Monday, July 14, 2008

Is it Satire or is it Offensive? Or is it both?

Have you seen the cover of the New Yorker this week? Kind of crazy, huh? Barack Obama in a Muslim outfit, Michelle Obama dressed like a militant terrorist, U.S. flag burning in the fireplace, picture of bin Laden on the wall. Hmm ...
The "New Yorker" says it's satire. Obama and a bunch of other people say it's offensive. I don't know exactly where the line is.
Of course, what they did was take all the right-wing criticisms of the Obamas and put them into cartoon form. So if this is offensive, it's offensive because the people who said the stuff originally were offensive. But if it's satire, it's satire because the "New Yorker" really doesn't believe all the stuff and is making fun of the people who said it originally. That would make it offensive to the original offenders, then, I suppose.
So yeah, it is possible to think this picture is offensive for more than one reason. You can be offended because it depicts the Obamas celebrating in the Oval Office by doing just what you thought they would do all along, in which case yours is a "see I told you so" kind of offense. Or you might be offended because the New Yorker is giving legitimacy to the right-wing fears about the Obamas by iconizing them on the cover, in which case yours would be an "Oh, please" kind of offense. Or perhaps you are offended on behalf of the character of the Obamas, in which case yours is a "Oh no, they would never..." kind of offense. It is even plausible to be offended because the New Yorker is depicting the burning of a U.S. flag at all, no matter what you think about Barack and Michelle Obama.
What do you think? Satirical / offensive / satiricoffensive? (Ha! I made up a word!) I'm looking forward to reading a comment or two ...
One thing's pretty certain, though. It will probably sell a bunch of magazines!

20 comments:

Adam L. Gordon said...

I think it's pretty stupid regardless of the angle that the "New Yorker" was trying to take. Could this be considered slanderous material? That would be interesting...

To be honest, I'm getting really sick and tired of the drama that the media keeps drumming up on this political race - when really it would behoove us to have media coverage of the effects of high gas prices, or the non-U.S. combatants' families, or the rising cost of food across the country. Then maybe we'd stop determining the capabilities of someone's leadership based on their familial-cultural background or race, and start caring about the consequences of our own actions around the world.

I guess you could probably guess where I stand...

Thanks a lot, Andy. Now I'm gonna have to blog about it. >:-/

ag

Kyleinkc said...

I agree ag and if the press had done that during the primary Hilary would have gotten the nomination. I am so not for Mccain but unfortunately he will win especially if Obama does not offer the vp to Hilary. I am afraid Obama is the Dems Bush his puppeter is Ted Kennedy.

Anonymous said...

There is nothing that keeps satire from being offensive. Regardless of whatever commentary was intended (I’m assuming the New Yorker meant it as positive satire showing the ridiculousness of some claims) it was hurtful to Mr. and Mrs. Obama…regrettably hurtful to all of us in the long run.

-Mitch

Zach said...

I think that Adam's opening statement sums up my feelings, but there has been one thing throughout the campaign that bothers me. Anytime Obama and some form of "Muslim" characteristic are associated, he and others go on a tirade about how wrong this is. The tone that is used makes it look like being Muslim is somehow offensive to America and has not place in our society.

I know that usually those attacking Obama for being Muslim are usually associating it with fundamental extremists, but the when the idea that a Muslim could be an effective leader is appalling to people is what worries me.

As I start my first appointment and I deal with others who don't agree with me on many issues, I wonder how "funny" satire is anymore. It's usually always hurting someone, and is that what we should do to others?

Enjoyed the blog on this. It's got me thinking about this on a different level than just being a angry Obama supporter.

Kory said...

Neither. For anyone that isn't having this very discussion, explicitly, anyways. I would define it as 'propaganda.' It's just unclear whether it's meant to promote or demote.

All I see it accomplishing is the stirring of emotions and/or fearfully-forwarded chain emails, which will undoubtedly pick up a few viruses which I will then have to clean off of my unwitting clients' computers. And viruses, of course, need to be considered an act of terrorism. Therefore, this magazine cover is naught but the birth of a new wave of extreme-cyber-terror. Raise the alert level to red! Bump up airport security! It's a slippery slope like none I've ever seen. :-)

steveh said...

Ah HA!! You are just trying a feeble attempt to deflect from REAL issues in society – like church attendance numbers. You can’t fool an old fool.

Jeremy V. said...

In pursuit of the almighty dollar, I am never suprised what the media or press will do to take a shot at someone, or to just stir up trouble to make money. I normally don't comment on political matters, but my goodness!

Adam L. Gordon said...

Okay, Andy. It's there - you've driven me to blog about it. Hope you're happy.

John Schmalzbauer said...

I recognize the New Yorker's cartoon as half-baked satire, so I'm not terribly offended.

At the same time, I'm not sure most people will view it that way. There were plenty of "All in the Family" fans who thought Archie Bunker made a lot of sense.

Any Obama supporters who want to feel better should check out Newsweek's cover story on Barack's faith and editor Jon Meacham's eloquent editorial: http://www.newsweek.com/id/145972/page/1

A lot more swing voters read Newsweek than the New Yorker.
I'd venture to guess that Obama has the New Yorker vote sewn up by now.

Josh said...

There was a point made on MSNBC by some commentator (I forget who ): This cartoon would have made its point more clearly and more powerfully if the cartoon depicted someone like Rush Limbaugh drawing the cartoon. I thought that was a brilliant comment because then it would have shown that absurdity of the right wing misinformation campaign.

My first reaction was sympathy for the Obama family -- especially Michelle. I thought she was being cruelly dragged through the mud because of her spouse's choice of career.

Having at times found myself and my family in similar circumstances (although on a much, much smaller scale), I just felt sympathy for those being smeared. It was enough to make me turn off Countdown with Keith Olberman and go read a book.

Danny Boy said...

The pic isn't particularly offensive to me. But that is more because I really don't care about the presidential race this time around at all (been burned too many times to care anymore).

What does concern me is the lake of sides that the New Yorker is portraying. I do believe that the major criticism of the modern media is a lack of objectivity and an inability to show two sides of a story. In this case, they should have ran an equally "satirical" cartoon of McCain with a walker followed around by his trophy wife in a two piece while they both throw money at America's problems.

Seriously...

~Danny Boy

Anonymous said...

To balance this out - would there be the outrage, concern, discussion had there been a similar depiction of Laura and George Bush? I have seen some pretty nasty, disrespectful covers on them with little or no comment past a snicker or hardy "Ha Ha". Just a observation.

Diana

Julie said...

I think that political cartoonists walk a thin line between speaking volumes through their medium about the underlying feelings, thoughts and comments in the political world we live in, and getting away with being rude, discriminatory, and out of line. I think that regardless of whether or not this deems itself satire, I feel that we've crossed a boundary in our society in couching our uncomfortabilities with the "other" (be it because of race, gender, political affiliation, sexual orientation, theology, age, etc.) in a light-hearted manner. As people of faith we have a moral calling to be agents of transformation in the world in which we live. May times like these be times when we don't allow cartoons to go unnoticed and unchallenged.

Will said...

Thanks for the post. It is my feeling that much, if not most, satire is by its very nature offensive to some people. Has anyone here read "A Modest Proposal" by Jonathan Swift? Now that was offensive satire. I also find it hard to believe that any intelligent person would think that this cover is not satire, given that The New Yorker is one of the most liberal magazines in print. As an Obama supporter, the cover made me cringe a little, but it is well within the right of the magazine to publish what it wants. My question is this: Have we become a people who are so afraid to risk offending onyone by our speech or actions that we end up saying and doing nothing?

I did write about this as well on my blog, if anyone is interested.

John said...

I suspect that the cover serves to tarnish criticism of Obama by blurring the line between legitimate and illegitimate criticism of Obama.

KLo said...

Touche Danny Boy! Would you please draw up your suggested cartoon on McCain and submit to some widely distributed piece of media for publication!

My vote for the Obama cartoon is that it is offensive satire that has crossed the line. Thanks for the lively discussion Andy!

KLo

Dave in NKC said...

I think you hit the real issue on the head Andy about the New Yorker selling a lot of magazines from all of the hoopla. Sorry to sya but that is the ultimate goal of any of these wild media circuses. Somebody, somewhere is making money.

John said...

Now this is quality Obama reporting.

Brad said...

This is simply an example of what happens when the stupid things people say about each other are actually represented on paper. The point of satire is to hold up the mirror. So, Bill O'Reilly thinks Obama is a flag-burning, America-hating, terrorist-supporting, Muslim? Alright, here's how stupid that idea is!

If its offensive, its because the original comments were.

BB

EyeRytStuf said...

I tried to post about his days and days ago, but failed miserably. Here's another attempt:

It's only offensive when devoid of context. Just as knowing more about a work of art lends itself to a better appreciation (or maybe a better lack of appreciation) for the work, so knowing more about the context of this cartoon.

Someone has already pointed out this is in The New Yorker, which is part of the ACTUAL liberal media (in that it has a liberal slant) and not the media that frequently gets CALLED the liberal media because it doesn't always--at least not in the past few years--serve as a simple mouth piece for the current administration.

Also, I've seen other cover art by this same artist. I'm pretty sure he doesn't draw from a "please take this literally" point of view.

I think what's offensive is that more outrage has been expressed about this cartoon than has been expressed about the statements it is mocking.