To watch the contortions over that
New Yorker cover cartoon of the Obamas is to
understand whom it is impermissible to offend in the
America of 2008.
cartoon is a caricature of Michelle as an
urban terrorist in an Angela Davis afro with an
AK-47 slung over her back and a bandoleer of ammo in the
Oval Office doing a fist-bump with a Barack decked
out in turban and
Muslim garb. On the wall hangs a portrait of
Osama bin Laden. Blazing away in the fireplace is
the American flag.
"President Obama and First Lady—as Seen From the
Right-Wing Point of View" might have been the caption.
Phil Klein of American Spectator
"This cartoon is intended to make fun of
conservatives as ignorant racists and essentially
marginalize any criticism of Obama as moronic."
Unfortunately for the New Yorker, the cartoon
misfired. Blow-ups are likely to be as pandemic in
right-wing dorms this fall as were posters of
"Che" Guevara in left-wing dorms in the
Indeed, to a goodly slice of the media, this cartoon
is no joking matter.
Michelle and Barack had been dissed!
For 48 hours, editors Rick Hertzberg and David
Remnick fended off attacks, assuring media interrogators
the cartoon`s purpose was not to satirize the Obamas but
to satirize the caricature of Michelle and Barack in the
mind of the paranoid right. Remnick
insisted to The Huffington Post, "It`s not a
satire about Obama—it`s a satire about the distortions
and misconceptions and prejudices about Obama."
Why did progressives recoil? Because the more savvy
among them sense that, like much humor, this cartoon was
an exaggeration that contained no small kernel of
After all, Barack did dump the flag pin. Michelle did
say she had
never been proud of her country before now. Barack
did don that Ali Baba outfit in Somalia. His father
and stepfather were Muslims. He does have a benefactor,
Bill Ayers, who
said after 9-11 he
regrets not planting more bombs in the 1960s. He did
pastor who lionizes
Black Muslim Minister Louis Farrahkhan. Put glasses
on him, and Barack could play
Malcolm X in the
And assume the point of the cartoon had been to
satirize the Obamas. Why would that have been so
Journalists, after all, still celebrate
Herblock, the cartoonist who portrayed
Richard Nixon with the body of a rat climbing out of a
Bill Clinton is
still denounced as a racist for saying Barack`s
claim to have been consistent on Iraq was a
"fairy tale" and for
comparing his South Carolina primary victory to Jesse
Hillary Clinton has been compared to the sex-starved
Glenn Close character in "Fatal Attraction." George
verbal gaffes are endlessly panned by late-night
comics and Comedy Central. But Barack gets the
special-ed treatment. Our first affirmative action
The New Yorker made a "damn-fool decision,"
George Lockwood, a lecturer on journalistic ethics.
David West of
Brookings wailed to USA Today of the cartoon:
"It`s the mass media at its worst. It perpetuates
false information, and it`s highly inflammatory. … It
gives credibility to what`s been circulating for months,
and that`s what makes it dangerous." [Mag
satire panned; depicts Obamas as Muslim, terrorist,
By Jill Lawrence, July 14, 2008 ]
But dangerous to whom? Again, it is only a cartoon.
Barack called the cartoon
"an insult against Muslim Americans."
His campaign called it "tasteless and offensive."
That they are miffed is understandable. After all, 12
percent of Americans think Barack took his oath on the
Koran, 26 percent think he was raised a Muslim, and 39
percent think he went to a madrassa.
Yet, the reaction of our cultural elites is the more
interesting and instructive.
For it suggests that Obama is an untouchable to be
protected. As an African-American, he is not to be
treated the same as other politicians. Remnick and
Hertzberg obviously felt intense moral pressure to
remove any suspicion that they had satirized the Obamas.
No problem, however, if they were mocking the American
Bottom line: If you wish to stay in the good graces
of the cultural elite, don`t mess with Michelle and
On display here is not only the sensitivity of the
Obama folks to portrayals of him as a radical, but the
sensitivity—the naked fear—of an elite magazine that it
might be perceived as lending aid and comfort
to any who would dare question the nobility and
patriotic ardor of the Obamas.
If conservatives allow such a media to determine the
weapons they may use and to limit the terrain upon which
they are to be permitted to fight,
they will lose this election. They have to peel the
bark off Barack.
As for the New Yorker, it emerges from the
episode as not just unheroic, but just another magazine
desperate not to offend its readership or the people
whose approbation it seeks as the measure of its moral
CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.
Patrick J. Buchanan
no introduction to VDARE.COM readers;
his book State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America, can be ordered from Amazon.com. His latest book
Hitler, and "The Unnecessary War": How Britain Lost Its
Empire and the West Lost the World,
Paul Craig Roberts.