Y’all have seen the New Yorker cartoon cover this week, so there is no need to link it. But one does have to wonder: what is it about political cartoons published in Western newspapers, especially if it involves depiction of Islam (implied or otherwise)? Remember the Danish cartoon controversy?
Now, I don’t think this man’s opinion warrants the issuance of a fatwa, but let me just say this: the whole thing is blown out of proportion. But of course, you already knew that, because if involves the MSM, the story is, 9 out of 10 times, blown wildly out of proportion.
Let us examine the Cartoon-gate in detail.
1) Is it satire or smear? The fact that people even need to ask this question shows just how humorless we have become. Instead of offering a good, wry quip about it, the Obama camp and much of the left blogosphere have taken it upon themselves to play the Merchant of Grievances. Should Jonathan Swift have added a fucking big, giant bold disclaimer at the end of “A Modest Proposal” that states that what the reader has been reading is satire and not meant to be taken literally? A ridiculous proposition.
The fact is, anyone who has even an elementary grasp of the facts about Obama’s life should realize that the cover does not depict anything resembling fact, and therefore could only be satire. If you have to explain to someone that something is satirical, then whatever bite the satire might have had will be lost.
2) But is the cover at least a good satire? And here is my problem with the cover–not the fact that it depicted Obama as a bin Laden-worshipping, secret Muslim and Michelle Obama as an angry black feminazi–but because the cover is not satirical. It just isn’t funny.
A good satire requires a target, but in this case, it isn’t clear whom the New Yorker is targetting? Is it targetting certain elements of the conservative movement that seeks to exploit false rumors? Is it targetting those in the electorate who believe such depictions of Obama? Who the fuck knows? And that is the problem: satire is essentially critical, but the New Yorker cover doesn’t criticize anyone. If the New Yorker had the balls to actually target someone, then this would have been okay. If the cover had made it clear that the portrayal of Obama and his wife is the product of some right-wing smear campaign, then at least it is saying something. Or, perhaps even more daringly, if the New Yorker had the balls to suggest that it is a large part of the electorate that believe in such depictions of Obama, then I would have really applauded them.
But no, instead of holding up a mirror to those who might have such beliefs, the New Yorker pansied out and pointed no finger. Instead, it merely added to the echo chamber known as the Mainstream Media by drawing a cartoon that only amplified what has been floating out there already: namely, the rumor that Obama is a secret Muslim and that Michelle Obama hates white people. Instead of mocking such false rumors and smear campaigns, the New Yorker unwittingly muddied the situation even more.
3) Is it controversial merely because it is about Obama? Understandably, everything that involves the media portrayal of Obama is underlied by the fact that the MSM has never had to cover someone like Obama before. So there is an issue of precedence here, and maybe the New Yorker just made a mistake.
I don’t buy that argument, because to me, satire should be equally unsparing. In fact, had The New Yorker cover mocked Obama, I would have greatly applauded the effort.
In fact, how about this scenario: a cartoon depicting Obama standing beside a grave, and saying these words: “This sickness is not unto death,” and then someone would jump out of the grave, and that man will be labeled “The Democratic Party.”
Look, I know it’s not the most creative thing in the world, but at least it’s mocking something about Obama: namely, the Messianic tone of his campaign, sometimes perpetrated by his ardent supporters and sometimes by himself.
Will it piss off a lot of people? Of course it will! A satire will have completely failed if it does not piss off a lot of people! But at least it will be critical, which is much more than I can say for the current cover.
4) The greater, more troubling implication. But beyond whether the cover was good satire or not, there is a much deeper, much more troubling implication about public opinion that this controversy has revealed: that being considered a Muslim, even if only as a joke or as a rumor, is considered politically explosive, shows how much more America needs to go before it can fully accept one of the world’s largest religion as a legitimate one.
Instead of being shocked and grieved that Obama is being falsely depicted as Muslim, ask yourself this instead: why should being Muslim be a problem in the first place? What, if anything, is wrong with being a Muslim? Furthermore: what, if anything, is wrong with the President being Muslim? The answer, from a moral point of view, is of course nothing. In fact, this intuition is codified in the Constitution, in Article 6, which says “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”
Now, you might argue that this isn’t a legal test, and I would agree. But I would go further and say that in fact, public opinion is perhaps even worse than a codified legal religious test as a pre-condition for office. In the end a de facto test of religion and a de jure test of religion amounts to the same thing: people will choose the highest office in the land based on something that is completely irrelevant, by itself anyways, for the position. But whereas you can always change the law, changing public opinion, as John Stuart Mill used to say, is much, much harder.
And what this presidential campaign has shown me is that there is in fact something like a de facto religious test in the mind of the American public: the fact that the Obama campaign has gone out of its way to refute this rumor shows how seriously they take this concern. After all, if no one really cared whether Obama was Muslim or not, the campaign itself would not use resources to combat it as zealously as it has been.
So instead of asking whether Obama is really a Muslim or not, ask yourself this: why should we give a fuck if he were Muslim?
Therefore, my last outrageous suggestion, before I end this post and go back to my actual work, the one which I get paid to do, is the following:
In the next cycle, we should elect a President who is a half-Muslim, half-Jewish, homosexual, female president who has an open civil union and adopted a baby, and a Vice President who is an atheist, Mexican, transgendered person.