I'm not the only person writing about this week’s New Yorker cover. Just about every reporter, pundit, columnist and blogger who make politics part of their beat have or will have their say. If your jaw didn’t drop when you saw it the first time, you’re not paying attention.
The cover is shocking, incendiary and will be propaganda fodder for America’s right wing for the rest of this campaign. It will empower the anti-Obama and anti-Democratic Party fringe, and the dolts among the electorate will believe as some already do.
Let us be clear: The cover is not ironic, it is not satire - as those who defend it will insist. It is race- and religion-baiting directed at the black, Christian presidential candidate that will reinforce the belief among the less intellectually endowed among us into believing that Senator Barack Obama is a Muslim racist with a neo-Black Panther wife who hate the U.S. enough to burn the flag in the fireplace of the Oval Office. Good god, how many fear-mongering symbols can be crammed into one caricature.
This is the most crucial election in the lifetime of any American alive and unlike many in the past, there are real ideological differences between the two presumptive candidates. We are deciding, in November, the nature of the future of the United States in a time when just about every facet of our government, even the Constitution itself, is frayed or broken. What we desperately need is intelligent commentary on these issues and not a derogatory, false depiction of slimy rumors that have been making the rounds of the internet underground for months.
For more than 50 years, the New Yorker has been my favorite weekly subscription. Its focus and intelligence have declined in the past decade or so - which would be apparent to more people if it were formatted differently – and I miss the in-depth profiles they stopped publishing a few years back. But I liked its range and leisurely pace. I don’t think there is another general interest magazine that is as good.
The real irony, unlike this week’s illustration, is that New Yorker covers have so often been clever, color commentary on current events – political, social and cultural – and always fun too. Many years ago when I lived in San Francisco, I wallpapered a dank, ugly, closet-like space in my apartment, containing only the toilet, with New Yorker covers because they always charmed me so.
For all that, I canceled my subscription yesterday. In the past, I have canceled or not renewed various subscriptions due to waning interest or the need to cut down the onslaught of reading material. But never the New Yorker and never any magazine due to content until now. In fact, I subscribe to a couple of magazines whose political views I find distasteful just to keep up with the opposition. Even they, however, don’t go as far as the New Yorker has this week, although they may now feel encouraged to do so.
I am already sad. I will miss Hendrik Hertzberg, Oliver Sachs, Seymour Hersh, Paul Goldberger and others, although I can read them online – maybe when I’m not so angry anymore.
Undoubtedly, a New Yorker spokesperson will, this week, apologize “for any misunderstanding” of the cover, saying it was meant as satire. Maybe, if the artist had put the caricature inside a TV screen with a Fox News logo, they could get away it. As it is, however, it endorses, supports and perpetuates repugnant, false rumor.
Losing my subscription will not, as Rick Blaine said, amount to a hill of beans in the New Yorker’s world. But sometimes a stand must be taken. Sometimes one must put their money where their mouth is to sleep at night.
[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Linda Davis imagines past lives of strangers in Sisters With Hankies.]