ReWrite has asked about my views on the New Yorker magazine’s recent controversial cover. Originally I doubted writing about it, mainly because a few friends of mine just told me that they much prefer my digressions to my political posts. I happen to agree. Furthermore, I really didn’t want to get involved in the press’ ongoing need to keep us interested via constant silliness.
As I have made more than clear, I am an Obama supporter (I am also a New Yorker magazine fan). But I am an Obama supporter like I am a Real Madrid supporter. I want my team to win, but that doesn’t mean that I have to agree with everything my team does. Real Madrid has good games and bad games.
Of course, I am also deeply concerned about America’s new socially accepted ethnic and religious hatred — all things Arab and Islamic. This is one of the main reasons that for me (like so many others) the New Yorker cover appeared to only reinforce the hatred and therefore simply wasn’t funny. Not only was it horribly not funny, but it also brought a lot of negative press to an otherwise stellar publication.
Yet before I passed judgment, I sent some feelers out. I listened to all of the podcasts on the matter and read all of the editorials and op-eds. In the end, I have pretty much sided with what Maureen Dowd and then Timothy Egan had to say (both in the New York Times). The New Yorker tried to show how silly the accusations against the Obamas have been (Fox’s fist bump/terrorist connection allegation being the most absurd), but it inevitably failed. It just wasn’t funny.
I think that Dowd is correct in stating that Obama and his supporters need to chill a bit and learn that it’s okay to be mocked. It’s even healthy, though I am not sure whether using religion and ethnicity are appropriate. I also think that Egan makes a good point in that we shouldn’t underestimate middle America’s intelligence and assume that it wouldn’t get the joke. There is something about being offended by this satire — whose intent was to criticize the hate mongers — that makes certain presuppositions of the average American’s ignorance just as offensive.
So basically, then, I am going to treat Obama’s criticism of the New Yorker cover and the cover itself, as I do when my team plays poorly, as a “bad game”. Everyone pretty much lost here: Obama, the New Yorker, the press, Fox, and American society overall for the fact that we even have to worry about these issues.