I’m Just Not Impressed

Am I supposed to be?

Posts Tagged ‘Whisper Campaign

If a joke is said in the wilderness and no one laughs, is it still funny?

with 2 comments

So, that New Yorker cover:

It is supposed to be satire.  Of course it is.  It’s the New Yorker.   Bastion of intellectual liberalism.  So why don’t we get it?  (We meaning a huge chunk of the liberal blogosphere who have dissecting the image with in an inch of its life over the past twenty-four hours.)  David Remnick can go give interviews to NPRand Huffington Post and other media outlets for the rest of his life, about how it’s called “The Politics of Fear” – something which you have to open the magazine (or read blogs, I guess) to find out- and about how New Yorker covers are racy and controversial.  

But images have power – more power than words, there’s that old adage, you know.  And as Anxious Black Woman points out (in comments), for satire to be successful, it has to have something with the ring of truth.  What is the “truth” here?  To hear Remnick tell it, it’s not the Obamas being satirized, it’s the people who perpetuate and actually believe the slanderous whisper campaigns represented in the cover image.  But where are those folks?  Where’s the computer in the corner with a fake headline?  Hell, where’s the title of the image, upon which the New Yorker hangs its hat? 

I’m torn on this cover, because I want it to work.  I want to see the people who actually think that Obama is a secret Muslim who’s going to sell us all out to Osama Bin Laden to get thoroughly skewered in as many places as possible.  I think Ampersand at Alas, A Blog is correct that “mockery of racist fear-mongering is [not] the same as racist fear-mongering.”  But they are not necessarily different either, and I think that the line is a lot harder to discern – particularly when the publication engaging in the alleged mockery has a readership skewed toward older, more affluent, white, urban (so I’m just guessing on the latter) Americans.  The cover is rife, not just with images directly related to the whisper campaign, but also highly stereotypical images of black men and women in the United States.  While the inside article might take on those issues as they apply to Obama, there is no indication that the magazine makes an effort to address how such images send messages about black Americans in general.  Frankly, I am not comfortable giving the magazine a pass on this one.

I’m also troubled by what I see as a lot of classism and some regionalism as well in the responses to this, but I’m having a more difficult time articulating it, because I think a lot of it is based on being a weirdo progressive liberal from the Midwest and being sick of having to defend my very existence.  I can’t up but feel like Remnick is sitting in his Manhattan office today contemplating all of the ignorant rubes from fly-over country who just don’t get the joke.

Written by emandink

July 15, 2008 at 4:21 pm