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Is the New Yorker's Muslim Obama cover incendiary or satire?

There are always at least two sides to everything in politics. The up-side for Barack Obama of the persistent controversy over the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's black militancy and racist sermons was that it sure drove home the point to millions of thinking voters that the Illinois senator was attending a Christian church, which countered the even-more persistent online rumors about Obama being Muslim.

Remember the native costume photo that was or was not promulgated by the Hillary Clinton campaign way back when she thought she had a chance to win the nomination? It's still going around online.

But now comes another unwelcome development for Obama's camp.

The satirical cover of the New Yorker magazine for the issue of 7-21-08

The cover of this week's New Yorker magazine depicts Obama in one-piece Muslim garb and headdress fist-bumping his booted, Afro-wearing wife Michelle in camo clothes with an AK-47 and ammo-belt slung over her shoulder beneath a portrait of Osama bin-Laden while the American flag burns in the fireplace -- in the presidential Oval Office.

It's got everything incendiary except a vest bomb. Which is what should telegraph to most people that it's way over-the-top and, therefore, satire.

But politicians don't like satire because it's subject to differing interpretations.

Obama declined comment today, seeking not to elevate its importance. But, in a move that certainly drew more attention to a commercial decision with no hope of changing it, his campaign issued a statement by Bill Burton which Mike Allen of reported as, "“The New Yorker may think, as one of their staff explained to us, that their cover is a satirical lampoon of the caricature Sen. Obama's right-wing critics have tried to create. But most readers will see it as tasteless and offensive. And we agree."

The McCain campaign immediately e-mailed a similar statement from Tucker Bounds: “We completely agree with the Obama campaign, it’s tasteless and offensive.”

Of course, the McCain people must say that, despite some staff no doubt chuckling behind closed doors over their opponent's new challenge. That's the problem with satire. A lot of people won't get the joke. Or won't want to. And will use it for non-humorous purposes, which isn't the New Yorker's fault.

A problem is there's no caption on the cover to ensure that everyone gets the ha-ha-we've-collected-almost-every-cliched-rumor-about-Obama-in-one-place-in-order-to--make-fun-of-them punchline.

So you'll no Mylantadoubt see this image making the internet rounds in coming months by people who don't want to see the satire. And won't include the magazine's press release saying, "“On the cover of the July 21, 2008, issue of The New Yorker, in ‘The Politics of Fear,’ artist Barry Blitt satirizes the use of scare tactics and misinformation in the presidential election to derail Barack Obama’s campaign.”

In that issue is a non-satirical piece by Ryan Lizza about Obama's political start in Chicago. The Chicago Tribune respected columnist Clarence Page, an African American, said he found the cover "quite within the normal bounds of journalism."

Little doubt the incendiary magazine cover accomplished its intent of attracting attention on an otherwise slow-news summer Sunday. It'll probably sell more magazines too. And more Mylanta for the Obama offices.

--Andrew Malcolm

(By the way here's the actual article that goes with this satirical/incendiary cover. Warning: It's very long.)

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Are we as a country so simple minded and debased in our education to not know this as satire? Whoever can't grasp the irony here either doesn't read The New Yorker or doesn't read. Come on people...GROW UP!

If this were a satire of straight white christian males, I'd be saying: LIGHT UP, DUDE! HAVEN'T YOU HEARD OF THE 1st AMENDEMENT? However, this cartoon lampoons persons of color. Therefore, the editors and illustrator should be charged with a hate crime since they rape and lynch people of color as straight white christian males (who control the media) have been doing for eons up to the present time in irredeemably racist ameriKKKa.

I too am canceling my New Yorker subscription. Which is probably just as well because I never understood most of it anyway. Come on, people, those cartoons make no sense whatsoever and the articles, well, I always found them way to loooooong. And boring. They just think they're better than everyone else.

When was Michelle accused of being a gun caring terrorist? When was the fact that she straightens her hair attacked?

Being racist and defending it as satire is absurd. I can think back to a nice piece on NPR by three white people talking about how it was okay to be "sexist" but not racist in the media. PLEASE.

It would be nice if a paper like the LA TIMES could have some gumption and talk about how in modern times playing on racist imagery is not appropriate.

The cover was inappropriate, in bad taste, and NOT AT ALL funny. A mind is a terrible thing to waste, and this artist and editor were WASTED!!!!!

This country is founded on Freedom of Speech but at a time 1 in 10 Americans think Barack is a Muslim, this cartoon shows the lack of ethics and insensitivity of the editor. I understand the average reader of the New Yorker may get the cartoon but now that the World has seen this image, will confirm America's distrust of Muslims. We know the media went along with this War because of the money it would generate and probably why the New Yorker decided to run that cover! You woulld think after being used by the administration to promote fear in the American people, the New Yorker would of learned it's lesson. Obviously, the editor was more concerned about selling magazines and this cover plays right along with what the Bush administration has been doing since they arrived in office, spreading FEAR! Even worst, portraying all Muslims as terrorist, at a time the World needs to heal from the reckless foreign policy of this administration!

well i don't think this cover illustration would be a problem if there weren't people who actually believed the rumors about Sen. Obama. I think the reason that the Obama campaign is flipping out about this issue is because it's distracting the Independents and Republicans they are targeting from the real issues. I understand the New Yorker's position on this and I think it's very unfortunate for their message to have gotten so blown out of proportion. But having said that, the New Yorker should "know its audience" and face the fact that some people are actually stupid enough to believe these ridiculous rumors.


well i don't think this cover illustration would be a problem if there weren't people who actually believed the rumors about Sen. Obama. I think the reason that the Obama campaign is flipping out about this issue is because it's distracting the Independents and Republicans they are targeting from the real issues. I understand the New Yorker's position on this and I think it's very unfortunate for their message to have gotten so blown out of proportion. But having said that, the New Yorker should "know its audience" and face the fact that some people are actually stupid enough to believe these ridiculous rumors.


guess what, dawg (and others) - it IS satire pointed at straight white Christian (mostly) males, like the conservatieve bloggers and FOX News and everyone else promulgating these baseless rumors about Obama. But I guess having to point that out is exactly why there's this ridiculous uproar.

If Obama is to be President, he should be less thin skinned. He will be the butt of many jokes and cartoons. Just as every President and Presidential hopeful before him. Was the cartoon in poor taste???Everyone has their right to their opinion of this. Was it freedom of speech? again, everyone has their own opinion, that is what makes us Americans. I feel the more dignified approach would be no reaction. Anyone with half a brain knows that Obama and his wife are not like that, give Americans credit for having enough brains to know the difference.

Michelle is accused of being a black militant aka the black pather party.


How about a cartoon of David Remnick as a hetero sniper trying to decide who to shoot at first. Mr. or Mrs.

Please see my visual suggestion for the New Yorker. The cover only lacks context:

The problem with the cover is it is a visual. Remember how a picture is supposed to be worth a thousand words?This idiotic cartoon goes over the top in putting all the nasty prejudices together into one picture. It is the sum or all the evil lies rolled into in one visual that will stick in the minds of the Obama haters. Satire--hah! The New Yorker has done more to scuttle Obama than any of his enemies.

I understand that a fatwah has just been issued by the Obama camp that states that David Remnick nuts should be cut off.

I think the New Yorker should apologize at the very least for depicting him that way...Help me force an apology or else:

This is a cartoon for cryin out loud. Obama's reaction to this only proves his "victim mentality" and his "hopes" for Americans to be like minded "victims" (maybe this is the change he used to talk about all the time). NO WAY! This cover is very funny and anyone who doesn't "get it" probably was not going to vote for him know....““Gun-Toting, Bible Thumping, Bitter People”....I'm shocked that he used the word "people" in the statement.....usually he refers to those "beneath him" as "folks". He is so self righteous...what an idiot. The media continues to coddle him because he can't win on his own creditials becasue he doesn't have any. What did he have....about 145 days as a Jr. Senator before running for President....? He is a joke.

The cover is in absoute poor taste. It provokes fear in some, and solidifies a notion in the minds of others that both Obamas will overthrow the nation by militant or terroristic means. I find it especially distasteful since we have just celebrated another national birthday on the heels of some very historic happenings - a run-off between a woman and an African American male, both of whom represent constituencies who were not in the notion of "Of, For and By the People." Shame on the New Yorker!!

I have to respond to jmc's emotional response. The only people that are explaining it are the ones who say they get it...but want to see something there that isn't there. The cover is so funny! If you haven't read the article you have your panties in a wad over nothing and shows your support for Obama is based on emotion and not knowledge of your candidate.

Poor taste! Whether you get it or not... Whether you were gonna vote for Obama or not...the cover was tacky. This country is sooooooooo sad. Shame on the New Yorker!

Michelle Obama should be ashamed.

"GLORK" Michelle Obama should be ashamed of her separatist-racist connection to Farrakhan and Chicago's Trinity United Church trumpeting Barack Obama AKA Barack Hussein Obama as the second coming of the messiah. Beneath that Darth-Vader-Mace-Windu-Jedi-Me ssiah Helmet Hairdo of Michelle Obama lurks a Wildabeast. If Michelle Obama new what her husband -- the Hope-A-Dope, Fonster Monster -- Barack Obama AKA Barack Hussein Obama did in Harlem, she would wash her wide-open, Hus-suey loving MUSILM mouth out, with twenty-four (24) mule-team double-cross X-boX-BorraX. The Lexis-Nexis-Albatross-Abacus-Complex of Barack and Michelle's relationship with MUSLIM "PATWANG-FWEEE" Rev. Wright, Louis Farrakhan, and black demagoguery of Obama's Stump Lines Echo Malcolm X; is about as much of a Hoax as Oxfam volunteers believe in HIV-- AIDS Witch Doctors in Africa they feed.
"God damn America" - Jeremiah Wright and Barack Obama.
"God bless America" - Pope Benedict XVI and Hillary Clinton --
Michelle Obama AKA Wildabeast -- failed the Illinois Bar Exam. If Barack Obama had married Shaniqua instead of the leftist-separatist-racist-beast-'ist Michelle, his jackanapes' excitedly-fixed-elitism, Nemet-Oure-Saxas Our Father Our King -- black rage, and "GLORK" black demagoguery of Obama's Stump Lines Echo Malcolm X; would be taken a lot more expeditiously. Its expected that Obam will manage his explosive MUSLIM JIHADI -- FATIMA EXTREMISM obsession bitter. He is a MUSLIM "Glork" It’s time to introduce this false, fake "GLORK" Xerox - X box Obama and invite the self-indicting thief plagiarizing pipsqueke Xerox - X box to meet the Buffalo "GAZOWNT-GAZIKKA" Police Department Buffalo Creek. He's MAD!!!

Well, I underestimated the need for Obama to fend off these "Muslim" attacks. I assumed it would be better for him to stop mentioning it, but I was unaware that so many people still think he is. To be sure, all Muslims should not be considered "terrorists," and the mainstream media doesn't do a great job of that.

One example of an even-handed treatment of the issue is a film I've worked on called "Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West." This documentary came out two years ago, and makes a point not to cast Muslims in a negative light; rather, it focuses on those individuals who have "strayed" from the core values and tenets of the faith.

To paint a picture of a group of people - particularly the political opposition - as hate-mongers is unfair and misplaced. Perhaps this cover, with all his potentially offensive meanings, may turn this debate into a more reasoned one.

I don't buy for one minute the Obama / muslim connection. He is a socialist, not an Islamist so that part is I think satirical. However the cartoon captured the real Michelle Obama. That the rifle she is wearing is a Kalashnikov, the very emblem of anti-American forces the world over fits her perfectly. Her hatred for America is exceeded only by her militancy, which is why she is no longer being seen on the campaigh trail. In her defense at least she is honest about her feelings, unlike her chameleon husband.

If the Obama campaign does not view the cover of the New Yorker as satire, they have no business expecting Americans to support Obama.

Obama tells his followers that anyone who opposes him is a Republican and/or a racist and that they are lying. I am so tired of that Bla, bla, bla.

Obama is hiding his lack of qualifications and his corruption behind his minority status at the expense of all legitimate minority efforts for equality.

Shame on you, Barack Obama!

Regarding the cover, the McCain camp denounced it. Considering the cover sums up what is on the Internet about Obama and his wife, the cover can help cause all such discussions about Obama be put into the land of tin foil hats and kookiness. That is a good thing for the Obama camp, particularly if it leads to almost all people thinking it is nuts.

Ok. You know what? This is getting really frustrating.

If you have not any New Yorker besides the one with the Obama cover, PLEASE DO NOT COMMENT ON HOW UN-WITTY OR UN-FUNNY IT IS. HONESTLY.

Why you would post one a comment somewhere without any background in what you are bashing is just mind-boggling.

" Why I Won't Vote For Barack "Hussain" Obama"

The first time I heard Barack "Hussain" Obama campaign against Hillary Clinton I cringed and thought to myself what a radical. His words combined with his looks ignite and fuel unrest amoung the loony left of the Democrtic Party.

Obama speaks from both sides of his mouth depending on whom and where he delivers his message. His association with the Reverand Wright, Tony Resco and Bill Aires are awful troubling.

Obama tries to tie himself to the late Martin Luther King who in my opinion was a radical himself. When King spoke he insited riots. I kow I lived in that era.

I was born and raised in Ohio during the 60's and experienced the ransacking, burglary and burning of my mothers home. While I slept, the blacks threw molotoff coctails into the kithen window and by luck they did'nt ignite before I awoke.

This is why I can't vote for Obama and urge all to support the MCCAIN/PALIN ticket.

does it matter if he is a muslim
either way he's still a great canidate
i mean its 2008 its the 21st century
camon! racism should be dead by now stuck up stereo types keep pasing it down to their kids they need to chill

Sorry but I went to church last night and missed Obama's TV infomercial. I would say I also have missed all of his press conferences for the last month but then again the Liberal messiah has not given any press conferences. Isn't it funny how so many of our media can't publish enough glowing aticles about the chosen one yet have no press conferences for over 30 days. Is this a pre-packaged product or what? America and its media are buying a real load of maure. What will get fertilized and grow? Now that makes for a really scary halloween!

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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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