It’s Satire, Folks … Lighten Up!
“I don’t get it.”
Along with “that’s not funny” and “there has been a fatwa declared against you,” they are the words any cartoonist least wants to hear. And most of us try to make sure we don’t. We gauge our audience and consult with our editors, but, in the end, there’s always a little risk you’ve gone too far. That’s a good thing. Satire is supposed to nose up to the glass of what’s acceptable and provoke those on the other side. When it’s good, it makes us laugh at ourselves and maybe even rethink our assumptions.
Doubtless, this is what Barry Blitt had in mind when he drew the latest New Yorker cover (at left). His title of the piece, “The politics of fear” wasn’t included, but surely it was self-evident. Right? Surely no one would interpret the cover, intended to satirize the use of scare tactics and misinformation in the campaign (a Fox News host referred to the Obamas’ fist-bump as possibly a “terrorist fist-jab” on June 6) as a corroboration of those charges. Wrong.
And the Obama campaign was the first to cry foul, calling the cover “tasteless and offensive.” McCain’s camp agreed.
Lighten up, people. Has anyone ever heard of the New Yorker, before? For those who haven’t, a moment of clarification. Its target demographic is an urbane, sophisticated elite that eats irony for breakfast. And it is politically liberal. If you see a cover calling the presumptive Democratic nominee for president a closet terrorist you can bet it’s up to something different. It would be like a conservative magazine hyping the war-mongering charges against John McCain.
On Jan. 22, 2007 the New Yorker published a cover with Bush as Nero making music while the world burned. On Sept. 19, 2006 another cover depicted the White House inner circle under water in the Oval Office after the Katrina debacle. Uh, they weren’t really under water.
Of course there was no outrage at these covers, because we they fit our caricatures of the current administration. We’re still trying to figure out who the Obamas are.
Satire should be fun, even outrageous. It makes politics (and anything going on in the world, for that matter) a little easier to digest. So relax. Take a deep breath. Laugh free or die.