Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Oh, no, they didn't
I'm only an occasional reader of The New Yorker and rarely find their trademark cartoons funny anymore. Especially unfunny to me, though, is the hotly discussed "Obamas in the Oval Office" cover. Seeing it made me want to order a subscription of the magazine just so I could turn around and immediately cancel it. I was that angry.
While some call the image offensive, I find it journalistically irresponsible and conceptually flawed.
Typically, satirical illustrations lampoon the subject's behavior or situation—say, a drawing of Dubya as Pinocchio with Cheney and Rove pulling the puppet strings. In this case, the illustrator has ventured into the murky land of exaggerating the opposition's conjured-up criticisms of the subject, so the target of the ridiculous claims ends up getting tarred and feathered twice. A lose-lose situation.
Those deriding the illustration tend to cite the fact that it may confuse Obama opposers or on-the-fencers who won't get the joke. But, in actuality, those Obama opposers or on-the-fencers (more specifically, anyone who promotes or buys into the slanderous B.S. portrayed in the artwork) are the butt of the joke in the first place. It's holding up a mirror to them saying, "Look how ridiculous your fears appear when represented in a full-color line drawing." But the people meant to see their own reflection in that mirror of mockery don't read that magazine, so the lesson stays unlearned.
Someone in the media called this perfect poster propaganda for the right-wing. Sounds a little melodramatic, but on some level I agree. It's a neatly done "My Worst Fears About Obama" visual checklist that could burn a little "See, I told you so" image in a paranoid voter's mind.
It's scary but true that something this seemingly insignificant could change an election. Just remember the infamous shot of Dukakis wearing a helmet in a military tank. Or Howard Dean's fatal howl. My mom didn't vote for Gore because she feared "what a tree-hugger would do in the White House." It only took a colloquial hyphenate to decide her vote: Tree-hugger. And, the election before that, another: Flip-flopper. Now she knows a neo-con Bush is capable of far worse than any tree-hugger or flip-flopper, but much, much too late.
This is one of the most important elections in world history (yeah, I said "world") and for a national publication, no matter how boutique (outside of MAD magazine maybe), to use their cover to treat the one Presidential candidate offering some hope as the fall guy to fuel a PR stunt and misfired joke—compelling articles in his favor on the inside aside—is simply reckless.