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The 'New Yorker' controversy: Is satire dead?
The fate of The New Yorker's Muslim Obama cartoon could be a sign.
 

Good political satire has always been “tricky,” said Leonard Pitts Jr. in The Miami Herald. It “seeks truth in ridiculousness,” and maybe that’s why a New Yorker cover cartoon depicting Barack Obama as a Muslim and his wife, Michelle, as an AK-47-packing radical has caused such an uproar. In a political world of stained blue dresses and “swift boat lies,” the absurd has become the ordinary, and satire is now “superfluous.”

Satire is alive and well in America, said Clive Crook in his blog at TheAtlantic.com, but it’s “supposed to be funny.” The New Yorker’s editor, David Remnick, said the drawing was meant to reduce a “certain idiotic view of Barack Obama and his wife to a comical absurdity,” but all it did was say what that view was. The punchline was missing.

No, Republicans and Democrats alike are just mad because they think the yokels in “fly-over country” won’t get the joke, said Timothy Egan in The New York Times. But not everyone outside Manhattan is “a rube just off the hay truck” who will see the drawing as proof that all the Internet rumors about Obama are true. “Irony, it turns out, does cross the Hudson River.”

And so what if some satire does go over the heads of a few people? said Kathleen Parker in National Review Online. Does that mean we’re supposed to “sanitize” it to protect the masses? No, “unsophisticated yahoos, to the extent they really are, pose a lesser threat to the nation than an elitist intelligentsia convinced it knows what's best for the rest.”

It isn’t just political correctness that has ruined our national sense of humor, said Tim Rutten in the Los Angeles Times. These days, insults seem to be the only thing we really understand. “Our division into blinkered red and blue camps that's drained humor's salutary bite from our politics.”

 

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