Let me start off by saying that, in another context, the New Yorker cover that is generating so much buzz this week, would actually be funny. I get what the artist was going for, and if it was inside the magazine, accompanied by an article or caption of some sort, which explained what the drawing was about, it would have been received differently.
Unfortunately, we live in a country ruled by two types of very oppressive forces, both of which make this sort of cover pretty much a non-starter..
On the one side, we have political correctness gone nuts, in which everything said, done or displayed must comply with a certain code of "morality" and "respectibility" in order to even exist. For example, it’s perfectly okay to show an Archie Bunker in reruns on cable, as some sort of time capsule look at how people in this country "used to be," but if a sitcom were to debut, which featured a white bigot, screaming and yelling about minorities and gays in derogatory terms, it’s very likely pickets would force the show off the air in a short period of time.
The other side of this, of course, is the problem that Archie Bunker has actually gone mainstream, and is far less honest. These real-life Archies now occupy the radio airwaves, in the form of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Michael Savage, Neil Boortz, et al. The reason a cover like this, without accompanying explanation, is in poor taste, and displays an incredible political insensitivity, is actually the same reason this drawing should have been funny in the first place; there are actually millions of morons out there who actually believe that everything in the drawing is true.
That’s the problem in a nutshell. On the one hand, you have a bunch of people who have no sense of humor, who think it’s offensive. But worse, and even more insurmountable, is the problem of gobs of people who think every misconception depicted in the drawing is actually true. Barack Obama’s campaign has actually had to start a web site to specifically counter such rumors; and now, a bunch of people will be passing this cover at their local newsstand, and the rest of us will have to work even harder at debunking all of those rumors.
Case in point: this is from G. Gordon Liddy’s program from yesterday, July 14, 2008 (courtesty of Media Matters for America):
Mr. Liddy, I think America’s
going to have a problem with Mr. Obama, who wants to tell us to quit driving my
diesel so that he can fly jets and have a limo. I really resent someone doing
that. I want to drive my diesel, but I don’t want to pay $5 a gallon.
LIDDY: Yeah, I don’t suppose you’ve, by any
chance, have seen the cover of the latest issue of The New Yorker magazine, which is, you know, a huge thing.
It’s got Obama in his Muslim dress with a turban, and he’s there
with his wife. His wife has a "mad at the world" afro, circa 1968,
she — she’s got bandoliers and an assault weapon, and there in their
fireplace is burning the American flag. The
New Yorker finally got it right.
The reality is, the fact that the artist and New Yorker editors have had to blanket the media to explain themselves demonstrates the actual problem. The drawing is supposed to accompany an article, and if it had done so inside of the magazine, where few right wingers would ever even notice it, the effect might have been as intended. But it wasn’t, and rather than defensive, New Yorker’s editors will not have to issue an apology at some point.