Tuesday, July 15, 2008

"The New Yorker" Cartoon: The Jokes on the People


It looks as if some Americans have finally found a cartoon they can get really upset about.

Last week's "New Yorker" cover cartoon featuring presumed Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama and wife Michelle, both in outrageous garb that included the Senator in a turbin, sandals and robe, with Michelle sporting an Angela `Davisesque' 70's afro, a gun, both fist-bumping all the while an American flag burned, has drawn condemnation and charges of "offensive and tasteless" from campaign spokespeople and supporters.

Tuesday evening, Senator Obama told CNN's Larry King that the cartoon "probably fueled misconceptions about me."


Was the cartoon offensive?

Of course it was.

Did it fuel misconceptions about the Senator and his wife?

Probably not......that's already been done.

In fact, the increasingly famous "New Yorker" cover held up a mirror to the campaign, the media and more importantly to America itself. The cartoon revealed some offensive truths about how this campaign has been conducted and covered, but also, about America in general and how out of touch with reality so many of us truly are.

First and foremost, this was the "New Yorker" being ironic, not some tabloid or sensationalistic media spook machine that was seeking to raise questions about the Senator of his wife's commitment to the nation's well being. The "New Yorker" is in fact, one the few bastions of intelligent and measured writing where analysis and good story telling pair up with meticulous investigative journalism. It is one of the few places that those with the patience, to actually read an article longer than four or five pages long,find articles that reveal facts, figures and truths about our Democracy, better yet, our world.

What might be considered offensive is the fact that so many Americans don't take the time to actually pick up the magazine and read those stories beyond that offensive cover.

But, even more offensive is the deeper truth pointed out by the cover and the seemingly insecure and condescending reaction that some Obama supporters and even some Republicans have claimed to have.

The "New Yorker" cover page makes fun of the sad fact that vast swaths of voters actually believe that the Obama's depicted in the cartoon are real. But, it also shines a light on the units of the media machine that have inadvertently helped perpetuate the rumors and innuendo that have led to misperceptions about the Obama's patriotism.

Now that's offensive.

The inability of Obama supporters to appreciate that sort of irony is offensive as well, since they know all to well, the cartoon, in its outrageousness and non-PC style, does exactly that.

But, by raising such a fuss about a cartoon in the "New Yorker", by going public with worries that it will affect voter's perception, those supporters, spokespersons, even the candidate are in essence participating in the wildfire of paranoia and condescension so common in American politics today?

If anything, "The New Yorker" that bastion of elitism was pointing out that America, despite being a place of instant information gratification is a place where vast portions of the public are ill informed, a public that shows increasing signs of collective ADD, always looking for the next shrill topic, the next scandal and not real truths that might inform them to make wise decisions in voting booths that might truly impact their communities, their nation their lives, truths often found in magazines like "The New Yorker".

It's really a shame that so many are up in arms about this cartoon. The only positive might be that more people may actually buy the magazine and read it.

This was clever satire and the jokes on `the people', not the Obamas.

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