Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Cartoonists' President and Analysts Say New Yorker Can't Distinguish Huh? from Duh

As soon as I saw the New Yorker's July 21st cover cartoon yesterday, my first thought was that its creators and publishers have watched too many episodes of Saturday Night Live. In recent years the NBC program, which used to epitomize the best of American satire, has all but lost the ability to distinguish good satire from self-important tripe that few knowledgeable viewers find satirical. I thought sadly: Not the New Yorker too!

So it did my heart good this morning to read that Nick Anderson, the Houston Chronicle's editorial cartoonist and President of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists, faults the controversial July 21st cover of the New Yorker magazine as at once too obvious and too unclear. He says the cartoon insulted readers' intelligence "by merely depicting what the whisper campaigns have been suggesting," and failed to clearly reach the level of good satire because "it's not sufficiently over the top."

In the same Houston Chronicle analysis, Larry Sabato and Garth Jowett, experts on mass media and pop culture at the University of Virginia and the University of Houston respectively, also say the satire fell flat. Both felt the cover could be seen as confirming the most negative stereotypes about Barack and Michelle Obama.

Said Jowett: "Ninety percent of the people looking at the magazine cover are not going to see the satire. I think the magazine staff made a mistake. They were too clever by half. They were so smart they out-smarted themselves."

In an ironic twist, the Muslim Public Affairs Council even got it right. In a protest letter to the New Yorker, they characterized the cover as "playing into the worst fear of voters" and said "the image is not thought-provoking, it's just hate-provoking or fear-provoking."

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