CAMPAIGN 08 & EDITOR’S COMMENT: The New Yorker has its head stuck up its umlaut

‘Scare tactic’ — Obama slams Muslim portrayal

The Obama campaign is condemning as “tasteless and offensive” a New Yorker magazine cover that depicts Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) in a turban, fist-bumping his gun-slinging wife.

An American flag burns in their fireplace.

The New Yorker says it’s satire. It certainly will be candy for cable news. [complete article]

Editor’s Comment — No doubt the editors of a magazine that requires the word “cooperative” to have an umlaut (¨) over the second “o”, have a hard time understanding the everyday truth that a picture is worth a thousand words. The words in The New Yorker are far too precious to be applied to that equation. And when the magazine’s smug editors think about the liberal intelligentsia that populates their intended audience, they choose to ignore that most of the New Yorker‘s readers don’t buy the magazine — they read it with a mix of boredom and anxiety that accompanies the wait in a doctors’ office. There — and across the Internet of course — the message that has much more insidious power is subliminal rather than satirical. It’s conveyed to the person who sees the image and doesn’t even pay attention to the title of the magazine. And it reinforces rather than challenges the misconceptions that it intended to mock.

The mistake was not the artist’s — it was the editors’. What could have been smart on the inside pages was totally dumb for a cover. What the editors of The New Yorker don’t seem to get, but have perfectly demonstrated, is that it’s very easy to be clever and stupid at the same time.

In addition, whether it’s at The New Yorker or NPR or PBS, any time satire has to be labeled (inside the cover of this issue, the magazine explains that the cover is satire), it has failed. The sad truth is that we live in an irony-challenged country and there’s no point pretending otherwise.

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  1. It’s a double shame: politically, the image will do significant harm, not merely to Obama and the Democrats, but also to the hopes for equality in our country; artistically, it will remain lodged in the editors’ minds as charming satire which simply was too clever for the benighted masses.

  2. They also require that the second “e” in “reelection” have an umlaut. I guess the rule applies when a prefix creates a word with a repeated vowel. That’s the most obscure rule of English grammar/mechanics that I’ve never heard of.

  3. I think it’s brilliant satire and a great cover. The message will get across to many of those to whom it will actually make a difference.

  4. Carol Elkins says

    I love your statement “it’s very easy to be clever and stupid at the same time”.

    The stupidity comes from loving your own cleverness and assuming that anyone that doesn’t love it is a clod.