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That New Yorker cover, a round-up

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Newyorker_2Not since the map of a tribally categorized New York City has a New Yorker cover been the subject of such chatter (although this one will probably appear on fewer shower curtains). This week's issue features Michelle and Barack Obama doing the dap in the Oval Office, Michelle strapped with bullets and donning camo and an afro, Barack in vaguely Arab garb, which here is code for scary stealth Muslim. Cartoonist Barry Blitt hasn't avoided controversial covers before, but I guess no one minds when you make fun of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Larry Craig. Obama himself had no comment, though a spokesman called the supposed-to-be-satiric cover tasteless, as did a John McCain rep. Here's what bloggers have to say.

Over at Top of the Ticket, Andrew Malcolm explains why the cover could be dangerous:

A lot of people won't get the joke. Or won't want to. And will use it for non-humorous purposes, which isn't the New Yorker's fault.

A problem is there's no caption on the cover to ensure that everyone gets the ha-ha-we've-collected-almost-every-cliched-rumor-about-Obama-in-one-place-in-order-to-make-fun-of-them punchline.

At Pandagon, Jesse Taylor agrees that the cover doesn't work as satire, particularly because it has to be explained:

It’s not actually satirizing the phenomenon of right-wing e-mail forwards, it’s just creating the ultimate version thereof.  To put it in a different context, it’s like holding a satirized Klan rally by holding a Klan rally...with a laser show that makes a three-story image of a burning cross.  A bigger, badder, better version of the thing you’re attempting to mock doesn’t constitute mockery, it just constitutes a gaudier version of the thing you’re addressing.

The Plank also thinks it doesn't work, because of the magazine's elitist posture:

And that, of course, is precisely what's wrong with the cover: the image is satirical only because it appears on the cover of the New Yorker, which, we all know, is a right-thinking magazine read by right-thinking people who couldn't possibly be among the 10 percent of Americans who believe Obama's a Muslim. The New Yorker assumes everyone knows it's being ironic with its cover, sort of the way the white hipster in a gentrifying neighborhood assumes everyone knows he's being ironic when he wears a "Stop Snitching" t-shirt. But put that image on the cover of National Review, or that t-shirt on a black person in a crime-infested neighborhood, and the message takes on a very different meaning.

Times columnist Jonah Goldberg chimes in at The Corner:

What I find interesting about the New Yorker cover is that it's almost exactly the sort of cover you could expect to find on the front of National Review. Roman Genn could do wonders with that concept. Of course, if we ran the exact same art, the consensus from the liberal establishment could be summarized in words like "Swiftboating!" and, duh, "racist."

Michelle Obama Watch too wonders about liberal racism:

Does anybody remember that loon from Daily Kos that thought it was a good idea to show Michelle Obama being lynched and tortured because he had a really good point to make?

Michelle Malkin is most concise in her take, and tells Obama to "grow a pair." Althouse, on that note, wonders why everyone is talking about nuts.

Salon's War Room blog, like Althouse, makes it past the cover:

In this case, though, there's a tangential relationship, as the magazine's Ryan Lizza has a really interesting profile of Obama, done by looking through the lens of his rise in Chicago. In fact, if I were Lizza, I'd be pretty upset at my editors today, as this controversy has ensured that his article is going ignored. Like so many articles in the magazine, it's long, complicated and detailed, and reporters and commentators who are discussing the cover are skipping over the article, presumably for reasons of time.... Lizza's article isn't a hit piece, but it paints a complicated and at times unflattering portrait of Obama, one that would have had some potential to be politically damaging to the presumptive Democratic nominee were it not for the attention the cover's getting instead.

See New Yorker editor David Remnick's defense here, the cartoonist's response here, and the article here.


Comments () | Archives (17)

The comments to this entry are closed.

Joanne King

Here is some real satire New Yorker. Read and learn.

I am sorry to inform you all that it would appear that Matt Lauer is a Muslim also. Check out the clip below showing Matt's obviously muslim inspired fist-bump.


Come to think of it, how did Miss Teen USA know how to respond to Matt's fist bump??? She's a Muslim too!!! They are everywhere. Run!!


Satire makes fun of something that is true, it does not promote something thats is vile, slanderous and evil. Satire that is indistinguishable from what it purports to satirize fails as satire.

Stephen Dolle

Though the New Yorker's cover of the Obama's might be viewed by some as satire, it comes post 911 and at a time when the U.S. remains in the "crosshairs" of the Bin Laden network, as well as the ongoing "Muslim" fought war in Iraq. To call it "over the top," is a dis-service to that phrase in any dictionary. It seems scarily intended to cause a stir, like laughing about a fire in a theatre days after a nearby theatre burned down. I mean, Don Imus, who made some insensitive racial remarks on TV and radio, and later lost his on-air contracts over it, did not have the benefit of editorial review before his message went out. The New Yorker did. The cover clearly is intended to evoke "emotion," but at a time when none of its points are a laughing matter.


To be fair maybe Blitt should do a cover of McCain as the Manchurian Candidate...

victor knopp

an obama vote is nothing more or less than a helsinki vote,never surrender

Karen A

It is unfortunate that this New Yorker illustrated cover of Barack Obama in a turban and Michelle Obama with an afro and machine gun is considered satire. The definition of satire is the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like, in exposing, denouncing, or deriding vice, folly, etc. How is this cartoon exposing a vice or folly of the Obama’s? They are not closet Muslims, or machine gun toting anarchist. Also, why is the afro utilized as a symbol of anarchy? The truth is, most of us work hard, and get along with one another. The media, along with a small minority of the population would like all of us to believe we should dislike each other based on unimportant metrics like the color of our skin, the texture of our hair, what we wear, how we chose to worship etc. I choose not to believe this. I choose to believe that we can be better human beings. Unfortunately, this is nothing more then someone- marked by a lack of intellectual acuity- taking advantage of 'free speech' to denigrate specific religious groups, intelligent women as well as, using it as an opportunity to take a couple of pot shots at African-Americans in general. The hope is that we will begin to rise above this and move into a place where we can have intelligent discourse regarding our politics, religion and yes even freedom of speech.

Colin Rickards

The trouble with a Cover like this is that even if there is solid editorial copy -- is there? -- to discuss the Cover and explain the satire, most people won't buy the magazine, but huge numbers will pass it on the newstands, and many will will be affected by it -- which, despite the protestations of the magazine "talking heads" on TV tonight, is probably the intent. It is sad to see "The New Yorker" stoop this low.

Ellen Yamamoto

I guess racism will be on the forefront of attacks. When will White American ever view us non-Whites as patriotic and loyal to the US? My father risked his life in the Pacific to show that his people (American citizens of Japanese descent) were truly patriot and loyal...how many more wars, deaths and injustice do we non-Whites have to do to prove we are truly American? The New Yorker had the wrong advice in this situation. Purely a white view. Satire? It's not funny. It proves how stupid such a great publication can be! Yes, the moron on the street may not buy the New Yorker, but that picture will be all over...it will help promote the falsehoods such as "Obama is a Muslim". So what if he was???? I am outraged!


Any demonization of Obama will help him whether it is satire or not. Consider this paradigm, Bush has become the most politically unpopular president in history and as a consequence will become one of the most popular presidents in history.


So I guess we'll be seeing McCain in a cartoon with him dressed in a white hooded robe soon? You know, just because he's white?

Tim McGarry

Jonathan Swift wrote about Irish babies as table delicacies, but the objects of his satire were English landlords and their apologists and allies in London. Similarly, the New Yorker cartoon pictures the Obamas, but the objects of the satire are clearly the whispering slanderers on the right who want people to see the Senator and his wife as closet jihadists of some sort, despite the absurdity of such a view.

People who don't get this have no earthly idea what satire is. Or perhaps they are grim levelers of some sort who believe all public discourse should be conducted at the simpleton level. A sad state of affairs, either way.

Jim Sylvester

The cover was tasteless as delivered. I heard it said on TV last night that if it had been drawn showing a right-wing nut (Rush?) drawing the cartoon, it would have been "in context," and clearly taken as satire. I agree. However, it is as it is, and as for all the flap, well, political campaigns are full of it. There will be another flap in a few days, and in the long run they all add up to nothing much. . . except for the TV ratings. They are great for that.

By the way, content meaning aside, it was a superb example of a satirical cartoon.

M Saleem Chaudhry

This socalled satirical piece of The New Yorker ,made me recall,a not so stairical attempt but more with ulterior motives of Daniel Pole on his web page magazine about the Muslim background of Obama.He pulled out records of early schooling of Obama,upto the age of 10 in suburbs of Jakarta,Indonesia, with S.nos of his registration,listing of his father's(stepfather) name and his religion.He also quoted the statements of his old teachers and classfellows about his accompanying his father in local Muslim dress to Mosque for Juma prayers once a week and also lessons in Quraan.His stepsister was quoted,saying that the most of his/her family members were Muslims.Obviously she meant paternal family as all his/her maternal family stayed Christians with whom Obama grew in later childhood and adolscence.
However Daniel highlighted his( Obama's) Muslim associations,including his photo in Muslim dress which was exploited by Hilary compign managers,for which she later tendered apology and regret,candidly or as a formality,you can never know.

After suffering heavily under 8 years of rule by Bush and his Neocons with Manichean mind-set, through Machiavellian tactics of Rove and verdict of partisan judiciary,Americans deserve better deal to pick their future leader with the set of requisite positive traits,irrespective of race,creed and religion in correspondence with the principles of the Founding Fathers , to meet the challenges of 21st century with emerging powers like China and India and economic blocks,like APEC,E.U,ASEAN and South America,headed by Venzvela

frances gallman

I can't believe this is a new century & we still have those backwood racist who will never grow, such as the New Yorker editor & artist who see humor in it. I have never seen Barbara or George in such garbage they call humor. I view them as small minds trying to express themselves. If Senator Obama & his wife can endure all of the racism from both parties, the media & the publics shallow views, I think they are strong enought to lead the country into the tough years ahead that their caucasian so called leader left for someone to clean up.


I heard about the Ryan Lizza article and checked it out online before the brouhaha over the cover flared up. I thought that the article was an enlightening piece on Obama's political journey in Chicago, but alas the cover controversy will distract many from people reading that article. Too bad, almost makes one wonder whether the Obama camp had a hand in that cover to distract everyone from reading the details of some of the choices he's made and the help he's had from the Chicago intelligensia on his journey to the nomination.


My inkblot thoughts. It's a dream cover from the Weather Underground. I see the Marxist Angela Davis, sporting the iconic AK47, and the Pharaoh Ikhnaton in Muslim drag. There is always some truth to parody, even when the left can't agree on which truth. After all, Arab Palestinians are named after Palestine, originally a Roman province of Jews under the Roman Empire. If you're going to be an irridentist, one should at least get the ethnicity right in the era of identity politics. Obviously, the cover would not work for Colin Powell. Great satire.

Michael C. Teniente


I have to laugh at the Democrates because of how they responded to this NYer cover.

Check it out:

"Let's be frank. People sophisticated enough to read, say, newspaper editorials are smart enough to know that the New Yorker's cover art this week -- portraying Barack Obama as a be-turbaned Muslim and wife Michelle as an Afro-sporting terrorist with an AK-47 across her back -- is a work of satire. But what about the millions of dumb Americans who will think otherwise?"


"Obama's campaign is deeply worried about the legions of morons who they apparently believe make up the heart of this great nation."

Now dem dar der words are pretty strong for an "intellectual".

Dumb Americans? Morons?

Well, why don't we just cut off the intellectuals from the rest of society and let them decide who should be President. Seems like, with those use of those words, that this person thinks that Obama is going to lose or else why would the writer insult millions of American that way? American who can very well decide who the next President is going to be.

I guess everyone is too stupid to make up their own minds about that NYer cover except the educated. That sounds elitist all the way! And if Obama loses to McCain, which I think he will, it'll be because of that. You intellectual/elitist will get everything you deserve in this election. Another Presidential loss!

What all that means is this: You people are so smart that you out wit yourselves time and time and time, again. LOL! Wow! You people are really so conceited that you can't stand it when the "commons" beat you each and every time when it comes to the Presidential Election. Well, you did have Jimmy Carter (what a joke of a President) and Bill Clinton. LOL!

You were a winner with Clinton and decided to back Obama against HIllary? How stupid can you be? Since 1970 there has only been 2 democratic Presidents and now you've finally gotten tired of being nice and just come out with what you really think. Most American are dumb and are morons because they don't vote like you? Gee...just give the Presidency to McCain.

I swear you guys are as dumb as they come. I can say that because according to you Intellectuals are in the minority. LOL!

One more thing: The real reason why the Intellectual left rarely wins the Presidency is because the majority of Americans are moderates who lean right in their thinking...not because they're dumb or morons. Don't you numbskulls understand that? That's why the middle is so important and this guy just insulted millions of American who are probably in the middle of the road.

mike t.



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