"For reasons that nobody fully understands, a large proportion of our would-be artist-contributors are Canadians."Everybody seems to be having a go at the July 21 issue of The New Yorker, so why not me.— Brendan Gill, Here at The New Yorker, p. 213.
Last night on returning home and switching on CNN, I was greeted with the unctuous countenance of Bill Bennett, the self-appointed conservative Republican moral arbiter and hypocrite, telling us what he does and doesn't find amusing, and therefore what we should and should not find amusing also.
Among the latter is The New Yorker's cover drawing of Barack and Michelle Obama dressed as an Imam and Angela Davis, respectively. They're shown mutually delivering what some fool on Fox News recently called a "terrorist fist jab."
Both the Obama and John McCain campaigns called the drawing "tasteless and offensive." Rest assured, McCain staffers most certainly do not find the drawing "tasteless and offensive." They are delighted. They are every bit as delighted as Michael Gableman and his supporters were in implying that a Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice has dedicated his life to freeing murderers and rapists.
The cartoon does not serve Obama well, we are informed, because a certain percentage of Americans actually believe some or all of the portrayals depicted. They believe Michelle Obama really is a 21st century Angela Davis, even if they don't know who Angela Davis is. They believe Obama desecrates the American flag by not wearing a little pin. They believe Obama is a Muslim.
Even worse, they believe there's something fundamentally wrong with being a Muslim, per se, and even Obama supporters consider it an "accusation."
Well, guess what. Maybe there's no helping those Americans. Forty-five percent of the populace believes the universe is 6,000 years old and lots more believe a god/man lives in the sky who wins football games, directs Corey Pavin's long irons, and adjusts rates of precipitation to suit the requirements of Atlantans.*
Many of them even believe 9/11 was a series of controlled demolitions engineered by the Bush administration and its Zionist puppeteers. The New Yorker can't help them either.
Furthermore The New Yorker is not in the business of helping Obama in the first place. It may be doing that anyway, because much of its political and current affairs reporting is what conservatives like to call "leftist."
Hendrik Hertzberg, who writes frequently in the magazine's introductory "Talk of the Town" section, is no fan of Republican politics. And The New Yorker has been the venue for a great number of investigative pieces by Seymour Hersh on the subject of the Bush administration's military responses to 9/11.
Highly critical ones, as a matter of fact.
It's also what conservative Republicans delight in mocking as "elitist." I've been reading The New Yorker for as long as I can remember, and the poetry, ballet reviews, and John Updike novellas have always been sandwiched in between Cartier, Rolex, and Range Rover ads, precisely the sort of products conservatives defend our corporate mandarins' rights and privileges to buy more of.
It also happens to be one of the finest — if not the finest — magazines in the country and has for decades featured the work of some of the best writers America has produced. And it has a sensibility, whether one appreciates it, derides it, or what have you.
There's absolutely no reason why the magazine should adjust that sensibility simply because some people, or even a lot of people, don't get political satire, or especially because it somehow requires a presidential candidate to work a little harder at dispelling the very lies The New Yorker is so obviously lampooning.
And if it sells a few more magazines, then, good. Perhaps those people could do with something other than Us Weekly for a change.
* Atlanteans being another thing again.