Monday, July 14, 2008

that cover!

if you follow the media news, you know by now that some outrage has been made over the new yorker's latest cover, which depicts michelle and barack obama in all their mythical glory as the republican party portrays them: she's a militant black, he's a radical muslim. they are doing the infamous "terrorist fist jab" in the oval office while an american flag burns in their fireplace, which is just under a portrait of osama bin laden, presumably their role model.

before you judge the cover by its merits alone, there is quite a bit of context to be aware of: the new yorker is a very intellectual, white-but-liberal, new york-centric magazine. i read it sometimes because it has very analytical analysis of current events, features indie music and movie reviews, and also contains a fair bit of interesting random stories not covered by regular media outlets. i like that it spends as much as 18 pages on one story, rather than condensing things to fit in more articles. it is also known for it's silly yet smart (often too smart, sometimes i don't get them) cartoons.

the cover, to the new yorker audience, is a satire of the negative media frenzy surrounding obama and his wife. conservative media outlets (and others) have speculated that he is a muslim, that his wife is militant about her blackness (she majored in african american studies, the horror!), and that they are both unpatriotic. the rumors surrounding him have been awful. i think it's because he's a black man with a vaguely muslim sounding name that they have been so easy to believe.

where the problem arises is in how other people, the ones who aren't the "new yorker-reading type", will interpret this cover. will it soothe their suspicions that they indeed had been right all along? probably. but the new yorker has a very small readership, and i don't know if they anticipated all this media frenzy. if nobody except their subscribers and regular readers received the magazine, there would be no question as to how to interpret the cover. but if people don't take it as satire, which they might not, especially if unfamiliar with the more liberal intellectual (dare i say elitist?) tone of the magazine, will they assume obama and his wife are anti-american extremists?

i'm torn. on the one hand, probably. there are a lot of idiots in this country. idiots who watched wall-e while slurping on a coke and gouging on popcorn and missing the fact that they were the ones being parodied, not some far-removed future people that only exist in the world of pixar. i'm sure fox news is having a field day with this.

but on the other hand, i want to say fuck 'em. i hate pandering to the lowest common denominator. why should we sugarcoat and tiptoe so as not to offend or, more likely, appease the ones who will most certainly vote republican anyhow? i hate that about 39% of people still think barack is muslim, but hopefully those are all diehard republicans anyway.

the problem with the democratic party is that we are too often spineless. our greatest virtue is our biggest weakness. we value humanity, all humanity, and we have a need to help others. we also want to respect and relieve unequal circumstance. the australian ethicist peter singer said, on helping others, that "as long as it does not create undue harm or aggravation on the individual, they should be responsible to help others" (or something like that.) so we like paying taxes to help social programs (at least i do), and we feel the need to keep these programs governmentally-regulated so that they will always exist. i understand the privatized ethos, but it doesn't work. how many people are going to save a part of their paycheck each month for their social security, only to access it when they're in retirement?

people are flawed. i love humanity, but we are by no means perfect. it's sometimes hard to do things on our own, especially these days and for certain segments of the population. where you are born into the socioeconomic spectrum is a matter of pure chance, not entitlement. so when people are born into poverty, they have little chance of getting out of it. it has absolutely nothing to do with being lazy, it's simply a matter of circumstance.

where does this play into my point? well, us liberals are people-pleasers. we hate to offend. especially when there is such a large segment of the population susceptible to reading these messages from the new yorker cover as truth. so many of my favorite blogs, liberal, feminist, both, are outraged over the cover. they are outraged that this feeds into the stereotypes and gives the republicans fodder and is racist toward the obamas. this is why i feel the need to respond: because i am not.

i say fuck it. why do we care so much about this contingent that doesn't like us anyway? they aren't going to vote for obama. and as i said in defense of wesley clark's comments, if the cover can get one person thinking about the ridiculousness of these claims about the obamas, i have no problem with it.

because really, if us liberals are such pacifist pussies, why would we be working so hard to elect someone who wants to destroy america? i thought we were bleeding hearts, against all war and all killing. except babies, of course.


Dennise said...

This reminds me of the whole Jesse Jackson/Barack Obama debacle. Jesse Jackson makes negative statements about Obama and how he is a disgrace to black people and now says, oops I didn't know anyone was listening. So, what now? All the faithful Jesse Jackson followers are going to blindly vote for John McCain because Jackson wants to cut off Obama's nuts? Way to fucking go Jackson! I'm sure McCain will thank-you in his inagural speech and maybe give you a position as head of homeland security. It's almost embarrassing to be a democrat right now.

Brandi said...

I read an article that I posted to FB a couple weeks ago about memory, and it said that people lose the associations with the memories they make, remembering only the idea itself (sans any "true" or "false" connotations).

So, people may possibly store these new extreme images of the Obama family without the logical connection that they are ridiculous, which may end up haunting the entire campaign. Like, farmer ted in nowhere-ville may now forever have the militant image of Mrs. Obama burned into the crevices of his memory, just without the additional details of satire or mockery.

allison said...

You know, Brandi, I heard something very similar. People remember most clearly the first thing they hear or see about a subject and not any further modifications to their knowledge about it. I believe that it's called the primacy effect, but I didn't know it was so overwhelmingly apparent.

It's pretty depressing that, even with refutations, people are inclined to believe the first thing they hear.

I guess it's in our biology to do so, but who are these people? I'm such a nerd that if I'm unsure of something, I google it and remember what I found out. I haaate being wrong. Not that I hate having my beliefs challenged, but I hate when I have some idea that I assume is well-reasoned and is actually blatantly wrong, because I either misheard, assumed wrong, or didn't remember.

Katlin at URPLE said...

Such a good post! I read the whole post, didn't understand all of it because I don't watch the news or am up with all the politics, but I still don't like the cover. (I think) it's supposed to be a joke, but people that don't read the New Yorker are going to look at it and think that they're suggesting that's who the Obama's are. I sure would think that.