Monday, July 14, 2008

The New Yorker Cover: Satire or Parody?

I hesitate to give this cover anymore 'coverage' than it already has. But it's out there, so there's outrage that needs to be talked about.

There's satire. And then, there's parody.

Satire: sat·ire Audio Help /?sæta??r/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[sat-ahyuhr] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation
  1. the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like, in exposing, denouncing, or deriding vice, folly, etc.
  2. a literary composition, in verse or prose, in which human folly and vice are held up to scorn
  3. derision, or ridicule. a literary genre comprising such compositions.
Parody: par·o·dy Audio Help /?pær?di/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[par-uh-dee] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation noun, plural -dies, verb, -died, -dy·ing.
  1. a humorous or satirical imitation of a serious piece of literature or writing: his hilarious parody of Hamlet's soliloquy.
  2. the genre of literary composition represented by such imitations.
  3. a burlesque imitation of a musical composition.
  4. any humorous, satirical, or burlesque imitation, as of a person, event, etc.
  5. the use in the 16th century of borrowed material in a musical setting of the Mass (parody Mass).
  6. a poor or feeble imitation or semblance; travesty: His acting is a parody of his past greatness.
  7. –verb (used with object)
  8. to imitate (a composition, author, etc.) for purposes of ridicule or satire.
  9. to imitate poorly or feebly; travesty.

Which is it?

Whichever it is, it pulls out all of the stops for the Republican bigotry machine.

Here's a list of zingers from BAGnewsNotes:
  1. Set in an Oval Office the revolutionaries have cleared of the desk (because revolutionaries don't do desks, so much as lairs), the self congratulations -- especially at this early, pre-convention stage of the campaign -- ascribes a massive sense of entitlement to the Obamas.

  2. Minus the eye contact of the actual fist bump in St. Paul (and adding the arched eyebrows), Angela Davis Obama's expression is transformed from "I love you" to "You're SUCH an evil genius, baby ... and no one ever caught on!"

  3. Besides Barack's pursed lips -- which have turned into code in the MSM for this arrogant (read: "uppity") black man -- the most damning element in this illustration, by far, is Obama's eye. The furtiveness lends the perfect Machiavellian effect, and the fact it's directed our way suggests we should really know better what this guy is up to.

  4. Of course, the gun, the ammo clip, the cammo pants and the crossed legs (like crossed fingers) suggest what an angry, war-like creature Michelle is.

  5. It's not just that Old Glory is on fire ("thank Allah I can finally toss that damn pin!"), the crumpled flag at floor level is reminiscent of the flag good old Bill Ayers was stepping on.
I am appalled! Why, when we finally have the conservative elites circling their wagons and taking their last-ditch stand, do the liberal elites still insist on lining up our firing squad in a circle? Can any body explain that to me?

24 Moderated Comments:

Blogger Vigilante said...

Yeah, I was against you publishing on this, Emily, as you know. But good job! Important issues are raised. My take is that 2008 is too important for fun & games. In the war of good vs. McBusheney, satire is fucked.

(Pay attention, Stella!)

7/14/2008 08:07:00 PM  
Blogger Kentucky Rain said...

Was it really necessary to reprint the cover?? The dull and ignorant do not need to see it even one more time. Let Cnn, Faux News and MSNBC make an issue of it.

7/14/2008 09:03:00 PM  
Blogger DB Cooper said...

Emily, which is being more 'elitist'? The New Yorker's editor, David Remnic selecting and publishing David Remnic's cover? Or Mad Mike suggesting that the "The dull and ignorant" won't understand it for what it is?

This question I pose without malice.

7/14/2008 09:33:00 PM  
Blogger Doc Demento said...

Ask also, who are the liberals who agree to appear on Faux news? Like Jesse Jackson?

7/14/2008 10:06:00 PM  
Blogger Doc Demento said...

And, look into this so-called Nation Against Insensitivity in Voting and Elections (NAIVE) Leaders Suzanne Birkenstock (23) and Walter Crocs (24) have decided that Obama should be gracious in victory, and agree to seek only a small margin of victory over Sen. John Sidney McCain III, the presumptive Republican nominee. Birkenstock emphasized her group does not want McCain to win, just that he shouldn’t be humiliated in defeat.

It sounded unfair to me that one person running for president could have such a lopsided victory over the other person. It smacks of ‘piling on’,... Anyone who remembers going through grade school covered in dodgeball welts can appreciate the importance of not piling on... There is nothing wrong with being less popular, NAIVE merely wants the less popular candidate to be treated fairly.... Too much in our country is about popularity. Well, look at where that relentless pursuit of popularity has taken us... The Democratic Party stands for fairness. What better way to live that promise, than to avoid humiliating your opponent in 49-state electoral college sweep? That’s the NAIVE philosophy, so much respect for our adversaries that we want them to have a fighting chance.

Other NAIVE strategies are to promote a policy of inclusion for independent and third party presidential candidates Ralph Nader, Bob Barr (Libertarian) and Cynthia McKinney (Green).

7/14/2008 10:06:00 PM  
Blogger Emily said...

Doc, here's an article in the same vein as NAIVE: Obama, McCain agree on many once-divisive issues in the Sunday LA Times.

7/14/2008 10:30:00 PM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

Speaking as one afflicted with an incurable (but not terminal) case of Bush Derangement Syndrome (BDS), I say the only question is, will Obama beat Bush III as bad as he should. I want a fucking tsunami-sized landslide. Anything less will not administer a sufficient repudiation of Busheney to satisfy me. Without a point-spread, I would bet the farm against McCain.

But those in the media (New Yorker types) are conspiring against the interests of the American people which lie in the direction of a 49-state electoral repudiation of unilateralism, militarism and authoritarianism. They want to make it a horse race. They, as in the article above, want to make night and day appear like the twilight zone. That is truly NAIVE.

7/14/2008 10:47:00 PM  
Blogger Blogging4Food said...

My favorite headlines:

Call it the attack of the Jonathan Swiftboaters.

Barack Obama magazine flap shows an irony deficiency

A Modest Proposal: Dealing with the New Yorker Aftermath

Chill out, everybody!

7/15/2008 06:51:00 AM  
Blogger Bob Keller said...

vigilante.... The cure for Bush Derangement Syndrome? Take two aspirin and call me November 10th.

I think it's best not to over-react to a pro-Obama magazine runnng a pro-Obama cover.

Here we have a magazine with an overwhelming pro-Obama agenda. The sweetheart piece between the covers all but coronates the new King.

And, in their zeal to both promote Obama and skewer Obama's tin foil hat opponents, The New Yorker created a parody cover (Emily certainly called that one right) that was so "over the top" it actually failed to work. It was a dud.

Their intentions were good; their execution sucked.

Will the cover hurt Obama? Certainly not! Will "red state conservatives" miss the joke? Nope, a quick run through of the leading blogs shows they all got it.

Ahhhh... but the over-reaction of the Obama campaign and his legion of followers who can only tolerate satire or parody aimed at the right, has solidified conservative's view that Obama and his followers are elitist cry-babies, hardly ready for rough and tumble Washington.

If you think the New Yorker cover was tough... just wait until he is elected.

7/15/2008 07:23:00 AM  
Blogger Utah Savage said...

Vig, I agree with you completely. I too want a landslide victory, so no one has the slightest chance to say it was rigged. I just put in my two cents worth at Slate. Now I'll have my espresso and biscotti. Looking forward to the sherry and cigar later in the day. We elites seem to be losing our sense of humor. But damn it, this one matters. I do believe a 10 p.m. curfew will cramp the style of many of us if Bush lll is the coming thing. Not me so much. After Bush got his second term, I just retired to my small gated compound with the guard dog watching over the territory, scaring the menfolk. It's peaceful, but a bit boring. I quit any serious banking long ago. Now I hide my assets for my 2 A. M. getaway for the Canadian border, with my Margaret Attword and my Leonard Cohen on the passenger seat, praying they'll let me in.

7/15/2008 08:20:00 AM  
Blogger Kentucky Rain said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7/15/2008 12:03:00 PM  
Blogger Stella by Starlight said...

However, "The art of Satire consists of wielding so sharp a sword as to sever the head and leave the body standing." (John Dryden) I am paying attention: this cover is neither satire nor parody, but ignorant bludgeoning or perhaps lampooning. We must consider the differentiation between ignorance and satire, a form of humor that is rarely well done, particularly in politics.

Swift's satire played a significant role in helping Ireland. The Drapier Letters served as a warning to the Irish people that England appointed William Wood to mint coin that the Irish could spend no where but England. Swift's pamphlet ensure that every Irish resident knew about the plot to bankrupt their country. The Wood patent was soundly defeated in Parliament, thanks to Swift.

Had Swift never written A Modest Proposal, Parliament would never have provided help to Ireland. In essence, Swift's satire ultimately saved lives.

I agree that the New Yorker cover is in extremely poor taste after browsing through some of the great writers above: and I am reminded how, with few exceptions, well-crafted satire is too rare in our country. Emily wrote an excellent article, and makes salient points, as always. Yet, political satire has an important place in a society of free speech.

I note irony in the fact that one of the greatest satirists in the 20th Century—Dorothy Parkder—was a political and literary satirist that served as editor for The New Yorker, in which she responded to news of Calvin Coolidge's death, "How can you tell?"

Mark Twain wrote political satire that greatly enlightened the people of this nation to political issues.

B4B's articles provided me with a lot of thought-provoking comments. Thanks, much for those. I find this comment, in particular, characteristic of modern American humor.

... satire isn't dead in America. It thrives on television, video and film. When "The Daily Show" [, The Simpsons, Countdown, and The Colbert Show, also] interviews supposedly unknowing politicians, forcing them to answer absurd and offensive questions in front of hundreds of thousands of viewers who have been let in on the joke, satire lives. There's nothing particularly earth-shaking in this revelation: Satire today plays better in the more dynamic medium of video, where everyone but the victim can be in on the joke as it unfolds.

Of course satire isn't dead, it's often ill-defined. The L.A. Times notes: We've already scratched thrift, candor and brevity off the list of virtues in this presidential cycle, so why not eliminate humor too?...And speaking of judgment, how is it that Obamites, who are justifiably furious over threats to civil liberties under the current administration, suddenly want to play censor when the 1st Amendment puts their man even remotely on the hot seat?...Instead of his terse no comment, he should have played one of his strongest cards—his cool—responding something like: "Hey, I thought Michelle looked pretty good in camouflage."

The writer's comment about the First Amendment is appropriate. I reassert the cover was in poor taste. However, had Obama responded tongue in cheek, hi might have gained votes and strengthened his position in the polls. Nothing endears people to a candidate better than a sense of humor about her/himself. Such a response would have generated more good will from the Obamas. I'd even bet the entire issue would have gone away. I would like to see The New Yorker do a similar cover for McBusheney.

Vig, you know I greatly respect you and Mike, but db has a good point about elitism. I'm glad Emily wrote this post: there are clear differences between this magazine cover and genuine satire. I, too, would have been happy not seeing its publication. Certainly, Emily, you raise some excellent issues.

Frankly, today, I'm more concerned about the Bush Executive Order demanding lifting the ban on off-short drilling, on which Congress must vote. Given the formidable, increased global warming, and apalling damage to our environment, I am concerned and hope our focus does not stay diverted.

7/15/2008 12:41:00 PM  
Blogger Stella by Starlight said... there...


7/15/2008 02:39:00 PM  
Blogger DivaJood said...

I posted about this today as well - and I contend that this cover, had it been placed instead inside the magazine WITH the article it was illustrating - a rather well-written article that addresses the politics of fear and the absurdity of the attacks on Obama - then we would love the image. But taken out of context, as a stand-alone piece, the image is inflammatory and fails as satire, AND as parody.

7/15/2008 04:53:00 PM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

Stella. Stellar Stella. Late, but always, always, always worth the wait.

7/15/2008 08:28:00 PM  
Blogger Stella by Starlight said...

Best to you, valiant vig. Satire saved my sanity in grad school. Every time I was about to punch walls while studying some arcane theoretical nonsense, I'd refer back to Book III, A Digression Concerning Critics, in Tale of a Tub. Perfect reading for disgruntled English majors.

...a true critic... a discoverer and collector of writers' faults... this ancient sect hath honoured the world... taken up with the faults, and blemishes, and oversights, and mistakes of other writers, and let the subject treated on be whatever it will, their imaginations are so entirely possessed and replete with the defects of other pens, that the very quintessence of what is bad does of necessity distil into their own..."

Satire is art. Pay attention, Vig! ;L)

7/16/2008 12:15:00 PM  
Blogger Mac Daddy Tribute Blog said...

Vigilante: I'm taking the cover down from the sidebar of my blog. I've enabled this nonsense to continue enough...Yes, let's have a landslide victory for Obama. Then, let's push him to keep his word on Iraq, healthcare, additional funding to take care of returning veterans, and housing.

7/16/2008 12:43:00 PM  
Blogger Stella by Starlight said...

Macdaddy, way to go. There are far more important issues than a magazine cover. Most importantly, "let's push him to keep his word" and let's participate in the political process so the last eight years never happens again.

7/16/2008 01:51:00 PM  
Blogger E said...

My primary issue with the cover is that it is not funny, which I think (correct me if I'm wrong) is supposed to be a key element in satire.

7/16/2008 06:46:00 PM  
Blogger HopeSpringsATurtle said...

How 'bout caricature?

verb:any imitation or copy so distorted or inferior as to be ludicrous.

7/17/2008 12:00:00 PM  
Blogger Stella by Starlight said...

Hopespringsaturtle (I love that blog name...) Absolutely perfect term. Because of you, I can say, Vig (pay attention) to the difference between satire and charicature (sp?)

Thank you for clearing that up so succinctly.

7/18/2008 10:07:00 AM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

From the Austin American Statesman, an example of a dignified apology which is open to The New Yorker:

Editor's note: Netroots Nation story
Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Readers expect front-page stories to speak directly and clearly about events and issues. Eliminating the possibility of misunderstanding from our work is a critical part of our daily newsroom routine. When we communicate in a way that could be misinterpreted, we fail to meet our standards.

Our front-page story Sunday about the Netroots Nation convention included doses of irony and exaggeration. It made assertions (that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi might find herself at home politically in Beijing, for example) and characterizations ("marauding liberals" was one) meant to amuse. For many readers, we failed.

In trying for a humorous take on the Netroots phenomenon without labeling it something other than a straightforward news story, we compromised our standards.

— Fred Zipp, editor

7/22/2008 07:42:00 AM  
Blogger Stella by Starlight said...

So, Vig, what's your take on the Vanity Fair cover?


7/23/2008 06:32:00 PM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

Stella, I knew that post on MadMike's would come back to bite me, and I expected your teeth, too!

Not withstanding my incurable case of BDS, I hope that my sense of humor can recover its previous sense of balance. In maybe, 180 days. Until then, for me, it will all depend on who's ox is being gored.

That's my short answer. ;-)

7/24/2008 07:13:00 AM  

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