Monday, July 14, 2008

The Audacity of Satire

In case you haven't seen the cover of the latest issue of The New Yorker, the one that's creating all the buzz, here it is.

A caricature of Sen. Barack Obama is dressed in stereotypical Muslim attire, while wife Michelle appears as a latter-day Angela Davis, a Kalashnikov slung behind her. They're fist-bumping in the Oval Office. An image of Osama Bin Laden adorns the wall. An American flag burns in the fireplace.

In The New Yorker's long tradition of biting satire, and viewed in the editorial context of "the politics of fear," the image is absolutely brilliant. Predictably, however, it has the hypersensitive hyperventilating and the pundits quivering with outrage.

The Obama campaign has denounced the cover as offensive. Sen. John "High Road" McCain agrees. Even Bill Bennett calls it "tasteless."

I make allowances for differing views of editorial expression, but I also make room -- plenty of room -- for the vanishing art of satire, an art that's dying at the merciless hands of the politically correct.

David Remnick, The New Yorker's editor, today compared his magazine's cover to "Stephen Colbert in print." (For the uninitiated, Colbert is the Comedy Channel personality who skillfully lampoons conservative windbags by portraying a conservative windbag.)

I get it, Mr. Remnick. Most Americans won't, of course -- let's face it, they wouldn't know satire if it slapped their ass and called 'em Sally. Those aren't your readers.

Look, I don't expect the thin-skinned or ignorant human sub-species to march into extinction any time soon, but I'm just naive enough to hope that we can quit insisting that creative expression always be dumbed-down to its simplest and least offensive form. Is that too much to ask?

Apparently so.

Fortunately, I needn't dwell on the death of satire for very long, because the cover flap has spawned a downright hilarious sideshow. There must be millions of anti-Obamans, those impressionable folks who swallowed the very Internet garbage satirized by The New Yorker, proudly hanging that image on everything in sight.

Um...hey, buddy...I really hate to break it to you, but that cartoon isn't a dig at the Obamas -- it's making fun of you.