Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Obamas On the Cover of the New Yorker Magazine

During my Independence Day sojourn to the nation’s heartland, I visited the Abraham Lincoln museum in Springfield, Illinois. I highly recommend this as a place of learning. One entire gallery of the spectacular museum is devoted to the political cartoons of the day that were published to attack Lincoln during his presidency, and they are unparalleled for their tastelessness, viciousness, and outright absurdity. The only lasting effect of these cartoons, lampoons, and caricatures was to make their creators and publishers look like idiots in the light of history.

I see a lesson in all this that might apply to the current uproar over the newest cover of the New Yorker magazine lampooning Barack and Michelle Obama as Muslim terrorists. The lasting effect will be to remind readers that the New Yorker editorial staff is delusional, and the magazine cartoonist is no Thomas Nast, but the whole affair should not cost Obama any votes. It’s true that there are people roaming around American streets whose peculiar religiosity has them convinced that Obama is the Antichrist. And there are many American patriots who actually believe that the United States Government keeps them safe, and for these folks, avuncular old John McCain is the iconic embodiment of that fantasy. And finally, there have always been the redneck goobers who listen to Rush Limbaugh three hours every day and think this makes them smart. None of these folks will ever vote for Obama, but not because of the cartoon magazine cover, because a New Yorker magazine is the last thing in the world that they are likely to read.

The New Yorker editors assured us that the whole thing was a parody. I believe this. But a parody is a lie, even though it’s humorous and very subtle. American elections for the last 50 years have always been fought with lies, with the best liar winning the contest. I fault the New Yorker staff for thinking that the average American can spot a subtle parody and realize it’s not the truth.

No comments: