Tuesday, July 15, 2008

That New Yorker cover
"My gut squirmed"

From a comment at Michelle Obama Watch:

When I saw that picture, and the pulp-style branding of Mrs. Obama, I had an uncomfortable visceral reaction. Literally, my gut squirmed. It was painful. This is the reaction that the artist should have had or had and foolishly stifled with the words “Well I’m fighting these perceptions with this work so it’s okay.”

This “work of art” is the product of an adult who has lost touch with their intuition, dare I say their emotional humanity. The world is a cold set of 1’s and 0’s of right and wrong, missing the heart.

They figure, “Well because my intentions are good, this isn’t harmful - you see I’m actually making fun of this sort of mentality.” But they don’t get that they are adding to a landscape already glutted with harmful caricatures and stereotypes and ignorant responses without adding to the dialogue.

I wonder whether people like artist Barry Blitt who drew this thing and considers it "satire" ever realize that idle "cleverness" reinforcing hateful narratives injures real human beings?

Sure, the Obamas presumably have hides like rhinos -- anyone fool enough to run for ruler of the empire has to. But the stereotypes used to demean them here have real world consequences everyday for African Americans and U.S. Muslims, consequences like assaults, police harassment and worse.
Local note: the San Francisco Chronicle's editorial cartoonist goes to bat for his fellow "artist" in an oped today. Here's his lede:

"I don't get it." Along with "that's not funny" and "there has been a fatwa declared against you," they are the words any cartoonist least wants to hear.

I can only assume Tom Meyer wants people to think the Obamas are closet Muslims, religious terrorists. This isn't just cool snark. It is vicious racism.


Anonymous said...

The media just refuse to talk about the issues - crises, actually - facing the United States and give us this stuff instead.

Without working at it hard at all, I can think a bunch of ways to satirize candidates' positions on some issues that might actually enlighten us instead of reinforcing ugly stereotypes.

There is nothing but heat in this New Yorker cover and not a glimmer of light.

Anonymous said...

Hmmmm.... Interesting that this is the first time ever that my partner didn't receive her copy of the New Yorker.

Jane R said...

The intertubes ate the comment I posted last night, which was this:

And Salon (yesterday) said re: this cover and the reaction to it that we have no sense of humor.

Judge for yourself.


janinsanfran said...

Oddly, in one respect I think Gary Kamiya is right in the wrongheaded article Jane links to. There is a parallel between my calling this cover "racist" and the Danish anti-Quran cartoon episode.

In each instance, more powerful people who sit about the fray -- out of the reach of the damage done by the stereotypes they promote -- arrogate to themselves the right to "play" amid other people's lives. This arrogance is not pretty.

Civic Center said...

That magazine has been coasting on its considerable (and deserved) reputation for some time, but ever since David Remnick became editor about eight years ago, "The New Yorker" has become an arrogant, insular, right-wing Jewish rag not much different than "The New Republic." They cheerleaded for war in Iraq and their worldview is astonishingly narrow.

I think the question they should be asking themselves about that cover is, "What if the images had been grotesque, 19th-century stereotypes complete with hooked noses, of Jewish powerbrokers? Would it be acceptable?" And of course, the answer is no, but somehow because it's blacks the most outrageous imagery is "satire." It doesn't wash, though most commentators in the media condemning the magazine cover have been guilty of even worse with Obama over the last year.