When does satire become Foxnews Fodder?

This week's New Yorker cover satirizes the far right's view of Mr. and Mrs. Obama, using all the false stories that have been thrown around (Barack is a Muslim, Michelle is  a terrorist, the "fist bump" is a signal of black rebellion) and locates all of it in the oval office.

If you are a sophisticated audience, like most New Yorker regulars, this is satire that makes the conservatives look silly.

Unfortunately, to the great mass of unsophisticated Americans, the huge audience of Fox News and Rush Limbaugh and the like, this is going to be promoted as a confirmation of fact.

One wishes it hadn't been done. But there it is. So far, Obama has refused to comment.

Perhaps next week we can have a satirical image of McCain in an old folks home, armed to the teeth and assisted by Holy Joe Lieberman, plotting out attacks on an Iranian map...
Under The LobsterScope

Tags: Fox, New Yorker, obama (all tags)

Comments

28 Comments

Re: When does satire become Foxnews Fodder?

Of course people won't get the joke. In any country there are sophisticated people capable of seeing through several layers of irony and there are those whose humour and comprehension is limited to custard-pie-in-the-face.

Unfortunately, the implicit (and at times explicit) campaign of the likes of Fox news to link Obama to Islam and terrorism will be boosted by this. Context is lost over time, don't forget - in months to come, this image will still be around, the editor of New Yorker's 'explanation' won't be.

I hope this will now rally Democrats and especially Clinton supporters to the imperative of electing a Democratic president.

by Makey 2008-07-14 03:20AM | 0 recs
I strongly dislike that cartoon. n/t

by sricki 2008-07-14 03:40AM | 0 recs
Satire or smear?

The problem is context.  The New Yorker provides none.  If that same illustration had popped up on the Daily Show, the joke is clear.  It would be delivered by an actual comedian, the studio audience would laugh, and there's zero propaganda value in it for the right.

The cover as it appears has nothing on it to indicate to those who might not be "in on the joke" the this isn't a serious statement that they're making.  The right wingers will immediately spin this as "even the ultra-liberal socialists at the New Yorker magazine know that Obama isn't what he appears to be".  It'll get attached to email and sent out in flurries.  What the editorial board of the New Yorker thinks is an obvious joke takes on a very different meaning once it gets outside of the confines of Madison Avenue.

And most damaging of all, John McCain has no need to disavow this as it in no way can be considered to come from one of his "supporters".  Yet Obama has to waste time and energy defending himself from another hitpeice, regardless of the supposed intent.  For God's sake, MAKE THEM COME UP WITH THEIR OWN DAMN SMEARS!!  That was the problem with Hillary's "Commander and Chief threshold" attacks.  McCain benefits while taking none of the blowback.

Why are so many people working so hard to put John McCain in the White House that absolutely shouldn't be?

by hello world 2008-07-14 04:55AM | 0 recs
Re: Satire or smear?

To answer your final question, i just don't know but it keeps me up some nights.

by Dog Chains 2008-07-14 05:02AM | 0 recs
Re: Satire or smear?

It's clear that this election is holding up a mirror to our collective souls as a nation.  I'm not generally a pessimist, but so far we're seeing an awful lot not to like.

by hello world 2008-07-14 06:49AM | 0 recs
Obama was asking for it


Remember those muslim women kicked off the stage in one of his campaign rally? I do.

Now he wants to control satire itself?
Waste of time if you ask me, he is just fueling the rumor if you ask me.

by TaiChiMaster 2008-07-14 05:26AM | 0 recs
lol, "asking for it"?

You do know that it wasn't Obama who ejected those women, right? Nor is it Obama who wrote this diary decrying it.

At some point, rational criticism against a person should actually refer to that person's actions.

by Neef 2008-07-14 07:09AM | 0 recs
Re: lol, "asking for it"?

oh please,

by TaiChiMaster 2008-07-14 08:15AM | 0 recs
Re: lol, "asking for it"?

Yeah really - saying people are responsible for their own actions?  That guy's gone too far.

by Jess81 2008-07-14 12:47PM | 0 recs
Re: When does satire become Foxnews Fodder?
Obama wrote a brilliant piece today in the New York Times where he clearly laid out a brilliant strategy for Iraq.
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/14/opinio n/14obama.html
But who will notice it, when the voice is drowned out by this useless distraction.
by Makey 2008-07-14 05:38AM | 0 recs
Re: When does satire become Foxnews Fodder?

http://wwwwakeupamericans-spree.blogspot .com/2008/07/obama-and-mccain-campaigns- agree-new.html

Even the McCain campaign finds that cover offensive.

Finally, if  it is meant to be satire, it should be funny.  And it didn't even raise a smile from me.  

I wouldn't have found it funny on the Daily Show either.

by LIsoundview 2008-07-14 05:53AM | 0 recs
Re: When does satire become Foxnews Fodder?

The Daily Show audience would have eaten it up. They are sophisticated enough to get the humor.

by MS01 Indie 2008-07-14 07:26AM | 0 recs
Re: When does satire become Foxnews Fodder?

I watch the Daily Show.  Didn't think this cover was funny or helpful at all.  

by Strummerson 2008-07-14 07:32AM | 0 recs
Re: When does satire become Foxnews Fodder?

It's not supposed to be helpful!  They're not Fox News and they're not trying to help anybody.  Which is the way I like it.

by Koan 2008-07-14 07:47AM | 0 recs
Re: When does satire become Foxnews Fodder?

The New Yorker definitely has a recognizable political-cultural orientation.  It is therefore neither bound to the pretense of objectivity not freed from responsibility for ethical representation.

by Strummerson 2008-07-14 07:56AM | 0 recs
Re: When does satire become Foxnews Fodder?

Well, yeah, they don't have to be pretend to be objective.  But they also don't have a responsibility to hurt or help any given candidate.  What I dislike about Fox is not its lack of objectivity but the nakedness with which it tries to help one side and hurt the other.  The New Yorker's political coverage slants left.  But I imagine their editorial discussion about the cover went something like this: is it funny?  Is it appropriate for the magazine?  Is the satire too subtle?  Not subtle enough? Will people get it or not? etc.

Not, "will this hurt or help the Obama campaign?"

Slant and bias are fine and normal.  Editorial decisions made as outright assists to a campaign strike me as a bad thing.  I'm speculating above but I really hope that they never asked themselves whether it would hurt or help Obama.  Once they did that, it makes all the rest of their reporting suspect.  To my eyes anyway.

by Koan 2008-07-14 08:24AM | 0 recs
Re: When does satire become Foxnews Fodder?

I largely agree with regard to some of the principles, but this falls apart in my view on the particulars.

You write that the editors "don't have a responsibility to hurt or help any given candidate."  Yes and no.  They have an ethical responsibility to avoid harmful misrepresentation.  The ironic context is completely implied here, enabling the use of the content as the proliferation of harmful smears that play on psychological fears.  Satire does not entail absolution from ethical responsibility.

You imagine them asking question about appropriateness for their publication and levels of subtlety.  Perhaps they had this discussion and came to conclusions that I, as a subscriber, happen to disagree with.  I think this cover is unhelpful, not insofar as it does not coordinate with the Obama campaign's communications staff and goals, but because it plays into the very distortions it aims to expose.  It represents a technical failure as well as an ethical one.

by Strummerson 2008-07-14 08:34AM | 0 recs
Re: When does satire become Foxnews Fodder?

I don't really disagree but I'll quibble one last time. If there was a failure, I think it was only what you called a "technical" one: the satire doesn't work.  Or it's too subtle.  It's a problem that over-educated, over-ironized cultural elites often run into--the irony and subtlety that make so much sense in their heads don't translate.

But I still don't see an ethical failure here.  They aim at their readership, who by and large recognize the absurdity of the perspective satirized in the cover.  In fact, I haven't heard anything from the McCain people, from RedState, or from anybody at all suggesting that people are taking it literally.  Who could take it literally?  Is Fox going to broadcast the image and say, look, it confirms it, they are terrorists?  Is someone in the heartland going to see the cartoon and say, damn it, I was right, they are al-Qaeda?  I doubt it.  It's a cartoon, not a photograph of the Obamas wearing keffiyas and toting AKs.  I honestly don't see how this cartoon is going to affect public perception of the Obamas whatsoever.

by Koan 2008-07-14 08:53AM | 0 recs
Re: When does satire become Foxnews Fodder?

Additionally, satire is a mode of rhetoric.  As such, it aims to persuade or dissuade.  The clear, if too subtle, intention of this illustration is to expose the absurdity and racism of right wing smears.  It aims to 'help' undermine them.  It fails due to a lack of framing and openness to abuse.  It's one thing to argue that no responsibility is necessary here.  It is quite another to ignore the rhetorical orientation of this or any other satire.

by Strummerson 2008-07-14 08:03AM | 0 recs
Re: When does satire become Foxnews Fodder?

I agree with what you've written here, and I don't think I'm ignoring the rhetorical orientation of the satire.  Of course it's supposed to satirize the Fox News portrait of the Obamas as crazy terrorists.  I think the New Yorker has a responsibility only to ask itself if it's in good taste, appropriate for the magazine, etc--which you may very well believe it's not.  I'm not arguing with your perception of taste.

My quibble was with your use of the word "helpful."  They don't need to worry about whether or not it's helpful.  I don't want them trying to help!  When the media try to help one side or the other is when message and news become inseparable, and it sucks whether it's on the right or the left.

by Koan 2008-07-14 08:28AM | 0 recs
Re: When does satire become Foxnews Fodder?

Oops.  I replied to the one above.  We're missing each other here.  Nonetheless, I don't see fundamental disagreement between us.  I certainly do not want this magazine to refuse to report or critique any candidate.  You are absolutely correct that it should not operate as the communications outlet for any campaign or candidate.  I intended 'unhelpful' more generally, as it pertains to the level of discourse of this contest, which is exactly the thing in which it attempts to intervene.

by Strummerson 2008-07-14 08:38AM | 0 recs
Re: When does satire become Foxnews Fodder?

Fair enough.

by Koan 2008-07-14 08:43AM | 0 recs
Re: When does satire become Foxnews Fodder?

Dear heart, I watch the Daily Show, and if I fall asleep before it comes on, I make it a point to catch it the next day.

So apparently at least some of the Daily Show audience is just as unsophisticated as those who find the cartoon unfunny.

by LIsoundview 2008-07-14 11:38AM | 0 recs
Re: When does satire become Foxnews Fodder?

Apparently some of them are. Most are able to appreciate satire and sarcasm for what they are. Since I am also a DS watcher, there are obviously some who do get it.

by MS01 Indie 2008-07-14 11:59AM | 0 recs
And while we're doing funny

boasting about your own sophistication is kind of ...unsophisticated.  

And therefore funny. ;-)

by LIsoundview 2008-07-14 01:23PM | 0 recs
Re: And while we're doing funny

Calling others 'Dear Heart' doesn't only makes you sophisticated in a romance novel.

BTW, you are really reaching here to equate my statement to 'boasting' about being sophisticated is rather a stretch.

by MS01 Indie 2008-07-14 01:36PM | 0 recs
Re: And while we're doing funny

Well, after you called me unsophisticated in 2 comments (and patted yourself on the back for your relative sophistication in the same 2 comments), I felt I owed you a dear heart or so to live down to your expectations.

BTW, I am not a romance novel reader, either.  I prefer scifi for fun and historical & political nonfiction for more serious reading.

by LIsoundview 2008-07-14 04:07PM | 0 recs
Re: And while we're doing funny

You may not appreciate satire, but that certainly doesn't mean you eschew all rhetorical flourishes. Your use of hyperbole is amusing in the context of this discussion.

by MS01 Indie 2008-07-14 04:16PM | 0 recs

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