The New Yorker claims that this is just satire, and it is part of its article on the politics of fear, meant to mock the portrait that Obama's right-wing critics have painted of him. But Obama isn't laughing. For others, it seems, the satire just falls into the right-wing critics hands, playing into their imagery (or the New Yorker is not implicated in what they critique).
The problem is a matter of consistency. If one wants to do this type of satire, one should consistently do it; otherwise, it can be misinterpreted, as this particular cover was. For example, I think that Stephen Colbert, who engages in this type of satire very consistently, could more easily get away with it. Not that the New Yorker is not satirical, but it is usually satirical in small bits, with small cartoons inside that mock a point of view to a more limited degree. The fact that the satire here had to be explained by the New Yorker shows that it was not done well or that it was done to a further degree than usual.
The following is from the New York Times and includes the cover itself:
Political Satire, but Obama Isn’t Laughing
Updated SAN DIEGO –- As he flies around the country, Senator Barack Obama has a fondness for magazines. The New Yorker is often among the titles at the front of his campaign plane.
The issue this week, though, is not likely to make its way on board.
The cover of the magazine depicts Mr. Obama wearing a turban, while he offers a fist bump to his gun-toting wife. An American flag singes behind them in the fireplace.
Asked about the drawing at a news conference here Sunday, Mr. Obama held his tongue, saying: “I have no response to that.” A campaign spokesman, though, was not so measured at a sketch that the magazine calls satirical.
“The New Yorker may think, as one of their staff explained to us, that their cover is a satirical lampoon of the caricature Senator Obama’s right-wing critics have tried to create,” the spokesman, Bill Burton, said in a statement. “But most readers will see it as tasteless and offensive –- and we agree.”
The cover of the July 21 issue is entitled, “The Politics of Fear.” A news release to promote the magazine said artist Barry Blitt “satirizes the use of scare tactics and misinformation in the presidential election to derail Barack Obama’s campaign.”
Asked about the cover, Tucker Bounds, spokesman for Senator John McCain’s campaign, said: “We completely agree with the Obama campaign.”
David Remnick, the editor of the magazine, defended his choice of covers in an interview with the Huffington Post. He said, “Obviously I wouldn’t have run a cover just to get attention — I ran the cover because I thought it had something to say. What I think it does is hold up a mirror to the prejudice and dark imaginings about Barack Obama’s — both Obamas’ — past, and their politics.
“I can’t speak for anyone else’s interpretations, all I can say is that it combines a number of images that have been propagated, not by everyone on the right but by some, about Obama’s supposed “lack of patriotism” or his being “soft on terrorism” or the idiotic notion that somehow Michelle Obama is the second coming of the Weathermen or most violent Black Panthers. That somehow all this is going to come to the Oval Office.”