16 July 2008

Is satire dead?

As someone who has done a little cartooning myself, I feel obliged to comment on the now internationally famous (or infamous) July 21st cover of the New Yorker magazine which depicts Barack Obama and his wife as gun-toting, flag-burning, Islamic terrorists. The cartoon is obviously a satire on the buffoonery that Fox and other networks offer as news commentary on American television. For example, the buffoon who suggested if Obama is elected, the U.S. would have an anti-semitic, terrorist president or the one who suggested the fist-bump is a terrorist greeting. If anything is deserving of satire, it's this parade of idiocy.

Yet many Americans and others seem to have missed the satire entirely and take the cartoon as serious comment. I would have thought every literate person in the English-speaking world would realize how utterly unlikely that is given the editorial position and sophistication of the New Yorker. It is, after all, one of the U.S.'s most well known and respected magazines.

Journalists at least ought to be concerned if not outraged about the way their profession is being debased by Fox and others in the television world. They ought to be debating the object of the New Yorker cover, not the cover itself. But ... maybe the magazine erred in assuming its concern or its sophistication was widely shared. Maybe neither are. Reaction to the cartoon certainly suggests satire is beyond the ken of all too many commentators. And that in itself may indicate the level to which political commentary in the U.S. has sunk, ironically justifying the New Yorker's concern.

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