New Yorker Obama Cover: Satire or Racist Sensationalism?

By now you’ve heard about the infamous cover of this week’s New Yorker magazine, which is a (presumably) satirical take on all the internet rumors circulated by The Right about Obama–he’s secretly a Muslim, his wife (Michelle Obama) is a cracker-hating Black Revolutionary, burning the flag, and that they are somehow in cohoots Al Qaida–all while doing the infamous fist-bump (called a “terrorist fist-jab” by a Fox News reporter). But wait? Weren’t these same people thinking that Obama was the spitting image of his CHRISTIAN former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright? But I digress.

Their has been a backlash against the New Yorker for publishing the photo, with Obama’s campaign spokesperson, Bill Burton saying “The New Yorker may think, as one of their staff explained to us, that their cover is a satirical lampoon of the caricature Senator Obama’s right-wing critics have tried to create. But most readers will see it as tasteless and offensive. And we agree.”

McCain’s team even said “We completely agree with the Obama campaign, it’s tasteless and offensive.”

The magazine said in a statement today that it “combines a number of fantastical images about the Obamas and shows them for the obvious distortions they are.”

But does this cover really provide a satire, or help to actually rehash fears of Black rebellion (in a post 9-11 anti-Islam context)? In my opinion, there are several issues here.

  1. The New Yorker has a long investigative article on Obama in this issue of the magazine, but it doesn’t deal with the issues the cover of the magazine is tackling.
  2. I subscribe to the New Yorker, and what’s weird about this cover is that the covers very rarely have anything to do with the content of the magazine.
  3. If you don’t know The New Yorker, seeing the photo on its own, does leave one to question whether it is satire or slander.

I think that all the talk about this cover in the press, whether you think it’s is satire (which by definition, according to my Dictionary application employs “the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues,”) or slander, the truth is it does expose and hold up all of the racist stereotypes, and that hyperscrutiny, can perhaps neutralize them. There will obviously be people who want to believe all this, and so they will continue to because, well, they think there’s something wrong with being a revolutionary (the drawing of Michelle for me hearkens to Angela Davis), something wrong with Islam in general, and something suspicious and potentially violent about Blackness in general. And though he is Black, he is not a Muslim, and hardly a revolutionary.

What’s interesting to me is that this cover, done by a liberal magazine, seems to have given Conservatives an opportunity to feign taking the high road, as if they have not been directly responsible for floating these narratives about Obama specifically, and Black people (and Muslims) as a whole for many, many years! Now they can pretend to be outrage by an image they they had every hand in creating.

2 thoughts on “New Yorker Obama Cover: Satire or Racist Sensationalism?

  1. The only reason that this Mr. & Mrs. Obama satire DOES have impact — and may very likely spread — is because like all good satire, or good humor for that matter, there’s more than a germ of truth in it. Otherwise, the satire would utterly roll off the Obamoids’ backs, having no impact.

  2. Please protect your minds and your thoughts. Do not allow anyone to control them. The Obama’s did not create the cover, the ideas and this picture are the realities and from the mind of the illustrator for New Yorker. The question I have is what is his plan and what is he thinking that he is able to create such a derogatory picture. To me the illustrator of the cover should be questioned.

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