Saturday, July 19, 2008

Be Careful Where You Point That Sarcasm

Image credit: The New Yorker (reduced by Cujo359)

Irony is a dangerous thing. Often when I use it I find the people whom I was denigrating are the only ones who aren't offended. The New Yorker probably feels that way this week:

Given that the political orientation of The New Yorker magazine is decidedly liberal, the cover of today’s issue is a bit jolting: a cartoon Barack and Michelle Obama fist-bump in a living room the Oval Office — he in Middle Eastern garb, she with a big Afro and AK-47 slung over her shoulder — as an American flag flames in the fireplace.

A New Yorker cover too cute by half

As I wrote in the comments to this article, the New Yorker's covers often feature a rather subtle form of satire - unless your sense of humor is wired in a particular way, you're probably not going to get it. Take that strikeout in the quote; originally, Lotus didn't realize that the picture was supposed to be the Oval Office. You need to look at the picture and take it all in to appreciate the sarcasm here. This cartoon is a compendium of all the shallow, factually wrong impressions that certain brain-dead portions of the population hold of the Obamas. I liked this cartoon, although I didn't find it side-splittingly funny. It was more of a smile-inducing jibe.

Based on some of the opinions in the lefty blogs, you'd think that the New Yorker had just painted Obama in whiteface or something:

Who knows if they'll get this in Dubuque, but they sure aren't going to like it in Chicago: This week's New Yorker cover features an image of Michelle and Barack Obama that combines every smeary right-wing stereotype imaginable: An image of Obama in a turban and robes fist-bumping his be-afro'd wife, dressed in the military fatigues of a revolutionary and packing a machine gun and some serious ammo. Oh yes, this quaint little scene takes place in the Oval Office, under a picture of Osama bin Laden above a roaring fireplace, in which burns an American flag. All that's missing is a token sprig of arugula.

The illustration, by Barry Blitt,is called "The Politics of Fear" and, according to the NYer press release, "satirizes the use of scare tactics and misinformation in the Presidential election to derail Barack Obama's campaign." Uh-huh. What's that they say about repeating a rumor?

Yikes, Etc. [see NOTE]

I don't know what they say elsewhere, but around here they say this:

If you repeat a rumor with enough sarcasm and a warning of the "Politics of Fear" sort, people learn that you think that they're drooling idiots if they believe it.

Of course, the folks who were the most enthusiastic about Obama aren't high on the psychological awareness scale to begin with. I've demonstrated that fact many times. Just read in the comments of these places how shocked, shocked I tell you, people were that Obama ran and hid on the FISA issue. To realize that was what he would do, all you had to do was look at his past. This is a point I've made numerous times, to no avail.

So, it's to no avail that I make this point now - this thing isn't going to matter. If Obama loses this election, it won't be because the New Yorker put a caricature of him on a cover that's too subtle for most people to find funny. Actually, I think the New Yorker did him a favor - someone else would have drawn such a cartoon eventually, and he wouldn't have been kidding. By beating them to the punch in a satirical vein, the New Yorker defused that visual.

If Obama loses this election, he'll do it by running from the very people who would be inclined to support him, to embrace some imaginary political middle ground. He could have convinced me and other skeptics that he deserved our support by making a real stand on FISA, and making it work. He didn't, and he didn't even try.

So, let the wailing and gnashing of teeth continue. I'll be over here laughing my ass off.

NOTE: To see the full title, click on the link. HuffPo has finally managed to make it impossible to cut and paste titles of their articles and I'm not going to type all that. Why is poorly thought-out writing often so overblown?


One Fly said...

Agreed Cujo. This moving to the center ploy comes straight out of the DNC playbook and look what that got us in the last two presidential elections.

BO at this time need to tell it straight up because that's what needs to be said and what people want to hear. Do I ever have a bad feeling about all of this.

Cujo359 said...

No kidding, One Fly. I just finished writing this over at FireDogLake:

I don’t think it mattered to most of us [in 2004] that Kerry had voted for the AUMF. What mattered was that he hadn’t yet admitted that doing so was a mistake, and that mistake needed to be corrected. He just promised to fight the war better than Bush would have. After the election he did all that, but by then it was too late.

We were looking for a way out of the mess back then. There were some folks then who weren't sure about the war who are against it now, but if Kerry had spoken up, I think they would have come around. Instead, Kerry worried about being a "flip-flopper", which was a label he was stuck with anyway. Just admitting he was wrong and getting on with it would have been a more effective strategy.

Now, Obama's doing the same thing. The Greenwald article I linked points that out really well. There is no political center to appeal to right now. There's just the extremists who run things, and the rest of us.

In short, I have that bad feeling, too. Don't forget, Gore had a big lead in 2000 at about this time of year.