Monday, July 21, 2008

New Yorker Cover Squabble Drones On

Just because we've entered the dog days of summer doesn't mean election 2008 coverage has to get loony toons.

First Jesse Jackson's gutter language spectacular and now The New Yorker cover squabbles. Pick, pick, pick. Dissected over and over, and over once more until the nausea police are called in.

Enough already. We've had our news stories, our petty battles over satire, misrepresentation, tastelessness, offensiveness, thick skin, taking the heat, and getting out of the kitchen. The possibility of any meaningful analysis or material revelation has long since passed. This horse is dead. Move on.

What do any of these natterings have to do with choosing a president? [Source]

The straw that broke my camel's back is this piece from Philly.com. So much to disagree with, I don't know where to begin. Two strenuously argued points are particularly irksome.

The piece claims the cover was clearly satire, dispeling belief in outright Obama lies "in a way nothing else could have." I'd be inclined to agree if the "MAD-Magazine-over-the-top" cover (as the writer describes it) actually appeared on MAD Magazine. Instead, the cover clothes a publication containing not only satire and fiction, but also reportage, commentary, and essays. "Reportage" being the act of reporting news, one could reasonably interpret The New Yorker cover as an illustration of news or commentary.

Thus, the cover is NOT clearly satire. And let's get something straight. The hooplah is in the disconnect. Ryan Lizza's accompanying article is more about Barack Obama meticulously crafting a political identity, as well as charges of political opportunism than about preconceived misconceptions. The New Yorker wouldn't have incited nearly as much controversy with a cover depicting chameleon-like Obama in a race to the finish line with hard-driving lawyer Michelle cheering him along.

The only place Lizza's article discusses preconceived misconceptions about Barack Obama is the very end. No mention whatsoever of Michelle. Dismissing the notion of Obama as "some sort of anti-establishment revolutionary," the Philly author imbues the candidate with "establishment inclinations" and labels him a paradox. His analysis becomes so far removed from the cover's illustration as to make a mockery of his tacit support.

Methinks someone with a hankering for magazine and online advertising sales "Barry Blitt" off more than they could chew.

But getting back to Philly, the second bug stuck in my craw is the author's characterization of Obama's September 19, 2001 article in the Hyde Park Herald. He basically pounds Obama for recommending engagement in the understanding of madness. Michelle Malkin made a similar argument which I suppose transforms this perspective into gospel.

Can't find any link to Obama's original article, a troublesome development, though everyone writing about the topic seems to have linked to the vital passage. Still, I am skeptical of the arguments as words taken out of context often make mincemeat of the whole.

True, soon after 9/11 Obama did say we must engage in "the more difficult task of understanding the sources of such madness." However, he also noted how history teaches such madness "grows out of a climate of poverty and ignorance, helplessness and despair." If we can somehow understand the way madness breeds, we may be better able to protect the "lives of innocent civilians abroad." An earnest display of well-intentioned empathy could have led to a peaceful resolution.

Of course, today we'll never know.

Obama tried to convey the importance of alternatives long before anyone realized the depth of our faulty intelligence. In retrospect, he displayed remarkable level-headedness when the nation was consumed by rage. Seven years later, Islamofacism still has a tenacious grip on many pockets of civilization. The next president will need savvy and determination to keep our homeland free from attacks. Remarkable level-headedness is a trait in short supply.

Barack Obama isn't the perfect candidate. He comes with his own grains of salt. But kicking a man with his own out of context commentary is disingenuous.

And for what it's worth, just plain partisan.

Now can we get back to the business of dissecting political platforms and other more material matters?



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