Wednesday, July 16, 2008

notes on the obama new yorker cover

1) it's stupid, tacky, in poor taste, not worth further attention or discussion -- tho it's possible i react this way knowing that the cartoon itself is already packaged in controversy; were it not i suspect i might linger over the cartoon and try to figure out what is going on in it, and perhaps that moment of lingering is of some value, but i suspect i would eventually end up with the same conclusion

2) but ooh, it's a lightning rod of controversy! does the cartoon cross the line, how far is too far, or are we just plain too sensitive and politically correct today? the answers are predictable and uninteresting: we'll ask ann coulter and al franken coming up after this commercial break

3) controversy sells!

4) nothing new here really, just the nature and function of satire

5) satire stratifies its audience: at the top is a) the satirist himself who always assumes a superior position to the object of satire; slightly below are b) the audience members who "get it" and thereby partake in the satirist's genius and share in the chuckle had at the expense of c) the schmucks being satirized, who only "get it" at the literal level, or what's more likely, see the satire but nevertheless remain committed to the ideas or values satirized

6) satire presents something of a rorschach test: you will see what you are predisposed to and are unlikely to change your perspective

7) this is said to be the great "risk" undertaken by the satirist: that he will be misinterpreted, misunderstood, even disliked; in fact all writers take this risk, it is not unique to the satirist

8) the greater risk is that, in an area where hearts and minds need to be changed, the satirist's work has left the two sides doubled-down and further entrenched

9) this can be cause for great anger; i can get great anger from newspapers, cable tv and the internet i don't need it from cartoons

10) does the new yorker have the right to put this artist's work on their cover? well even though no rights are absolute, hell for all i care they can put hardcore porn on their cover if they want (see point 3)

11) just don't claim it as some new or cutting edge form of insightful or incisive critique and not expect me to reiterate with insistence the preceding ten points!

12) and by the way, isn't this the magazine known for enigmatic cartoons and terrible self-important poetry, i.e. the height of east coast elitism? score another validation for the red-staters...

UPDATE 7/19/08: don hazen has a nice recap of the commentary over at alternet, which includes a useful look at linguistic framing as well.

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