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New Yorker Death Spiral Watch

UPDATES: Rich Yeselson of Change to Win writes, in email:

[H]ere's the problem... the satirical thrust of the drawing is entirely dependent upon the viewer being hip to the fact that this, well, The New Yorker's cover. There is nothing, per se, about the drawing itself that cuts against the grain of a completely literalist interpretation of its depiction of the Obama's as terrorist. Anyone so prone to such an interpretation will see here a visual representation of their views. As art, the work is completely overdetermined by its cultural context.... So: That's bad satire. And, so, yeah--I blame the New Yorker for publishing bad satire.... Do they have the "right"? Well, of course.... But the art s-----, and the political consequences may not be good, so I have the right to say I'm not happy with their editorial decision....

It's a simple point. You should be able to get the joke without knowing it's a New Yorker cover, or reading an inteview from the Editor in Chief. If you can't, then it's not good visual satire. And it's an easy point to test: If you put the same drawing on the cover of a far right magazine, your response would be pretty damn different, wouldn't it? You might even be appalled. That's what I mean--it is indeed entirely dependent on its cultural context. That means it bad satire, lousy art. The editorial decision, therefore, was also a lousy one...

Tom Toles Cartoons - (

Why oh why can't we have a better press corps? Kevin Drum on the New Yorker cover:

The Washington Monthly: [A] few minutes thought convinced me [that the cover] was gutless. If artist Barry Blitt had some real cojones, he would have drawn the same cover but shown it as a gigantic word bubble coming out of John McCain's mouth — implying, you see, that this is how McCain wants the world to view Obama. But he didn't. Because that would have been unfair. And McCain would have complained about it. And for some reason, the risk that a failed satire would unfairly defame McCain is somehow seen as worse than the risk that a failed satire would unfairly defame Obama.

So: gutless. And whatever else you can say about it, good satire is never gutless.

And Ta-Nehisi Coates writes:

Ta-Nehisi Coates: Maybe white folks shouldn't draw pictures of Michelle Obama...: At this very moment, me and Kenyatta are debating New Yorker cover. She's a little more pissed than me.... [T]he problem is that it's very hard to satirize the rumors around Michelle and Barack. Satire needs overstatement. But the cover doesn't actually overstate... it's the sort of image you'd expect to see at one of the nuttier websites or publications, and so... it doesn't work very well [as satire]...

Which means it works fine as a concession to right-wing wingnuttery.

Coates goes on:

I think "offensive" is bit much, but I can see that we do have the makings of a problem... I've come up with a compromise. White people--step away from the sepia-toned crayons. Black people--recognize that incompetence and epic fail may be the only things more common than bigotry...

Here's the cover:

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