You are David Remnick, editor of New Yorker magazine. You have just released a cover for the July 21 issue with a drawing of a happy Michelle and Barack Obama inside the White House, she with an Angela Davis-type Afro, he in camouflage gear and turban to show he is a Muslim terrorist, and they’re both giving each other their famous fist-greeting while the American flag burns in the fireplace.
That should get some attention, right? You and your staff at your otherwise prestigious magazine probably were sure this drawing would get some headlines somewhere, precious fodder for the water coolers across America. You all decided that you were being bold and out there, and feel that you needed an illustration to go along with an otherwise fine article inside by Ryan Lizza about Obama’s rise in Chicago politics. You placed this drawing for the world to see because ultimately the buck stops with you.
You are an erudite man, David. You are an accomplished journalist, with a lot of experience at the Washington Post as a foreign correspondent and now with New Yorker. You have presided over transformative events in global politics, from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the collapse of the Soviet Union. You have been an important Sovietologist and, now, Russian expert. You speak the language even, and your book Lenin’s Tomb earned you a Pulitzer Prize. Your reputation is much earned.
I’m struggling to figure out how you can be so disingenuous all of a sudden. Right. You actually don’t truly believe what you’re saying with regards to this magazine cover of yours. Which, as you know, really has spiraled today in a way that will only guarantee big sales this week. And how convenient that this story gets planted on Sunday night so as to ensure that it gets a special above-the-fold coverage for this morning. (Guess those ad dollars really are down too.)
Here’s my quibble: When you say that the cover is “satirical” and that you’re responding to the attacks that have been made about Obama in this campaign, just what kind of reality are you channeling? You just told Jake Tapper of ABC News this afternoon:
“The intent of the cover is to satirize the vicious and racist attacks and rumors and misconceptions about the Obamas that have been floating around in the blogosphere and are reflected in public opinion polls. What we set out to do was to throw all these images together, which are all over the top and to shine a kind of harsh light on them, to satirize them. That’s part of what we do.”
Let’s start first with the ludicrous premise that this is satire. You and the elite scribes at Conde Nast know what you’re doing. You think you rule the roost. You hold the misinformed belief that most Americans even follow all the election coverage about Obama, much less the “blogosphere” that you describe. You make it sound as if all American households, like you, cozy up in their Barcelona chairs with their laptops and, between sips of their macchiatos, catch up on all the daily election musings on Huffington Post, Dailykos, Politico or Slate.
You make it seem like Americans can even recognize satire. If they don’t know what’s going on or what the issues are, just how will they know it when they see it? I hope you yourself aren’t playing the “elitist” card (which you accused Tapper of yesterday) by suggesting that only New Yorker readers will get this – along with those witty cartoons inside each issue.
Get real. You give far too much credit to the ability of the average American voter to keep with what is said about Obama, or at least discern what is true or not. Newsweek came out with a poll today about how a sizable part of the American public, somewhere in the 30 percentiles, believes that Obama is Muslim (he is not) or that he follows the Koran (he does not), and we know that Obama has had to counter a lot of untruths like these throughout his campaign. There are even websites devoted to respond to or quell all these smears.
You, David Remnick, want to us all to wallow in this some more. You want to perpetuate more lies about Obama that nutcases have invented and keep that misinformation pumping to the masses, on to the loudmouth Chris Matthews or Keith Olberman shows this afternoon, for example. And in so doing you have only cheapened the political and social discourse in this country, or at least momentarily.
Who cares about real issues when we have magazine covers to debate? What American who received a foreclosure notice today or who has money locked up in Indy Mac is going to set aside all those real, potential and personal calamities to steal a brief laugh from this magazine cover? Surely you jest.
This isn’t even a class thing. I’m not saying that the working class out there in Pennsylvania or Ohio don’t care what upper East Side types think as they come home from work each day. (OK, they don’t). But to somehow hide, like a schoolgirl playing hide-and-seek, under the specious shelter that it’s only satire and people will get it only proves how far apart you are from the very political pulse your magazine professes to know about so much.
Obama got into a lot of trouble for elitist comments he made in private earlier this year. He explained and owned up to what he said. I know you won’t do the same, but what would it take for you to admit this was all wrong to begin with? Looking back one day, will this issue really have been worth it?