Media Response to ‘Terrorist Obama’ New Yorker Cover: Funny, or Not So Much?

By: E&P Staff

Reaction today to the now-famous cover art in The New Yorker this week has been swift and wildly varying. Here is a cross-section:

Andrew Malcolm pf the Los Angeles Times’ blog Top of the Ticket: “A lot of people won’t get the joke. Or won’t want to. And will use it for non-humorous purposes, which isn’t the New Yorker’s fault.” The Times placed it in a new online gallery titled, “10 Magazine Covers That Shook the World!”

Eric Zorn at the Chicago Tribune site: “I take the editors at their word and await the upcoming cover in which they give the same ha-ha-isn’t-it-silly? treatment to the rotten things people say about John McCain: Say a cartoon showing him looking about 150 years old and spouting demented non-sequiturs in the middle of a violent temper tantrum while, in the corner, his wife is passed out next to a bottle of pills.

“It’s only satire, right?”

Ben Smith, The Politico.com: “The risk to the right here is that a vote against Obama becomes seen as a vote not for those policy differences, or for John McCain, but for bigotry. That’s a storyline the New Yorker was advancing.”

Andrew Sullivan, TheAtlantic.com: “[T]he notion that most Americans are incapable of seeing that [it is satire] strikes me as excessively paranoid and a little condescending.”

Howard Kurtz, The Washington Post: “The cover appears, at least at first glance, highly offensive. What was the New Yorker thinking?

“[W]on’t some readers see this attention-grabbing device as a slur against Obama? There is no editor’s note — a tiny line inside the magazine titles the picture ‘The Politics of Fear’ — and it has nothing to do with the accompanying article on the Illinois senator’s rise in Chicago politics.”

Jonah Goldberg at The Corner site at the National Review: ” What I find interesting about the New Yorker cover is that it’s almost exactly the sort of cover you could expect to find on the front of National Review. Roman Genn could do wonders with that concept. Of course, if we ran the exact same art, the consensus from the liberal establishment could be summarized in words like ‘Swiftboating!’ and, duh, ‘racist.'”

Joe Achenbach at his Achenblog at www.washingtonpost.com: “Here’s a fundamental rule of humor: It must be funny to work. Another rule: ‘Almost funny’ is invariably just as bad, and often worse, than being extremely unfunny. When something is ‘almost funny,’ but not genuinely funny, people can feel insulted, as if you’re saying, ‘This is funny, and I’m laughing, but your sense of humor is so stunted and pathetic that you just don’t get the joke.”

“I’m not even sure this cover is ‘almost funny’ — because it deals so heavy-handedly with such a sensitive topic. Osama on the wall, the flag burning, the Angela Davis wife — the natural response is to cringe rather than laugh. Of course, political cartooning by nature deals with caricatures and heavy-handed images, but usually they’re leavened by some kind of quip, some verbal wink. In this case there’s no punch line.

“The best response from the Obama camp would be to say, ‘We recognize that it was meant as satire, but must confess that we didn’t get a single chuckle out of it. Better luck next time.'”

Eugene Kane, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel site: “I actually understand what satire means but I’m guessing there are plenty of Americans who won’t have a clue what the magazine cover is trying to say.”

Brian E. Crowley, Palm Beach Post site: “Even John McCain is appalled. His spokesman joined Obama?s campaign in calling it ‘tasteless and offensive.’ I couldn?t agree more.”

Rod Dreher, conservative writer at Beliefnet.com: “If The New Yorker doesn’t want Obama to get elected, it’s done a bang-up job with its new cover. Of course subscribers to the New Yorker will appreciate it’s ironic humor….But they have no idea how irony-deficient the broader culture is, or how irony gets lost outside of context.”

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