The New Yorker Kerfluffle

I have taken a few days to reflect on the wave of responses to the unfortunate cover the New Yorker chose for its July 21 edition, which has finally arrived on my front porch.

At first I shared the outrage so widely demonstrated but on third thought my response is somewhat milder and my dismay is more at the completely inadequate defenses and inapposite comparisons that have been made to Barry Blitz’s drawing.

The most common defense is that the cover supposedly satirizes the use of scare tactics and misinformation in the presidential election to derail Barack Obama’s campaign. That might have been a good argument if the object of the satire were clear from merely looking at the cartoon. Perhaps, a drawing showing a demented right wing cartoonist with the New Yorker cover partially completed on his easel might have come closer to the target (but how can you tell a demented right wing cartoonist from a demented left wing cartoonist).

More onerous were the comparisons to other cartoons. It is not like the drawing of Bush as a waitress serving Cheney. The subject of that cartoon was Bush’s slavish serving of Cheney. They were the objects of the cartoon. It is not like the drawing of an aged McCain being served drugs by his wife, that cartoon satirized McCain’s age and, perhaps, his trophy wife’s lifestyle.

Another defense is that members of the intended target audience would “get it” and even if they didn’t, as New Yorker readers they immune from the exaggerations and distortions implicit in Blitz’s work. That argument is elitist and arrogant.

But in the end, it was simply a mistake that will have little effect on the attitudes of the populace or outcome of the election and gave us something to talk about for a couple of weeks in July.

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