Satire…Gotta Love It!

What would the world be without a good controversy now and again? 

Today, the American political scene exploded with the scandal that manifested itself on the cover of The New Yorker, depicting Senator Barack Obama in, how shall we say, less than flattering term? Okay, lets be blunt: it portrays he and his wife as religious terrorist extremists with aspirations of U.S. domination and having the end of democracy and the American way as we know it at heart. 
Or does it? 
The New Yorker, while always a bit snobbish for my taste, has always been (in)famous for its political cartoons. The publication specializes in satire, and that is exactly what editor David Remnick insists that this is. The thrust of the cover is to, in Remnick’s view, portray the ridiculous beliefs and summarize the backhanded mudslinging with which political opponents of Obama have attempted to defraud him as a potential presidential candidate. Personally, I think that this does its job well. Extreme? Yes. But cleverly so, and, as Obama tends to be difficult to satirize, one must be extreme in order to achieve the desired result here. As Remnick pointed out in an interview on CNN today, insulting caricatures of President Bush have graced the magazine’s cover countless times. Yet, here we have both Democrats and Republicans crying foul, and even calling for a boycott of the magazine…
Wait a minute, calling for what??
See, I thought that this was freedom of speech. Personally, I see exactly what the magazine was attempting to depict. In the same interview, Remnick says that to assume a majority of readers will not is to underestimate the intelligence of Americans at large. Granted, many will see this cover and not get past the shocking imagery…likely, the “working class” and lesser-educated people who do not fall within the target audience for the publication (as I said, its snobbish). I guess my response to this is twofold: Firstly, I’m glad it offended readers, because now it will cause them to think, especially now that the cover has been explained; sort of along the lines of explaining a poem or a painting: suddenly it takes on a new depth of meaning to the reader. Secondly, for goodness sake, we need to educate ourselves if we don’t take the time to move past a shocking cover and read what’s inside. Again, we’re so afraid of being offended or emotionally uncomfortable, so afraid that we will disagree with what we see, that we don’t want to look to begin with. That is why those who do give these things an opportunity and explore the ideas behind the cover are labeled “snobbish” or “elitist;” because they are an unfortunate minority. 
To threaten a boycott of the magazine, however, concerns me a great deal. This is a small but definitive step toward state-controlled media. A slippery slope to say the least, all over the sensibilities of a public figure, who, incidentally, is fair game for such satire simply because he is a public figure: its called “fair comment and criticism” in the field of journalism. 
So, before we get all up in arms about how horribly anti-American you might feel Obama is, or how horribly distasteful you may feel the cover of The New Yorker is, why don’t we take the time to explore the ideas that this conveys: the naive stupidity behind the accusations against Obama and his wife? This particular satirical endeavor paints those mis-perceptions beautifully. It seems to me that Obama would be happy about that if he took the time to move past the surface. 
But then again, politics is all about how things appear on the surface. 

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