Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Obama’s magazine cover – lessons to be learned

On the cover of its latest issue, the satirical magazine The New Yorker published a cartoon of Mr. & Mrs Obama.
The presidential hopeful is depicted as a Muslim while his wife-unit is dressed in army fatigues with an AK-47 slung over her shoulder, bearing a fleeting resemblance to Angela Davis.
OBL looks down at the fist-greeting couple from his portrait on the wall.

In conservative America, it created a media storm of tsunami proportions. In a time of economic recession and Iran’s war games, the US media and bloggers alike pounced on the story like a cat on mouse. Go figure.

The Obama camp shouted foul and McCain, who needs to be PC even if it kills him, pompously announced (via his spokesman Tucker Bounds by e-mail) that “we completely agree with the Obama campaign, it’s tasteless and offensive.”
Well, he could hardly say anything else, could he?
In the cartoon, various concerns about Obama’s background are shown.
  • About 10 per cent of US voters believe Mr O. to be Muslim because of his childhood ties to the religion through his Kenyan father and Indonesian stepfather.
    Having Hussein as a middle name doesn’t help, nor did the crazy remarks of his connections Rev. Jeremiah Wright and former terrorist William Ayers.
  • Michelle O. has made some anti-patriotic remarks (or remarks perceived as critical of her native country) about the US in the past. The fact that she comes across as a hard-nosed career woman and not as nearly as empathic as media darling Oprah works against her.
  • The fist bump was copied from the one they shared when he got the Democratic nomination in St. Paul, Minn. Hey, if you want to be cool and go for the dap, don’t be offended when its lampooned later on – you are in politics!
The New Yorker is known for its satirical magazine covers.
Its cover depicting President Bush being flooded in the Oval Office after Hurricane Katrina was chosen by a panel of US magazine editors and designers as the best cover of the year 2006.
The illustration shows the waters rising around Mr. Bush and his top appointees as the flood from New Orleans engulfs the White House, which was criticized for failing to respond promptly and fully to the disaster.
I do not remember a big brawl about that one, do you?
New Yorker editor David Remnick is defending the cover, stating that it “satirizes the use of scare tactics and misinformation in the Presidential election to derail Barack Obama’s campaign… It is meant to bring things out into the open, to hold up a mirror to the absurd. And that's the spirit of this cover."

Makes absolute sense to me!
As The Independent pointed out, The New Yorker seems to have "winkled out an essential truth about Barack Obama – he doesn't do satire".
And the same goes for gaggles of American commentators and bloggers who are outraged.
In my opinion, they are missing some important aspects.
  1. The cover reflects public concerns about Obama that he better address –fast.
    He wants to be elected, non? So inform your constituency (and the rest of the world) who you are and what you stand for!
  2. Being lampooned is part of political life, as Bush 2.0 and other world leaders can vouch for. So is you want to stay in the political kitchen, learn to take the heat.
    Talk to Bill Clinton – he turned it into an art.
  3. Every American will proudly proclaim to the world how great his/her country’s freedom of the press is.
    (Not to be confused with freedom from the press - this entails celebrities being protected from pesky paparazzi).
    But as soon as it impacts our American’s personal sensibilities, it seems to be a different story.
    Please, be more European and lighten up.
    To get some practice: watch Red Eye w/Greg Gutfeld at least 3 times a week. His stay in the UK obviously did him a world of good.
In the end, it is The New Yorker which is laughing all the way to the bank.
In a time when the printed media are under tremendous pressure, the circulation of this issue must have gone trough the roof.

My advice to Obama: shrug it off with a smile - it will only ad to your appeal....
You will need a good sense of humor once you go head-to-head with McCaim - trust me, it's going to get ugly before you (providing you beat your senior citizen opponent) are sworn in.