible as well. One of my fears is that this cover has the potential to possibly do damage to the Obama campaign because it comes from a so-called liberal magazine.
Pam’s House Blend links up a response in the original medium.
Columbia Journalism Review takes a look at the lead article the cover alluded to.
What Tami Says did just that, and what she found sits uncomfortably with the New Yorker’s satire defence:
And about that cover story…Its contents convince me that the sum of the cover image and article were meant to tarnish Barack Obama in some way. In my eyes, admittedly the biased eyes of an Obama supporter, there is too much sly allusion to how well Obama plays the political game, his cockiness, his uneasy relationship with black folk in the form of the civil rights industrial complex…too many interviews with people who clearly have axes to grind…oh, and Bill Ayers and Tony Rezkco make obligatory appearances. I realize that Obama has his flaws and that good journalists have a right…no, duty, to reveal them as they relate to the candidate’s ability to run the country. But this piece of journalism seemed specifically written to dismantle specific aspects of Obama’s public persona that are seen as benefits.
The editor of the New Yorker really should be ashamed. Where is Malcolm Gladwell when you need him?
Richard Adams at CIF says the cover is a distraction:
Rather than worrying about this cartoon – a story that will disappear in a day’s time – there are far more toxic examples of journalism that have appeared in such supposedly sensible organs as the Washington Post and the New York Times – places that might actually influence voters. In fact, of the “Obama = radical Muslim?” treatments out there, few can top the Washington Post’s front page piece last year, headlined “Foes use Obama’s Muslim ties to fuel rumours about him”, which managed to air every crackpot notion in even-handed prose – a piece so bad that the Post’s own cartoonist satirised it. Then this year the New York Times ran an astonishing piece by Edward Luttwak on its op-ed page, which stated baldly that Obama was a Muslim apostate and so vulnerable to assassination. The paper’s own ombudsman later rebuked the NYT’s editors for running the piece when it turned out to be wildly inaccurate.