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July 18, 2008

I Am Not Amused

Roy Meachum

A great deal of ruckus happened in the national media; the chuckling and tsk-tsking came over that New Yorker cover. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, please go back to your computer war game.


Either way the ruckus turns out, the big winner is David Remmick, the ex-Washington Post reporter who moved north. The magazine editor commissioned the take on Barack Obama as a Muslim terrorist. Wife Michelle came off as an old-time black radical, of the 60s' era; the artist did not string from her mouth "Burn, baby, burn." It was there, nevertheless.


When asked, Editor Remmick said he meant to give the lop-sided vision the far-right assumes when considering either major party's first African-American presidential candidate. In sending a message, Western Union remains the best bet.


After all, satirists and cartoonists thrive and prosper on second-takes, the reconsideration that comes after the first look. All by itself, this gives satire and burlesque, its rowdy sibling, power to shake and shape opinions. Is this what The New Yorker cover achieves?


The Obama campaign thought otherwise; its spokespersons tossed around "sleazy" and" tasteless." Their candidate agrees. They believe many people will take the artist's concept literally; they're afraid men and women will believe Mrs. Obama believes black power is the true way to bring about change.


As polls show, 15 percent of those surveyed have fixed in their mind the idea that Senator Obama is really a Muslim; and in those minds all people who believe in Islam are automatically terrorists.


New Yorker's editor disagrees: "The idea is to attack lies and misconceptions and distortions about the Obamas and their background and their politics."


David Remmick was seemingly correct in one regard: artist Barry Britt represented most misconceptions; his rendering of distortions was less. On the other hand, he could not touch the Rev. Jeremiah Wright without noting the Obamas are practicing Christians. That can of worms was beyond the cartoonist's pale.


Supposedly the cover was approved by a small coterie of uptown New Yorkers who screamed. In life, presumably sophisticated men and women scream about the prospect of having the first African-American president. The last time I was in Manhattan I heard talk about how "the hired hands" (maids and cooks) were getting uppity.


Presumably Mr. Remmick and his clique register very optimistic on the Obamas moving into the White House in January. Presumably they're counting on the Bush-Cheney gang making mistakes all the way ’til noon, January 20, 2009. They could be right.


With them I'll agree that GOP candidate-presumptive John McCain promises more of the same old-same old. So far we've heard little but variations on current administration policies. His military background would supposedly make him Iraq's messiah, leading the electorate into the Promised Land where America's Middle Eastern policy could be justified. It'll never happen.


As with Moscow, Washington faces retreat with rear-guards that might save part of America's image. At this stage, the U.S. has been revealed as less than a super-power, as were the Russians who had their power and reputation shredded in Afghanistan. White House threats against Iran degenerate into rattling sounds in an empty barrel. And there's absolutely nothing anybody can do about that, especially Senator McCain.


The New Yorker cover, as its defenders point out, piles up so many myths and contradictions that all thinking persons will reject it – laughing all the way. As we see in the history of American elections, the electorate simply cannot be depended upon to think. If women and men did, then presumably there would be no place for columnists and commentators; we'd be out of jobs.


That could very well be a good thing. But at what price?


Presumably David Remmick and his set are both well-educated and well-fixed enough to afford the time to ingather information. They have not stood up against the evil impressions and downright lies captured on his magazine's cover. They might roll eyes over their Martinis. Little more.


Having lived with the reality when distortions become political realities and bad people succeed to power, I, for one, am not amused.


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