I’m a die-hard New Yorker fan, but are they for serious?
…yeah. That would be a cartoon of Barack Obama dressed in what many Americans would simply read as “Muslim clothes,” terrorist fist-jabbing Michelle Obama — who is afro’ed, wearing camo and toting a machine gun. A flag is burning in the background, and there’s a framed picture of Osama bin Laden on the wall behind them. They appear to be in the Oval Office.
Not being a complete moron, I get that it’s supposed to be commentary on how Michelle and Barack have been portrayed in the media — he the secret Muslim, she the Angry Black (Panther) Woman, both of them America-haters. The illustration is titled “The Politics of Fear.” According to the New Yorker press release, it “satirizes the use of scare tactics and misinformation in the Presidential election to derail Barack Obama’s campaign.” I get that. When I first saw the cover, I took it exactly as intended — as satire of the whole ridiculous situation. For about 10 seconds, I read it only as mocking the silliness of the obsessions with Barack-the-Muslim and Michelle-the-Radical. I read it that way primarily because of the context — it was a New Yorker cover.
And then I thought about it, and I came to the same conclusion as Rachel:
Presumably the New Yorker readership is sophisticated enough to get the joke, but still: this is going to upset a lot of people, probably for the same reason it’s going to delight a lot of other people, namely those on the right: Because it’s got all the scare tactics and misinformation that has so far been used to derail Barack Obama’s campaign — all in one handy illustration. Anyone who’s tried to paint Obama as a Muslim, anyone who’s tried to portray Michelle as angry or a secret revolutionary out to get Whitey, anyone who has questioned their patriotism— well, here’s your image.
Intent factors into these matters, of course, but no Upper East Side liberal — no matter how superior they feel their intellect is — should assume that just because they’re mocking such ridiculousness, the illustration won’t feed into the same beast in emails and other media. It’s a recruitment poster for the right-wing.
Verchiel has more, and tells you who to contact if you want to voice your opinion on this cover.
And lots of people have better things to say than I do, so check out more coverage from Michelle Obama Watch, which offers a great round-up; Racialicious, which talks about hipster racism and defending bigotry with claims of irony; What About Our Daughters, which discusses the fact that this is hardly the first time “liberals” have used racist imagery to depict the Obamas; Jack and Jill Politics, which emphasizes that racism is racism; Pandagon, where Jesse says that humor isn’t funny if you have to explain it (and that “It’s not actually satirizing the phenomenon of right-wing e-mail forwards, it’s just creating the ultimate version thereof”); and Anxious Black Woman, who asks a crucial question: “Are we, as a nation, truly sophisticated enough to make these kinds of jokes?”
Given all the back and forth about this, I think the answer is a resounding “No.”
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