Tuesday, July 15, 2008


If you're like me, you sometimes feel as if you're the only sane person in a room full of smart people. My usual solution? Move to a room full of dumb people. Hello, blogosphere! In addition to that, I like to write a crazy letter to another internet blogger and hope he agrees with my outlandish positions.

Yesterday, I found myself embroiled in a debate over the now-infamous The New Yorker cover featuring the caricature of the Obamas acting out many right-wing conspiracy theorists' worst fears.

I had two arguments going: 1) that it shouldn't be seen as disappointing that the Obama campaign denounced the cover as being misguided, and 2) that the cover fails as satire. It's the second point that was most important to me for two more reasons: 1) otherwise intelligent people were proclaiming its brilliance as satire and 2) I love satire and feel it should be protected from the hounds of mere ironic intent.

And while the The New Yorker cover is an exemplary representative of ironic intent (like a Brooklynite with a mustache), it fails at being satire or even remotely clever (like a Brooklynite with a mustache).

It was implied that I was too stupid to understand the satiric value of the piece, too willing to give up the comedy high-ground to the drooling masses feeding upon the lowest common denominators found in the sediment of a fish tank or too white-guilt-ridden to be able to see the cover not as an attack upon the Obamas but as a one-image comeuppance directed at right-wing rumor-mongers.

The first point is just crazy. I'm like a freakin' genius. The second point is nonsense, since I was clearly attempting to reclaim the comedy high ground. As to the third point, it was being made by people who dodn't know me or the fact that some of my best friends have Prince albums.

Today it was nice to learn I wasn't alone in the wilderness (it turned out those footprints were Ruben Bolling's and he was actually carrying me when times were tough!). Tom Spurgeon agreed with me to such a degree that he practically plagiarizes* my email to him† like that dirty plagiarist Barack Obama. He'll probably try to plagiarize my white wife from me next as well. That's how these bloggers do.

*Actually, Spurgeon is less harsh than I am about whether the cover constitutes actual satire at all: I say thee nay! He say thee naysayers be dumb! I say he pops too big a tent, and should consider my small-tent approach. However, we eerily use the same argument and words in different tenses. Compare my over-long email with this quote:

However, that general, satirical point? Not much of one. Further, it's unclear whether the artist intended to make fun of the notion on display and/or the people that hold the notion. The cartoon doesn't really suggest anything insightful or new about the subject. It's an illustration of an unfortunate political and cultural reality more than it is a cartoon that engages the ideas fueling that reality. It tells us nothing we didn't know before, even if you allow the intent was to bring about objections from both sides of the political spectrum.

He even italicizes my word: illustration!

†My email is printed in its entirety in the Comics Reporter link. Link to Ruben Bolling's site also provided by The Comics Reporter.


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