kasey left another fantastic comment:
First off, wow–I just found out how much news coverage this thing is actually getting. I had no idea. I thought it was just some blog meme. Ridiculous.
Re: “soft satire”: I just don’t get it. What would be an example of art that is “itself” satirical, apart from any presentational context? Isn’t the whole definition of satire that it takes the form of a mirroring, a parodic representation of its target? And thus, isn’t all satire soft satire? I mean, what would “hard” satire be other than just a direct critique–i.e., not satire at all?
So, if that’s the objection–that all satire in and of itself is always offensive, because it necessarily just holds up a mirror rather than somehow “smashing” it, then OK. I don’t agree, but at least I understand the position. But that can’t be your position, can it?
A friend called me in the middle of writing this comment and brought up a problem that I do think is real: in a country with so many stupid people (I mean people who really can’t tell it’s satire at all, the same people who think Stephen Colbert is really a Republican), the cover does potentially damage Obama’s campaign just by bringing so much attention to the accusations against him in the first place, and thus making said stupid people more nervous that Obama really might be a terrorist or something. And that’s so sad I can’t even talk about it.
–Stephen Colbert is not really a Republican!!! next you’re gonna tell me that Jon Stewart is not an investigatory journalist!!!
to clarify: my position is that there is satire in which its satiric qualities exist within the content itself. this kind of satire is usually not offensive (unless it’s trying to be). soft satire is satire that relies on its context for its satiric qualities. for example, nothing in the content of Blitt’s comic is a “parodic representation of its target”–it’s simply a presentation of its targets. this makes his comic offensive because it simply presents offensive targets.
what strikes me odd about a lot of the discussion is the question on whether or not the cover is Satire OR Offensive. well, it’s BOTH. the fact that many people find the comic offensive and many people find it satirical seems to prove the point.
Speaking of investigatory journalism, thanks to Gary for linking to these two clips: again, they prove the point:
also wanted to draw up pam’s insightful comment, which i hope people will perhaps respond to (i know i will!!!–soon):
hmm…i’m not really sure quite what to make of this yet. on the one hand, this is a new yorker cover, and new yorker covers, increasingly over the past couple years, have been edited with a kind of quick “double-take” satire in mind, assuming that the typical blue state liberal elitist reader will first glance at the literal image in horror and be forced to do a double-take, scour their memory of recent media/pop-culture events for a moment until they locate the obejct of satire (in this case lamo rightwing commentary on the “radical” fist bump on fox, was it?), so that they can relax, settle back with a smile of mild bemusement at having “gotten” the joke, rendering the once-threatening image harmless, cute even.
the object of satire always resides outside the frame of the new yorker cover (except perhaps, cf. the earlier double-take “eustace tillarobama” cover of the anniversary issue showing mirror images of hillary & obama in dandy white man drag, where the objects are both outside the frame (close-shave Democratic contest involving unconventional candidates w/respect to gender & race) and inside the frame itself (the dandy character pulled in year after year for this special issue)); the challenge of locating the object outside the frame is one of the ways the new yorker habitually winks at its readers through puzzles, like “here’s a test to see if you’re smart enough to read this magazine.”
so in this sense the blitt cover does successfully achieve what it sets out to do. there’s a clear one-to-one correspondence between the image and the object it seeks to satirize, and this correspondence is obvious enough to be gotten in a moment. in this sense too, it differs from flarf, the frisson of which largely depends on the indeterminancy of which object or objects are being satirized, as well as the indeterminancy of how & when these objects cease to be mere objects and become the voice or subject or aesthetic content of the poem itself.
so i don’t think the new yorker cover technically fails as satire, at least within the narrow parameters that it’s set up for itself and assumes its readers will abide by.
where i think the discussion gets interesting, and what i think critics of the piece are essentially drawing their objections on, is *why* this particular instance of satire at this time, and why be satisfied with the level of satire it performs at this time? barbara has a point, i think, when she critiques the cover for not going far enough, particularly in the context of liberal bunglings of racial politics. is race destined to manifest as a topic in this presidential election in only the crudest, most cliched terms imaginable, even in the midst of a purported critique of these very terms?
also, as somewhat of a side note, i look at the historical black panther photos in barbara’s post and want to think about pop culture’s drive to neutralize, kitschify, and cutify certain images of 60s/70s racialized radicalism. the black power salute at the 1968 mexico city olympics endlessly replicated, warhol-like, on silkscreened t-shirts and hemp purses to be worn by pierced teens shopping for tunes at amoeba records. michelle’s coy afro-bob head tilt being a lite version of an already lite-ening movement afoot to render these images “harmless” by stripping them of their political meaning and disconnecting them from the concrete systemic inequalities that continue to exist today.
ah, but i don’t want to be taking this cover so seriously! i won’t be canceling my subscription anytime soon; the new yorker is what it is with all its limitations, a purveyor of complacent left-bourgeois sensibilities on the one hand, an anything-but-complacent vehicle for certain journalists & critics on the other hand. the art editors prescribe looking outside the frame for meaningful content. critics of this cover prescribe looking a few degrees beyond that for more meaningful, and often overlooked, content.