Did New Yorker Obama cartoon cross the line?

A cartoon on the cover of the U.S.-based publication the New Yorker stirred passions throughout the blogosphere.

The cartoon, displayed on the front of the July 21, 2008 edition of the weekly news and culture magazine, depicted Obama in traditional African muslim dress and head wrap giving a “knuckle tap” to his wife, Michelle, who wears camouflage fatigues with a machine gun strapped to her shoulder. Behind the couple, a U.S. flag burns in the fireplace and a picture of Osama bin Laden adorns a wall.

Editors at the magazine claimed the cover was intended as satire. The presumptive Democratic nominee who will face Republican John McCain for the U.S. presidency said he was not bothered by the cartoon, but said it was insulting to Muslim Americans. A New Yorker reporter found he could not secure a seat on the Senator’s press plane to follow the Senator on his recent trip to the Middle East.

The New Yorker is generally viewed as one of the best magazines in the United States. However, Ian Scattergood, a British citizen living in Poland, wonders how the cartoon will affect regular voters.

This is all very well for the more sophisticated readers of The New Yorker but surely this will do nothing other than feed the fears of America’s less sophisticated voters who probably miss the satire completely and just take everything fed to them at face value. I can see why Obama might not like it although I think the ‘offensive’ tag is a little off. Still, he can hardly come out and say “I don’t like it because a lot of my less intelligent countrymen might not get the joke”. According to the article, a survey has suggested that 12% of Americans think Obama is a Muslim, so his worries are not exactly without foundation!

From Nigeria, Snazzy, in the blog Aijuswanarite, says the cartoon got the satire wrong.

I must say that the New Yorker Obama cartoon is beyond ridiculous, I mean are they effing kidding! As someone said, if they were saying that this was a portrait of right wing views, why didn't they have some republican (read McCain) think it in a bubble.

A response from Julia on the Vivirlatino site:

To me it's all in how it's framed….If this picture was shown in a “thought bubble” above someone's head it could be framed as satire; it's not. And it's the bloody cover too; the New Yorker is not known to be a humor mag. I see it as a cheap, cynical, offensive way to sell copies and stir up some fears while playing dumb (“who, me?”) in the aftermath.

Here’s what they are saying at the Review of Cuban-American blogs.

If the New Yorker had placed Raúl Castro's picture over the mantel instead of Osama's or found some other way to insert him in the scene (perhaps trying to insert Obama), the cartoon would have been a graphic condensation of my own thought on the Manchurian couple. Of course, we know that artist Barry Blitt intended the cartoon as a lampoon of people like me, that is, clear-thinking people. But his efforts backfired because he got too close to the truth and violated the #1 rule at the New Yorker: “Cartoons Must Not Be Funny.”

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