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New Yorker cover cartoon condemned as tasteless

The July 21st New Yorker cover is a raising eyebrows and both the Obama and McCain campaigns have called it “tasteless and offensive.” The cover shows a cartoon of presidential candidate Barack Obama in a turban and middle-eastern garb fist-bumping his gun-slinging wife as the American flag burns in the fireplace. The New Yorker’s press release previewing the cover explained that “artist Barry Blitt satirizes the use of scare tactics and misinformation in the presidential election to derail Barack Obama’s campaign.”

Community Comments

#1 Jamie Smith
July/14/2008
@ 8:49 am

Blitt, over at the Huffington Post is defending his piece; “I think the idea that the Obamas are branded as unpatriotic [let alone as terrorists] in certain sectors is preposterous. It seemed to me that depicting the concept would show it as the fear-mongering ridiculousness that it is.”

#2 Jeff Darcy
July/14/2008
@ 9:12 am

I think that was copied from a doodle on Rush Limbaugh’s bathroom wall

#3 J.G. Moore
July/14/2008
@ 9:16 am

Wow. Well Blitt did a poor job. He is just adding to what he “says” he is trying to depict. When I see that New Yorker cover this is what I see:

http://www.comicssherpa.com/site/feature?uc_comic=cszpe&uc_full_date=20080712

Let see if the New Yorker does a cover that is anti McCain.
If they need an artist to “cover” that they can call me.

#4 George Coghill
July/14/2008
@ 9:33 am

Hmmm, I don’t think I would have read any satire into that Obama cartoon if it hadn’t been explained that way, which to me says it’s either a post-justification or a poorly executed concept.

#5 J.G. Moore
July/14/2008
@ 9:35 am

Blitt could have kept the same image of the
Obamas but included some balance in the cartoon.

He should have had McCain and W. Bush or
Rush Limbauh and Ann Coulter fist bumping and smiling
with a shared thought balloon. The current cover image
would be IN the “shared thought balloon”.

That would have made this cover “real” satire.
Blitt was on the “right track” be he just did
not follow through with the idea, he got lazy
at the Obama’s expense.

#6 Beth Cravens
July/14/2008
@ 9:48 am

I think it was a miss. The intended communication didn’t come through

#7 Rick Stromoski
July/14/2008
@ 9:57 am

Barry Blitt is a well established satirist and humorous illustrator who has won numerous art and illustration awards over the past few decades. To suggest that he was “lazy” or that the illustration was poorly executed illustrates the depths of some readers ignorance not only of the drawing and it’s intent but for satirical illustration in general.

To suggest how he could have “improved” his drawing is beyond crass audaciousness bordering on sheer ignorance.

Just admit it when you don’t get something.

#8 Matt Bors
July/14/2008
@ 10:24 am

Like the cover or not, I find it strange that anyone would suggest Blitt made up an explanation after the fact.

Do you really think th New Yorker, a magazine of “liberal elitists,” published that as a straightforward racist attack of the potential first black candidate? Obviously it is satire.

To see so many people, especially cartoonists, not “getting” the image is kind of blowing my mind right now.

#9 Jeff Darcy
July/14/2008
@ 10:53 am

I’ve longed admired Blitt’s work. When I first heard about the cover before knowing who drew it, I thought WOW what are they thinking? When I heard it was Blitt, I understood. But I don’t think the average viewer will. They don’t know or care who Barry Blitt is or how many awards he’s won. They won’t see it as sophisticated satire. They’ll take it at face value. Why would they expected to do otherwise. It’s not being presented to them as anything other than a straightforward comic slam

#10 Norm Feuti
July/14/2008
@ 10:59 am

I think it’s very telling that the first reaction a lot of people had was that it was a real slight towards Obama. It’s sad that an outrageous parody is so close to the actual smear campaigns and fear mongering that are out there that people (unfamiliar with the artist and/or magazine) are legitimately confusing it with the real thing.

In the end, I think it only proves Blitt’s point about how ridiculous political mudslinging has gotten.

#11 Jeff Darcy
July/14/2008
@ 11:17 am

I think all that cover does is make right wingers, who want that image of the Obama’s burned into voters brain’s, happy. And I don’t think that was Blitt’s or the New Yorker intent.

#12 J.G. Moore
July/14/2008
@ 11:24 am

It is not crass or ignorant at all to comment on the work of other artist. I can “crit” his work because he put hi$ work out there and now it is “fair game.â?

We can all comment on it now. CNN, FOX, MSNBC, Drudge, and damned near everyone else is posting, commenting, and dissecting this guys work….soooooooo,….I can do the same thing.

I get “it.â? As an artist who has been “doing art” for over 20 years, I “get it.â? Creating cartoons is not easy. Cartoons take time to create. Every line, crosshatch, and color is deliberate.

D-e-l-i-b-e-r-a-t-e. That is what makes this sooooo baaaaad.

The technical execution of the cover is excellent. The subject matter is sloppy, lazy, and dangerous. “It” does not need to be the The New Yorker cover. Would these be “good” New Yorker covers?

http://www.amptoons.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2007/01/nazi_cartoon.jpg

Or

http://depthome.sunysuffolk.edu/Library/HDHU/images/139.jpg

Good lord, When Obama said that whites were, “bitter” and “clinging to guns,â? white people “freeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaked”!

They freaked so much that they made damned sure
Obama lost Pennsylvania.

I get that whites were mad at his “bitter” comment,
He should not have said that at all. He paid for it too.

I kills me when nonwhites get upset about stuff like “Imus”
or “The Obama cover” or “the Mohamed cartoons”, and
whites are like “get over it” or “who cares” or “suck it up”
or “it’s satire” or “you’re dumb, you don’t get it”.

Trust me, we “get it.â? Looooouuuuuuud and clear.

Blitt may be a well-established satirist, humorous, illustrator, cartoonist, dishwasher, pipe fitter, basket weaver but he got sloppy in his “content” execution. I am not the only one pointing this out, reds, whites, blacks, browns, yellows, purples, grays, and pastels are crying “foul” over Mr. Blitt “masterpiece.â?

Dude(Blitt) was w-r-o-n-g, period, and so was The New
Yorker. This is another “Imus” like situation where people in the media (The New Yorker) did not “think” about how the
broader public would react.

Hell, The New Yorker “round files”, aka rejects most of the cartoons submissions they get. How many cartoons have
The New Yorker rejected over the years, and they
let THIS be the cover?!?! wtf?!?!? Hell, get Roz to do a “good” cover, helloooooooo.

I guess The New Yorker does not have readers who look like the “Obamas.â? Most of the “typical” New Yorker readers may like the July 2008 cover, but “it” is wrong, imho.

#13 Ted Rall
July/14/2008
@ 11:43 am

As with so many such controversies, I find it hard to be annoyed by just one side.

First and foremost, The New Yorker once again demonstrates why you shouldn’t publish cartoons about politics unless you’re willing to hire political cartoonists to draw them. Time and time again, tone-deaf artists like Art Spiegelman crank out embarrassingly lame attempts at agitprop (the Easter Bunny crucified on a 1040 form, a Hasidic guy kissing an African-American woman). They fall flat because they’re devoid of sophistication, texture or context and drawn by artists whose views of politics and current affairs lack historical depth; the lamest edittoons published by Newsweek and USA Today soar like eagles in comparison.

Let illustrators be illustrators and gag artists be gag artists. That’s who’s on staff at The New Yorker.

Second,the Obama campaign–just coming off another Sister Souljah-ing, this time of comedian Bernie Mac–is rapidly surpassing the Taliban as icons of humorlessness. The intent behind Blitt’s cartoon seems unmistakable, but even if some twits don’t get the (months old) joke, the last thing the butt of said joke should do is come out against it.

Blitt himself is blameless; he’s lucky to have gotten the gig and did about as good a job as you can considering the fact that the men who edit cartoons at the magazine are dumb as rocks.

#14 JR Atkins
July/14/2008
@ 11:44 am

I “get” what Blitt is saying: the difference between this xenophobic and racist depiction of the Obamas and the truth of who they are is vast and absurd. But I don’t think that his illustration made a profound observation or showed us this concept in a surprising or sensitive way. In order to use racist imagesâ??even satiricallyâ??those are the minimum criteria that should be met or the downsides will always outweigh the benefits.

If Blitt had used this image to say something new, to make an unexpected observation, or to turn our preconceptions on their heads, it might have been worth it. But unless there’s a very good reason, I think that even an ironic use of racist stereotypes can be harmful. Even the most brilliant satirists will slip up, and this cover is an example of a misguided stab at profundity that fell flat. It’s not sophisticated satire; it’s ham-handed stereotype-mongering with a liberal justification.

#15 J.G. Moore
July/14/2008
@ 11:50 am

Not to mention that Mr. Blitt’s “cartoon” showing OBL’s picture in the White House and Old Glory burning dances on 3000+ graves (9-11, Iraq, Afgtsan). Didn’t Bill Maher get fired for less?

#16 Ted Slampyak
July/14/2008
@ 12:10 pm

In order to point out the absurdity of racism, or of character assassination, or anything else, it’s not enough merely to portray the image and let the reader see what you hope they’ll see in it.

Going onstage and doing a lame stand-up act isn’t an inciteful ironic commentary on lame stand-up — it’s a lame stand-up act.

Editorial cartooning requires an editorial — a viewpoint, an opinion. Show us WHY this image is ridiculous and completely off the mark. Show us WHY only ignorant racists would believe this distortion of reality.

Give us a viewpoint, not just a view.

#17 J Read
July/14/2008
@ 12:31 pm

I can understand how some humorless right-wingnuts might see it as a great poster for their message, but surely regular readers of The New Yorker (what Matt calls a magazine of liberal elitists) immediately recognize it as satire? Of course, if that same image had appeared on the cover of another magazine, say one that has a more Republican editorial slant, it would not be considered satire at all.

#18 Matt Bors
July/14/2008
@ 12:33 pm

Everywhere I see liberals blogging about this, there is one thing they generally agree on: The New Yorker should have been more careful about giving right-wingers fodder, regardless of their intentions.

It’s an interesting argument: A magazine should not create content for its readers, but for ignorant racists who glance at the cover in the checkout line.

#19 Matt Bors
July/14/2008
@ 12:40 pm

J Read: when I used “liberal elitists” it was satirical. Making fun of the right-wing view of the magazine. Kind of like the cover in question.

Of course the context matters. If the KKK published a similar image in a newsletter, I would imagine it wouldn’t be satirical.

#20 Ted Rall
July/14/2008
@ 12:43 pm

Bashing Jon Stewart would be gauche. But picking on cartoonists is bipartisan: both the Obama and McCain campaigns agree that Blitt is an evildoer.

They’re so brave.

#21 JR Atkins
July/14/2008
@ 12:44 pm

To me, the issue is not so much that someone might not realize it’s satire: that it’s satire seems obvious. It’s just not good satire. It fails to add anything to what it’s depicting, and because of that failure, it becomes just another perpetuation of a stereotype.

#22 Ed Hall
July/14/2008
@ 1:36 pm

Message – good
Delivery – poor
Drawing – eh…

#23 Darrin Bell
July/14/2008
@ 1:54 pm

Yes, everyone here gets that it’s satire, but we’re cartoonists so we’re smarter than the rest of the hopeless idiots in America.

(in case you’re uncertain, the above sentence was satire).

Now I guess Obama’s lost the votes of all the bigots out there who’re already inclined to believe he’s an America-hating Muslim, but were going to vote for him anyway.

(satire again, in case you were about to be offended)

#24 Cory Thomas
July/14/2008
@ 1:58 pm

Geez! How could that over-the-top image NOT be interpreted as satire?

#25 Jeff Darcy
July/14/2008
@ 1:59 pm

RE: J READ’s post. The problem is it’s not just NEW YOKER readers who’ll be seeing this. Most people who see it will be non readers because of the media play it’s getting. And to them it will undersandably be seen as offensive. Normaly I’d hate to see words plasterd over a cover illustration, but in this case I would have put the title of the article on the cover. To give the context.

#26 J Read
July/14/2008
@ 3:05 pm

Matt, I knew your words were meant to be satirical, and my point was that context matters.
Jeff, I don’t think The New Yoker (your spelling is funnier!) is particularly concerned that people who aren’t their readers will find that cover offensive. If anything, they probably hope it’ll get people who don’t normally buy their mag to buy it.

#27 Darrin Bell
July/14/2008
@ 3:15 pm

Sometimes – not usually, but sometimes – I think this site should be called “The Daily Hissy Fit.” Seriously.

I know, I know, that’s offensive too. But come on. That image is laughably absurd. If someone – some real person came across that cover in the magazine aisle at Ralph’s; and if that person found it offensive, that person would probably pick up the magazine and see what the hell they were saying about Obama. Then he’d realize, if he hadn’t already, that this was satire.

Note that I’m talking about real homo sapiens, as opposed to the homo offensus among us who turned on their MSNBC to see Andrea Mitchell asking loaded questions like “how badly is this going to hurt Obama,” and immediately thought that was a valid question.

Posters on this site have proven over and over again that cartoonists can be just as capable – or more precisely, just as INcapable – of understanding satire as the general public. If everyone here got it, then I’m willing to bet most other Americans also got it.

#28 Matt Bors
July/14/2008
@ 3:27 pm

“I knew your words were meant to be satirical, and my point was that context matters.”

Oh no, I didn’t get your satire of my satire….

#29 J Read
July/14/2008
@ 3:52 pm

Darrin,
I don’t know what part of the country you live in, but, sadly, I’d have to say that around these parts it’s VERY likely quite a few people will see that New Yorker in their local Kroger and, with no intention of EVER actually looking inside, say, “See, honey, I tole you that Osama was a Muslim! Even The New Yorker knows it!”
Of course, these same people WILL buy the National Enquirer because it assures them Elvis really is alive.

#30 Garey Mckee
July/14/2008
@ 4:07 pm

Here’s the true test of wether this cartoon is successful or not. Does it sell the magazine? If yes then it’s successful.

You can argue about execution, focus and intent until the cows come home. You can even interject your own personal viewpoints as to what this cartoon is or is not. But if it sells the magazine (preferably without anyone getting sued) then it is a successful cartoon and it has done it’s job well and so has Blitt.

#31 Scott Metzger
July/14/2008
@ 4:44 pm

I love all the fake outrage people have over this cartoon. This country is very good at bringing out the fake outrage. More fake outrage!

This kind of reminds me of how “offended” people were when they got a two-second glimpse of Janet Jackson’s boob at the 2004 Superbowl. They were so outraged – as they reached for their TiVos to play it again.

Whatever.

On the plus side, I thought he rendered the ‘fist bump’ pretty well. That’s not as easy as it looks.

#32 Mike Rhode
July/14/2008
@ 4:55 pm

I can’t believe anyone would see anything but satire in this drawing, but perhaps I’ve been reading the New Yorker too long. Apropos of that, Blitt’s a long-established cover and inside artist for them. I’ll have to try to find that Huffington Post article, but I wonder if Mouly came to him with an idea, or if he proposed it?

#33 JR Chaney
July/14/2008
@ 4:58 pm

Darrin Bell: In order to answer the reasonable questions and analyses of JR Atkins and J Read, you should provide a counter-analysis of your own, explaining why the cover is not just satire but effective satire. Almost no one believes that the cover wasn’t intended to be satirical. But does it work? Is it funny and biting in a productive way? Or does it reinforce the stereotypes it seeks to undermine. The problem is that no regular reader of the NYer needs to be told that the images in Blitt’s cover are absurd. What insight do we get beyond that no-brainer? On the other hand, Obama-haters who don’t bother to consider the concealed context will see this on the magazine rack and feel energized by the apparent confirmation of their views.

#34 Mike Peterson
July/14/2008
@ 5:02 pm

Cartooning is a lot different than writing editorials. If I write an editorial and a significant number of people misinterpret it, it means that I didn’t express myself clearly. When a cartoonist draws something and a significant number of people misinterpret it, it means they are idiots.

“Barry Blitt is a well established satirist and humorous illustrator who has won numerous art and illustration awards over the past few decades. To suggest that he was â??lazyâ? or that the illustration was poorly executed illustrates the depths of some readers ignorance not only of the drawing and itâ??s intent but for satirical illustration in general.”

Yes, and Dale Earnhardt was a well-established race car driver who won numerous races, so when he put his car into that wall, it just means that people watching the race didn’t get it. Stupid spectators.

#35 JR Chaney
July/14/2008
@ 5:13 pm

I suppose Blitt’s goal was to take the already-absurd stereotypes and push them to the impossibly-absurd level. A first miscalculation was his view that there is a meaningful difference between these two angles. Remember that Clinton-haters didn’t in fact stop at the point of viewing Bill Clinton as an aggressive womanizer. They also believed that he was a rapist and murderer. An equivalent to Blitt’s misfire might be a cover of Clinton, circa 1998, showing him raping a child on his Oval Office desk. (Yes, please try to hold back your laughter! Child-rape, like terrorism, is just so damn funny. It’s satire, see!) I don’t think including the punch-line even helps, because the image alone is so vicious.

#36 Stephanie McMillan
July/14/2008
@ 5:27 pm

People see what they want to see. Right-wing nuts will likely say “Yeah, that’s the real Obama.” Those with a brain will see it as obvious satire. Some will believe it encourages stereotypes; others will believe it undermines them. Since every reader looks at it with a different viewpoint, each different interpretation will be true to some extent. Not to be a postmodern relativist or anything — heaven forbid. It’s just that there is always some degree of mushiness in that no-man’s-land where an artist’s intentions and a reader’s assumptions collide.

The New Yorker achieved its most important goal: everyone’s talking about it.

#37 John Cole
July/14/2008
@ 5:41 pm

… and Obama supporters will see a cartoonist insulting their prophet!

Off with Blitt’s hands!

#38 Darrin Bell
July/14/2008
@ 5:42 pm

“Darrin,
I donâ??t know what part of the country you live in, but, sadly, Iâ??d have to say that around these parts itâ??s VERY likely quite a few people will see that New Yorker in their local Kroger and, with no intention of EVER actually looking inside, say, â??See, honey, I tole you that Osama was a Muslim! Even The New Yorker knows it!â?
Of course, these same people WILL buy the National Enquirer because it assures them Elvis really is alive.”

Do you believe those people were going to vote for Obama? The kind of moron you’re describing wouldn’t vote for him anyway.

—–

“Darrin Bell: In order to answer the reasonable questions and analyses of JR Atkins and J Read, you should provide a counter-analysis of your own, explaining why the cover is not just satire but effective satire. Almost no one believes that the cover wasnâ??t intended to be satirical. But does it work? Is it funny and biting in a productive way? Or does it reinforce the stereotypes it seeks to undermine. ”

That’s entirely subjective. In the context of who the magazine is aimed toward, the satire is obvious. Despite the Media’s attempt today to muddy it up. I haven’t heard a single person on TV say they thought the New Yorker meant to advance these stereotypes. I read literally dozens of blogs per day, and haven’t seen even a single blog post from someone who thinks the New Yorker drawing was anything other than satirical.

We can argue about whether he exaggerated enough, or whether he should have drawn Bush and Cheney or Hannity and O’Reilly instead, or whether he should have used less cross-hatching, or whatever. But to me, the ubiquitous chatter ASSUMING it was an attempt at satire (rather than questioning the notion) is all I need to believe it worked. And the fact everyone on TV and everyone I’ve seen on the Internet is talking about the stereotypes being nonsense – or at least are debating whether there’s evidence of their veracity – proves to my satisfaction that it was effective.

What I have seen, here, on TV, and elsewhere on the Net, is the age-old idea that “I get it, but those other idiots probably won’t.” I don’t think that’s ever been a good reason to condemn artwork.

#39 J.G. Moore
July/14/2008
@ 6:02 pm

The New Yorker knows they are wrong. They have updated the site like 8 times today with “pro-Obama” content. Silly.

#40 J.G. Moore
July/14/2008
@ 6:05 pm

Hey, I think I could be a New Yorker editor. How this for the Sep. cover:

http://www.mundovid.com/img_prod/memin185g.jpg

Not bad. I bet that cover would get folks talking. That would be a big seller at Walmart.

#41 Abell Smith
July/14/2008
@ 6:36 pm

I’ll echo Ted earlier and say that I think the Obama camp’s feigned outrage over the cartoon is what is driving the “controversy.” By itself, it’s a fairly unremarkable satire… I did the same damn cartoon a few weeks ago.

Obama is a smart guy… he gets the joke. Pretending he doesn’t get it is just another attempt to push away his base and appeal to the lowest common denominator…

#42 JR Chaney
July/14/2008
@ 6:52 pm

Abell Smith: Let’s say you ran a child-care facility and someone posted a really eye-catching cartoon of you molesting a toddler, and all the parents saw it. Really funny, huh? Just laugh it off, right? Well, for a politician in America today, to be represented as a terrorist is equally unfunny.

#43 Abell Smith
July/14/2008
@ 7:36 pm

JR, I would be smart enough to recognize the context. If I was Mother Theresa, or someone else well-known for NOT being a child-molester, and the cartoon was obviously an over-the-top satire, then I would know that it was actually intended to be a commentary in SUPPORT of me. If I was Michael Jackson… not so much.

Does anyone think that Stephen Colbert really believes the things he says (in character) on his show? This just shows how laughable our national discourse has gotten… right-wing pundits say such ridiculous stuff that people don’t recognize satire anymore.

#44 KRANKY (JOE RANK)
July/14/2008
@ 7:45 pm

What the NY’er did is unconscionable for several reasons. They made the most common greivous error of “repeating the enemies talking points”, what George Lakoff calls a “frame”. They did this without context.
They can now say it was intended as satire, but if some people still take it as thinly stretched hyperbole, it misses the mark.
I ask if a ridiculous cartoon would be funny or effective if an opposite depiction was done. This is something I check my own work for during the creative process. In this case, if it were John McCain dressed in Mideast garb with Cindy as a gun-totin’ terrorist; THAT would be funny, and people would actually get the joke.

As has been observed, the staff of the New Yorker are self-important jerks. I don’t expect an apology from any of them; though clearly, this is an instance that demands one.

#45 JR Chaney
July/14/2008
@ 8:28 pm

Hi, Kranky: Your solution to the challenge of addressing the outrageous stereotype is an improvement. By substituting the McCains for the Obamas, you would underscore the absurdity of the attacks against Obama. Blitt’s approach was simplistic. I’d put the problem this way. In attempting to defend Obama, Blitt took an unnecessary risk by mimicking the unjust line of attack against Obama. This would be like defending Jews in Nazi Germany by representing them, in a way-over-the-top cartoon, as drinking the blood of a Christian child hung on a cross in the synagogue. The cartoonist might mean to say, “Look how ridiculous this is. It can’t be true!” But a certain, potentially growing segment of the population would “recognize” the “truth” of the cartoon. Defenders of Blitt’s approach act as though no other strategies were available to him; but several better options were obviously available.

#46 Darrin Bell
July/14/2008
@ 9:01 pm

“Defenders of Blittâ??s approach act as though no other strategies were available to him”

I haven’t myself, nor have I seen anyone else “act as though no other strategies were available to him. As for the Jew/Nazi analogy, you didn’t have a German Blitt who drew a cartoon like that, and no ensuing national discussion of the validity of the stereotypes. What ended up happening anyway?

#47 JR Chaney
July/14/2008
@ 10:02 pm

Darrin: It makes sense in a forum like this one to discuss strategies and effects (intended and unintended). Satire is always a dangerous tool. Political cartoonists every day take the risk of offending people; and, in fact, satire is destined to offend someone. Normally, the satirist sets out to expose corruption or hypocrisy. In this case, the target isn’t easily identified. Ostensibly, Obama is the target; but the reader of the New Yorker recognizes right away that the representation captures a series of lies about Obama. Then you turn to the Contents page to read the title. For me, the question is whether the joke or satirical point justifies the harshness of the representation. That’s why I mention the fictional Nazi parallel. The cartoon is harsh because it shows Obama as a liar, terrorist and traitor. To reach that level of harshness in another context, for purposes of comparison, you would have to think of some of the worst stereotypes in history. It’s hard at that point to say, “I was only joking.” Lots and lots of people find the images themselves so offensive that they cannot credit the significance or usefulness of the joke. I don’t see how the satire can be called successful under these circumstances. For whom is this satirical cartoon instructive?

#48 KRANKY (JOE RANK)
July/14/2008
@ 10:02 pm

Satire = the use of irony ( I fail to see irony here ).
Satire = the use of sarcasm ( the only sarcastic comment was directed towards the Obama’s ).
Satire = the use of ridicule ( again, only aimed at the Obama’s and NOT their lying critics ).
…in exposing, denouncing, or deriding
vice, folly, arrogance, etc.

This image did nothing of the sort.

Satire often emphasizes the weakness more than the weak person, and usually implies moral judgment and corrective purpose.

This cartoon is NOT satire. It IS abysmally wrong…and the explanation is even worse.

#49 JR Chaney
July/14/2008
@ 10:15 pm

To continue — if the point of Blitt’s cartoon is to show New Yorker readers that these lies about Obama are absurd, well, why bother? We know already. In the meanwhile, Blitt has offended those readers with the image itself. As I said, right wing nuts made up incredibly vicious stories about the Clintons, and I just don’t think it would have been funny had the New Yorker run a cover illustrating the sickest of those imaginings. If someone is lying about your spouse, for example, you aren’t going to enjoy seeing a satirical exaggeration of those lies in the newspaper. Maybe part of the problem is that NYer readers identify with Obama’s political cause. But again, there were other ways to make the same point Blitt meant to make, and funnier ways. As several writers have suggested, Blitt could have used a thought bubble to give the cartoon an immediate dramatic context. At any rate, I’m pretty sure that he didn’t mean to piss off a great part of his readership. I think he meant to make us laugh — in that mild, knowing sort of way that one laughs at NYer cartoons. It didn’t work very well.

#50 David
July/14/2008
@ 10:53 pm

What that cover needed was a caption that made no sense….

The problem with the cover was the title was in the contents page, and since most people don’t read the New Yorker( or don’t read anything), all they saw was the image, and all they heard were talking heads arguing about it.

a pretty nice distraction from the banking crisis and Bush’s allowing offshore drilling. Where’s the outrage there? Nah let’s argue about Bernie Mac!

Yes, it’s obvious it was supposed to be satire(I’m sure the people who didn’t get are the same people who believe Stephen Colbert isn’t playing a character on his show), but when there are a significant amount of people who actually believe crap like that Obama took the oath of office on a koran, there’s a problem. There’s something to be outraged over!

Most people don’t know who Blitt is(and the only cartoonists they can name is Charles Schults and that guy who draws the Garfield), what’s keeping them from thinking that the artist thinks Obama is a terrorist?

#51 Mike Peterson
July/15/2008
@ 3:14 am

“whatâ??s keeping them from thinking that the artist thinks Obama is a terrorist?”

That’s the central problem with the cartoon. It’s not necessarily unprecedented for the New Yorker to use sarcasm on their covers, but it doesn’t seem like a good example of that style. The iconic “map of the US” cover poked fun at the insularity of their own readers — it was a self-deprecating joke about how “we” see the world. And that’s typical NY’er POV, right down to the magazine’s logo of the snooty looking fellow observing a butterfly through his lorgnette — “We’re insufferable, but we love us!” The typical New Yorker cartoon riffs on that theme, showing Yuppies and other suburbanites making banal remarks that poke self-deprecating fun at their lifestyle.

With that as the setting, the cover fails because it’s trying to satirize how the “anti-New Yorker” feels about Obama. That’s not how the magazine works. If smug suburbanite liberals were holding these misperceptions — if this were four months ago and, instead of the flag in the fireplace, the Obamas were burning a photo of Hilary — it could work. Sort of. But the typical New Yorker doesn’t harbor these feelings, and so it’s not within the context of a New Yorker cartoon. Out-of-context humor and commentary rarely hit the target.

And the title doesn’t matter because the title is somewhere else in the magazine, not a part of the cartoon itself. If you need a disclaiming text separate from your cartoon, your cartoon is missing something.

And the “I put it out there and to hell with the peasants who don’t get it” is an arrogant attitude. Y’all aren’t careful with that, you could end up doing to cartoons what the poets have done to their medium — turn it into an inbred, self-referential irrelevancy with no impact on the larger landscape.

#52 Rick Stromoski
July/15/2008
@ 6:47 am

The role of an illustrator, humorous or not, is to conceptualize an image that will encapsulate the subject matter of a given essay.

Blitts illustration does this quite well.

All of this hand wringing and collective case of the vapors over it is sheer nonsense.

#53 Rod McKie
July/15/2008
@ 8:06 am

I had a long-winded piece about context and readership in regard to this and then I read Danny Hellman’s comment which said simply, something like, ‘a lot of right-wing groups will use it’. I think that is a simple and well-made point.

And by the way, JR Chaney is right. This is really the NYKR preaching to the converted. And as far as satire goes…New Yorkistan it isn’t.

#54 JR Atkins
July/15/2008
@ 8:45 am

Mike Peterson, excellent points. As you put nicely, it IS the context that’s the problem here! I hadn’t thought of it that way but what you say makes a lot of sense.

#55 Milt Priggee
July/15/2008
@ 9:00 am

Literalists + satire = successful art.

#56 J.G. Moore
July/15/2008
@ 11:55 am

I think the JR Chaney is right. Had Blitt put the McCains in the cartoon “dressed” and giving each other “dap” THAT would have been genius. Blitt just got lazy.

You really have to think about your content, THEN draw.
That is something all cartoonists really need to remember.

#57 KRANKY (JOE RANK)
July/15/2008
@ 12:16 pm

Jonathan Alter at Newsweek has a good take on this: http://www.newsweek.com/id/146217

#58 Mike Lester
July/15/2008
@ 1:04 pm

I called BBlitt years ago because I loved his stuff. I now have a NY’r cover on my studio wall that BBlitt signed at my request. He was also nice enough to add a falling man to the scene. The cover was from the mid-90’s when indoor smoking bans became news. He drew a tight shot of a skyline and canyon of multi-story office buildings. Outside of each building, standing on the ledge is an office worker smoking.

When I saw the cover on the magazine shelf at my Walmart, I “tole” my wife, “Darlin’, thass gon’ be ebum more dangerous then smokin'”.

Personally, I wish Barry wouldn’t explain. It’s unnecessary. But this whole thing has a familiar ring to it and might be paraphrased as: “Behead those that insult Obama!”

#59 Rick Stromoski
July/15/2008
@ 1:57 pm

Quasi amateur cartoonists telling society of illustrator members how they can improve their artwork….if it wasn’t so pathetically sad it might even be funny.

#60 Jeff Darcy
July/15/2008
@ 2:15 pm

Mike, I had that classic smoking illustration hanging up for a few years too, till I actually saw smokers standing on the ledge.
If Hillary had won the nomination, would the New Yorker have published a cover of her standing over a dead Vince Foster with a smoking gun?

#61 J.G. Moore
July/15/2008
@ 2:42 pm

I don’t want to behead those that insult Obama. I don’t mind people who insult Obama, that is part and parcel of the American political process. That is fair. If you want to be POTUS you have to be able to deal with insults. Just don’t insult every Black person on the face of the Earth in the process.

So true Rick. Me and “most” of America have been “monday morning quarterbacking” this guy. If we “quasi amateur cartoonists” can come up with ways that Mr. Blitt could have made this cartoon “less offensive” you have to wonder how a society of illustrator member “missed the boat”. (scratches head)

This election has been really wierd for me. I have a “dog in the fight” now that Obama is running. Now I know how all the Bush supporters feel/felt like when Bush gets attached.

The difference is that when people attack Bush they don’t attack ALL White folks or ALL Texans or ALL morons. When people attack Obama you don’t know if they are attacking the man, his policies, or (drumroll) his race.

The American media has a “piss poor” record of being fair to Black folks (minstrels anyone). That’s why we tend to “hit this crap” HARD when we see it. We have long sad family histories of what happens when you let little things “slide”.

The Nazis started with “snide” anti-jewish cartoons in the 1930s. How did that work out?

What makes this whole “New Yorker Cover” thing so “big” is the fact that soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo many other editorial cartoonists, quite possibly non-society of illustrator members have gotten “it” RIGHT and not made such a foolish mistake. imho

#62 Rick Stromoski
July/15/2008
@ 2:58 pm

>>>The Nazis started with â??snideâ? anti-jewish cartoons in the 1930s. How did that work out?

It took 61 posts but it was inevitable.

I’m as liberal as liberal can be…I have an Obama sticker on my car and I’ve contributed to his campaign…but this hand wringing response to this illustration from some of my brethren make me want to cringe. No wonder the Repuglicans eat us for lunch at the national level.

Get a pair and a backbone for crissakes.

#63 J.G. Moore
July/15/2008
@ 3:07 pm

LOL, Dang!! Much love Rick. Point taken. I can’t dis a fellow Obama supporter. I was hoping you were a McCain man. :-)

#64 J.G. Moore
July/15/2008
@ 3:08 pm

Hell, I don’t have an Obama sticker on my car. Now I feel bad. lol.

#65 Mike Peterson
July/15/2008
@ 3:23 pm

“Quasi amateur cartoonists telling society of illustrator members how they can improve their artworkâ?¦.if it wasnâ??t so pathetically sad it might even be funny.”

You mean all I have to do is take out a membership in the Society for Professional Journalists and criticizing my writing will be off-limits for anyone who doesn’t hold a press card????

Hmm.

No, I think I’ll let the kids who like to eat lunch together have their little club. I have to attend enough meetings already, and besides, my work is strong enough to speak for itself.

#66 Rick Stromoski
July/15/2008
@ 4:03 pm

>>>

Mike P writes:
….criticizing my writing will be off-limits for anyone who doesnâ??t hold a press card????

There’s a difference between criticism and pig ignorance. Next thing you know we’ll have sherpa members here advising Gary Kelley his perspective is incorrect.

#67 Mike Lester
July/15/2008
@ 5:26 pm

From the LET ME GET THIS STRAIGHT DPT.: The NY’r prints cartoon of Obama dressed as Muslim. Humorless Obama camp and liberals infuriated. Who get’s infuriated at cartoons? Muslims.

#68 Josh McDonald
July/15/2008
@ 7:13 pm

No, humorless folk of every creed and ideology get infuriated by cartoons.

#69 Pab Sungenis
July/15/2008
@ 7:18 pm

From last Midsummer Day’s “Queen Victoria:”

If we cartoons have offended,
think but this and all is mended:
The images that you have seen
are ink on paper, lines on screen!
The meaning of what you are shown
is your creation, all your own.
If mirth you seek, it shall be found.
If offense, then it shall abound.
Open your minds if we be friends.
Victoria shall make amends.

Taking offense at a comic is beyond me.
Lord, what fools cartoonists be!

#70 Phil Wohlrab
July/15/2008
@ 9:17 pm

“From the LET ME GET THIS STRAIGHT DPT.: The NYâ??r prints cartoon of Obama dressed as Muslim. Humorless Obama camp and liberals infuriated. Who getâ??s infuriated at cartoons? Muslims.”

CAREFULLLLLL… Not ALL Muslims get infuriated at cartoons. Ha

I don’t know what the Big deal is. I’m a right winger and I understood that the cartoon was meant to be an exaggeration of Obamas supposed anti-Americanism. I thought it was actually a slam at those who go nuts about his middle name, and whether or not he wears a flag pin… etc. That’s how I took it. I didn’t get the impression that the artist’s depiction of Obama was how he actually viewed him.

BTW Mr. Lester… Awsome web site.

#71 J.G. Moore
July/16/2008
@ 8:10 am

I think we have the “real” reason for the New Yorkers poor taste of cover slection:

http://www.nypost.com/seven/07162008/business/inside_the_cover_story_120153.htm

Down 21.2 percent in ad pages. Thats not good. I guess now we know why they picked such an awlful cartoon for the cover. I guess they had to do something to sell magazines. Blitt was just a pawn in the “game”.

Now it makes sense, they felt the need to be “edgy” esp. since the race has been quiet since Obama won the dem. primary. I wonder when Condé Nast will start handing out the pink slips. Down 21.2 percent in ad pages, “heads” must roll.

If TNY does not get that ad revenue up this Obama cover will be the least of their worries. They NEED to beef up that website, make that ad revenue on the web, duh?!?!

My bet is embattled Editor-in-Chief David Remnick may be the first to get thrown under the bus. The Obama cover will be part of a list of “reasons” why, but the ad revenue will be the “real” reason.

Down 21.2 percent, DAMN!?!?!?! One of Rev. Al’s “boycotts” could finishes these guys off. Yikes (bites nails)…

#72 John Cole
July/16/2008
@ 10:11 am

Jonathan Swift might be amused reading some of the hand-wringing, knuckleheaded and, let’s face it, politically biased criticisms in this thread.

“A Modest Proposal,” arguably our finest and most outrageous example of political satire, did NOT come with a label reading, “WARNING: THIS IS A WORK OF SATIRE. THE AUTHOR IS NOT SERIOUSLY SUGGESTING THAT ENGLISH CITIZENS BUY AND EAT IRISH CHILDREN.” That was left for people to figure out for themselves.

Maybe our species has just gotten dumber during the intervening 280-odd years.

#73 Beth Cravens
July/16/2008
@ 11:26 am

Wow, I was right. It did turn into a flame war by lunch. Ha! Somebody owes me a beer..

#74 KRANKY (JOE RANK)
July/16/2008
@ 11:54 am

“Maybe our species has just gotten dumber during the intervening 280-odd years.”

John, I think that is an inarguable conclusion, although it could be that we are simply more easily distracted by superfluous mind junk.

Now, the good thing about this flap,( for people such as ourselves ) is that it reinforces the power of imagery. Any time the buzz is about a cartoon, it just may wake up comatose editors and publishers that what we do can have an impression…an impression that sells their product.

#75 J.G. Moore
July/16/2008
@ 3:25 pm

I wouldn’t call this a “flame war”. Scott kurtz hasn’t posted yet.:-)

#76 Malc McGookin
July/16/2008
@ 3:36 pm

I agree with one Ted and disagree with the other (assuming there are only two Teds who have contributed thus far).

Ted Rall is right when he says that illustrators should illustrate but leave the incisive satire to cartoonists. Cartooning is about writing. Cartoon Illustration is about illustration. An illustrator acting as political commentator is akin to your granny acting as night club bouncer.

Tes Slampyak says: “Going onstage and doing a lame stand-up act isnâ??t an inciteful ironic commentary on lame stand-up â?? itâ??s a lame stand-up act.” but Andy Kaufman proved otherwise.

#77 Scott Metzger
July/16/2008
@ 4:00 pm

All roads lead to Andy Kaufman.

#78 Mike Peterson
July/16/2008
@ 6:30 pm

“â??A Modest Proposal,â? arguably our finest and most outrageous example of political satire, did NOT come with a label reading, â??WARNING: THIS IS A WORK OF SATIRE. THE AUTHOR IS NOT SERIOUSLY SUGGESTING THAT ENGLISH CITIZENS BUY AND EAT IRISH CHILDREN.â? That was left for people to figure out for themselves. Maybe our species has just gotten dumber during the intervening 280-odd years.”

Are you under the impression that readers understood this piece when it first appeared?

I don’t have history on “A Modest Proposal” but I do know that there were people who thought “Gulliver’s Travels” was non-fiction.

Trust me, straight-faced parody has always, always been a dangerous game. We’re not any dumber. The readers back in 1729 didn’t have an English teacher explaining the essay to them, and I daresay a large percentage didn’t get it.

#79 Jen Sorensen
July/16/2008
@ 6:31 pm

I have posted my reaction to the reaction to the reaction here:

http://www.slowpokecomics.com/2008/07/and-another-thing.html

Cheers.

#80 Malc McGookin
July/16/2008
@ 6:57 pm

This cartoon appeared as a NYer cover. That automatically makes it invisible to the average dumb@ss tabloid reader, you know, the one we think might not have picked the satire?.

What we have here is an argument between members of the bourgeoisie, some of whom think the thing works and others who believe that satirical jibes always run the risk of being taken the wrong way by the proletariat who will one day rise up like Orcs and slay everyone.

#81 Garey Mckee
July/16/2008
@ 7:10 pm

“Trust me, straight-faced parody has always, always been a dangerous game. Weâ??re not any dumber. The readers back in 1729 didnâ??t have an English teacher explaining the essay to them, and I daresay a large percentage didnâ??t get it.”

You’re right. If you present anything with a straight face, no matter how absurd, there are those who are going to believe it.

#82 Jim Lavery
July/17/2008
@ 7:33 am

Beth Cravens:
“Wow, I was right. It did turn into a flame war by lunch. Ha! Somebody owes me a beer..”

Well now we know what kind of lunch Beth indulges in, hmmmmmm?

#83 Jim Lavery
July/17/2008
@ 7:46 am

I think this whole New Yorker incident boils down to what the noted liberal satirist John Kerry has called “a botched joke”.

#84 Dave Stephens
July/17/2008
@ 2:16 pm

So Mr. Blitt got paid to draw
Some really foolish things (guffaw),
And some folks got upset a bit
Because a chance, indeed, exists,
That it will be misread – No S**t!
A misread cartoon – oh gosh! Oh wow!
I’ve never heard of that, oh no!
Because professionals would never
Allow such a thing to happen, ever!
‘Cause they so smart, oh yes, they is!
These perfect people draw so well
And think so hard about it all
That such a thing’s IMPOSSIBLE!
So lets just end discussion here,
Politics is always CLEAR,
And when a drawing really isn’t,
Don’t ever blame the friggin’ ARTIST!

#85 J.G. Moore
July/21/2008
@ 10:47 am

Payback:

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/washington/2008/07/obama-newyorker.html

#86 J.G. Moore
July/23/2008
@ 1:53 pm

This is satire:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/newsandviews/2008/07/vanity_fair_takes_on_obama_new.html#commentSection

Sweeeet!!!

#87 Jason Nocera
July/24/2008
@ 9:07 am

Vanity Fair does a parody:
http://www.vanityfair.com/online/politics/2008/07/new-yorker-cover.html

#88 KRANKY (JOE RANK)
July/24/2008
@ 12:58 pm

Tim Bower is the artist for VF. I think he did a masterful job of approximating Blitt’s style. I was also struck by how the blob stars on the carpet look like little puddles, too.
I agree with the comments on both boards that this is not direct satire of the McCain’s. It IS satire of the NY’er cover.

#89 Cassara
December/20/2011
@ 12:31 pm

You can always tell an expert! Thanks for cnotrbiuting.

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