The New Yorker recently ran a cover featuring a cartoon of Senator Barack Obama and his wife Michelle that portrays them as anti-American terrorists. The New Yorker claims that it was drawn satirically, to make light of the ridiculous rumors surrounding Obama (e.g., he’s a Muslim, he’s a terrorist-sympathizer, etc.). Senator Obama’s camp has denounced the cover as “tasteless and offensive.”

I agree with one commenter whose opinion I read on a political blog — this cover fails because genuine satire should not require lengthy explanations. If, for example, the cartoonist had included an image of Rush Limbaugh or some similar extreme right-wing shouting head in the corner, and the main image as a thought bubble, then perhaps the message would be clear: anti-Obama pundits are spreading lies and fear about him and his family in order to further their agenda. Unfortunately, the New Yorker did not do anything like this, and the resulting message is far from clear.

I might have agreed with those who claim it is a tad paternalistic to suggest that the majority of Americans would not “get” the satire on the cover had I not heard a recent piece on NPR about voters who are supporting McCain mostly because they don’t like Obama. One of them insisted on repeating the tired email chain letter lie about Senator Obama being a secret Muslim and being raised in Muslim schools, even after the reporter told her that these were outright fabrications.

I suppose the New Yorker cover succeeds in garnering more publicity for them during this election season, but not much else.

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