Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Why New Yorker's Obama Cover is a Mistake

Even as a dedicated reader of The New Yorker, I can't get behind their cover cartoon showing Barack and Michelle Obama as inhabitants of the White House who fulfill the worst nightmares of paranoid right-wingers. Their mistake comes out of arrogance. First, they believe that their brand is so universally known that everyone will correctly place the cartoon in the context of New Yorker's detached, ironic humor. In fact, the largest number of people who are going to end up seeing this cover probably are as familiar with The New Yorker style as I am with FHM's or Sports Illustrated's. It will end up pinned to walls of people with no awareness of The New Yorker's liberal bent, who will be thinking "wow, look what an establishment magazine says."

Their other arrogance is summed up in this letter I just sent by email:

Dear New Yorker,

When you weighed the pros and cons of publishing your cover of Michelle and Barack Obama, what audience were you thinking of when you decided it fell safely on the side of 'satire' instead of the tasteless smear it turned out to be? I know who it was. It was an old-school, insular kind of east coaster who sees things coming from the Second City as foreign, out on the fringe, and safe for irreverent humor. Sort of like Europe lampooning America's reaction to 9/11 as maudlin and self-pitying.

Greg Sandell

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