I’m changing my mind about the New Yorker magazine’s controversial Muslim cover. My first reaction was anger. How could the New Yorker, a liberal magazine, be so stupid! Visuals reinforce stereotypes.
But, if the goal really was to use satire to prick right wing myths being spread throughout the Web, it's beginning to work.
Consider the math. How many copies of the magazine were printed? A million? Now, how many millions more have seen the cover on TV, in the newspaper, on-line and in other magazines. Talk about a force multiplier. The country has been fixated on that cover for days.
And every one of those new viewers must have passing questions about the cover. Of course, some wingnuts will find concrete confirmation of their personal mythology. But millions more will at least be exposed to the Obama truths-and-lies. Time after time, political commentators will now add, “He’s not a Muslim” to their stylebook. It might even sink in.
Barack Obama is a tough target for comedy. I can’t think of a single laugh line to tag him with. It’s tough on everybody. In her NYTimes column today, Maureen Dowd reports the best Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert could come up with was, in unison: “His dad was a goat-herder.”
Where does Obama get his protection? Conservative whites say they don't want to be painted as a racist if they criticize Obama. Fair enough.
But I think Obama's shield comes from the audience, black and white. They just flat don’t want to hear cheap shots about this articulate, smart, savvy, handsome young man who can walk on political water. And white comics are afraid to risk the rejection. I wonder if black comedians are reluctant, too? Doubtful.
How do we get a “take” on Obama? I don’t know. But I agree with Ms. Dowd, he is in danger of becoming seen as an intellectual priss.
I hope Obama will loosen up. I hope America will loosen up. We need a laugh now and then. Especially after the last eight years of The Bumbling Cowboy and his faithful companion, Mr. Vader.