If the point of putting something on the cover of a magazine is to sell copies of the magazine, then the folks at The New Yorker are surely smart to have decided to take the most controversial stereotypes about Barack and Michelle Obama and put them front and center on the magazine racks of America.
The Obamas remain a mystery to most Americans. Primary results and polls suggest that the electorate has found much to like about the Illinois senator and his wife. But the voters who will decide whether to make the Obamas the country’s First Couple don’t know a whole lot about the people they might install in the White House next January.
That ignorance is the last remaining hope of a Republican Party that, after 14 years of Gingrich and DeLay and eight years of Bush and Cheney, has pretty much blown the franchise. Only if a creaking GOP machine can spin a mild and moderate freshman senator and a crisp and professional hospital administrator into something scary does John McCain stand a chance in November.
The Republicans have been working hard to gin up the fear factor. But who would have thought they’d get an assist from the most elitely liberal of elite liberal journals?
The New Yorker, which has a fine history of using compelling cover images to push the envelope on debates about race and societal division, this week offers up a cartoonish depiction of Barack Obama as a Muslim terrorist fist-bumping Michelle Obama, who is done up as an armed Black Panther-style 60s radical with a Angela Davis afro.
These Obamas are in the White House with a picture of Osama bin Laden on the wall. For good measure, they’ve got a flag burning in the fireplace.
The illustration, by Barry Blitt, is titled “The Politics of Fear,” and according to a New Yorker statement, it “satirizes the use of scare tactics and misinformation in the Presidential election to derail Barack Obama’s campaign.”
New Yorker editor David Remnick, offering what might best be described as the “Full Manhattan” defense, told Huffington Post that everyone who is anyone surely must know that The New Yorker would never publish something that was sincerely offensive to liberal sensibilities. “The idea that we would publish a cover saying these things literally, I think, is just not in the vocabulary of what we do and who we are,” the editor explained.