October 23, 2008

Also, Prussian Blue was created by Al Franken

Remember that New Yorker cover as Barack and Michelle Obama as terrorists in the Oval Office? At the time, I sided with Jack Shafer, who wrote, "Although every critic of the New Yorker understood the simple satire of the cover, the most fretful of them worried that the illustration would be misread by the ignorant masses who don't subscribe to the magazine." Shafer mocked Jake Tapper for writing, "No Upper East Side liberal—no matter how superior they feel their intellect is—should assume that just because they're mocking such ridiculousness, the illustration won't feed into the same beast in emails and other media. It's a recruitment poster for the right-wing."

Shafer's point was that, "Calling on the press to protect the common man from the potential corruptions of satire is a strange, paternalistic assignment for any journalist to give his peers," and he was absolutely right about that. But it must be said that he, and I, were a little too quick to smirk at the idea that anyone would miss such an obvious (and not particularly funny) joke.

You see, it turns out that those racist Obama Bucks we talked about a couple of days ago actually got their start as a joke about racist Republicans.

Tim Kastelein is a 31-year-old Minnesota Democrat with a penchant for sophomoric, often-grotesque humor and an acid tongue that derides everyone from overweight women to the local real estate agent who delivers advertising mailers...Kastelein, who received a low-level organizing position within the Democratic Party in Minnesota earlier this year, said he meant the cartoon as a satirical look at "right-wingers." He said he created the image to lampoon Republicans who are afraid of government welfare programs and fearful of a Democratic president.

The illustration went viral, stripped of the context of Kastelein's blog, and got picked up by one of those right-wingers, Diane Fedele (who just resigned over the incident).

Had I foreseen, back in July, the depths that John McCain and his supporters would stoop to, I might have tempered my comments on the New Yorker cover. (I'm cool with acknowledging my lack of prescience here because, as Vance recently pointed out, on Sept. 4, I alone pronounced Sarah Palin's convention speech a meaningless performance that would not prevent the country from eventually rejecting her as ridiculously unqualified.)

But here's the quote from Kastelein that really got my attention: "I don't write my Web site for people like (Fedele). I write my Web site for people like me."

That's pretty much my philosophy. I've called Obama an anti-American gay Muslim more times than I can count, because I know you'll get the joke -- and if some people don't, I don't really care. But every now and then I wonder what would happen if I ended up in Kastelein's position, and found my blog scrutinized by clueless outsiders. I mean, some stuff here could seriously be taken the wrong way.

Posted by Daniel Radosh


Don't worry, Radosh, we know all the Huckapoo stuff is tongue-in-cheek. We just wonder whose cheek.

Yeah, don't worry about that Huckapoo stuff, buddy. It's not like someone's gonna grab it and post it all out of context on some huge community Web site where no one really knows you.

MeFi-ers may not know me, but they know me.

The problem with the New Yorker is that satire, if it's not funny in some way or fails in its irony, isn't really satire. And if you cannot immediately recognize it as satire (based ONLY on the publisher in this case), then was is it? An offensive joke that utterly fails in humor is therefore only an offensive statement with no ability to understand the true viewpoint of the author.
Kastelein isn't selling ads and doesn't have public shareholders to support [or fail to support if no one gets his stuff because it's not up to snuff]. The New Yorker has that responsibility. I didn't find the cover ironic or witty, and so had to rely on my own knowledge of the magazine's doctrine.
Had the cover of, for example, Pet Fancy or Model Airplane Builder, had a similar graphic, how would those of us unfamiliar with the publisher know how to interpret the cover.
And if the New Yorker truly was trying to bolster support for Obama, it was an abject failure. Those who “got it” were already in the tank while those who didn’t may have been swayed in the opposite direction.

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