Saturday, July 19, 2008


I wonder what the reaction would have been if, one September or other in the past couple of years, the cover of The New Yorker featured a cartoon in which Dick Cheney in a hard hat oversaw the wiring of the Twin Towers with explosives, while out on the WTC plaza Ariel Sharon handed out flyers to yarmulke-wearing office workers that said STAY HOME FROM WORK ON TUESDAY! and, in a cutaway, George W. Bush sat down in the Situation Room with Osama bin Laden over artist's simulations of planes flying into buildings, as a calendar on the wall read SEPT. 10, 2001.

I'm sure the reaction would be that anyone who didn't think it was funny was just a snotty elitist who contemptuously assumed other people wouldn't recognize a joke as a joke. Don't you agree?


Sorry -- I know it's a played-out subject and I should drop it. I will note, however, that The New York Times had yet another column about the cover yesterday, this one in the Metro section -- Clyde Haberman, the "NYC" columnist, informed us that, yes, the cover was understood by people in Dubuque, his evidence being an interview with one (1) resident of that city. Much as we grumble about the A-section op-ed columnists in the Times and other big papers, the commentary in the Metro section of the Times, particularly the work of Haberman, is really just awful -- there are probably more astute opinion pieces in your local Pennysaver.


UPDATE: Oh, crap -- I agree with Lee Siegel and NewsBusters. Just shoot me.

Well, Siegel (writing in The New York Times) isn't in attack mode -- he's talking about satire, and he's making sense:

The problem is that the cartoon accurately portrays a ridiculous real-life caricature that exists as literal fact in the minds of some people, and it portrays it in terms that are absolutely true to that caricature. An analogous instance would have been a cartoon without commentary appearing in a liberal Northern newspaper in the 1920s -- a time when Southern violence against blacks was unabated -- that showed a black man raping a white woman while eating a watermelon. The effect of accurately reproducing such a ridiculous image that dwelled unridiculously in the minds of some people would have been merely to broaden its vicious reach.

That's basically correct.

And NewsBusters, Lord help us, is at least partly correct for objecting to this McCain cartoon in Rolling Stone:

Tom Blumer of NewBusters (before going off the rails and arguing that it's unconscionable of Rolling Stone to -- gasp! -- favor Obama editorially) understandably writes this:

You might think that a tidal wave of denunciation would ensue if a cartoon depicting John McCain being tortured in a bamboo cage by Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and another person (who might be George W. Bush) were to appear in a supposedly respectable or trendy publication.

You might further think that giving McCain's three torturers stereotypically exaggerated Asian features would only further fuel the outrage.

I'm on the fence about the use of torture in this cartoon -- McCain as a senator hasn't been consistent in recognizing present-day torture for what it is, and he's using his brutalization in Hanoi to propel his campaign. Moreover, the image isn't suggesting that his being tortured makes him a lesser person (and it could -- quite a few people argue that it made him unstable and thus unfit to be president).

But what the hell is up with the yellow-peril slanted eyes of his tormentors in the cartoon? And who the hell is that supposed to be at the top of the drawing? I can't tell either.

For those reasons alone, this is an offensive and incompetent piece of work, and yeah, I'll condemn it.

No comments: