Got Satire?

Racial politics is not a fight Obama wants to wage. It’s a loser. Even though his opponents try to bate him into an argument, trying to turn him into Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton, by association if necessary, the O-Man has been able to finesses the subject, giving show stopping speeches on race, co-opting conservative memes or scolding his base with a Sistah Soldier moments.

Is the New Yorker “satirical” cartoon of Obama and his wife an attack, an honest attempt at humor, or both? Gary Kamiya over at Salon agrees with Rush Limbaugh and thinks the left needs to get a sense of humor.

  • To judge from the reaction of much of the left, you’d think that New Yorker editor David Remnick had morphed into some kind of hideous hybrid of Roger Ailes and Roland Barthes and was waging an insidious Semiotic War against Obama.I don’t know what lugubrious planet these people are on, but I definitely don’t want any of them writing material for Jon Stewart.

I remember when Michael Richards (Kramer from “Seinfeld”) made his infamous racist diatribe that was broadcast over the Internet and cable TV, right when a new DVD of Seinfeld was to be released. To curb the damage, Jerry Seinfeld himself got Richards on the “Late Show with David Letterman” to apologize for his behavior.

When Richards began to speak and explain his actions, the audience began to laugh. “Stop laughing, It’s not funny.” Seinfeld scolded the audience.  But that was the problem. The audience couldn’t tell if Richards was serious or not because he came off the way he always did on the show, as Cosmo Kramer, the goofy nincompoop that can’t be taken seriously.

This is the problem with the New Yorker cover. It’s screwing with our sense of what’s serious and what isn’t. Although we’re supposed to laugh at this cartoon of Obama, the charges by Obama’s opponents, that’s he’s a “sleeper terrorist” are real. The charges aren’t funny. FOX news portraying Michelle and Barack’s fist pump as a “terrorist fist bump” is ridiculous to the intellectual voter, but the attacks, the smears are real. FOX news and its line of pundits are dead serious when they try to paint the Obama’s as militant, angry, terrorist. They’re not joking around. It’s an image they would like most of America to believe is true. And it is to a lot of Americans.

So is the New Yorker making fun of Obama’s critics, or Obama? Both? All that’s on the cover is Obama and Michelle… as militants who have taken over the White House. The attempt at satire by the New Yorker may have been aimed at Obama’s critics, but they ended up hitting Obama. Blitt’s frame of mind, his reference for the source of humor, apparently was the mentality of those who believe or are trying to turn the Obama’s into terrorists. But we don’t get that from the cartoon, all we see are two black people being portrayed the way the likes of FOX news wants them to be portrayed. It is the New Yorker that is framing Obama as a terrorist in this instance, not FOX news.

The frame of reference for the source of humor is key. If one doesn’t know the main reference, then there is no humor. Compare other covers done by Blitt with the Obama cover.

The Ahmadinejad cover is a take on the Iranian Government’s homophobia, using the Larry Craig foot tapping incident as frame of reference. Craig’s bust in the Idaho men’s bathroom was lampooned all over youtube. The reference, even to those who don’t follow politics, is impossible to miss.

The Bush Cheney cartoon is a little obscure. The idea that Cheney is the real boss of the Bush administration, and George is simply his gofer. If you know who Bush and Cheney are, that’s all the reference one needs to understand the humor.

The cartoon of the Bush cabinet up to their necks in flood water in the Oval office refers to Katrina. Some may think this is in poor taste. But the reference is unmistakable. Katrina is the source or reference.

The Obama cartoon is like the Bush/Cheney cartoon, it’s much more obscure. What is it referring to exactly? It’s not refereeing to a certain incident like Craig or Katrina, but to a perception about Obama. The New Yorker satirizing Obama with Rev. Wright or Jesse Jackson could have referred to specific incidents that were widely reported. But Obama as terrorist refers to how the Wingers are portraying him. When I see or hear the Wingers trying to portray Obama as a terrorist, I get angry. It doesn’t make me laugh.

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