Early on Monday, when colleague Joel Goldenberg brought to my attention the growing brouhaha over the cover illustration for the upcoming issue of The New Yorker magazine, I thought he was joking.
What he described was something I would expect to see splashed on some right-wing publication like The National Review — but not The New Yorker.
So when I finally saw with my own eyes what he was on about, I was shocked.
The over-the-top piece of work by Canadian cartoonist Barry Blitt, called The Politics of Fear, depicts Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, as militant radicals.
Barack is dressed in Muslim garb while Michelle is pictured with a ‘70s afro hairdo (think Black Panthers and The Weather Underground, radical leftist terrorist groups), wearing military fatigues with an AK-47 and ammunition belt over her shoulder. The couple is giving each other a fist bump — or what former Fox News anchor E.D. Hill once called a “terrorist fist jab” — standing in the Oval Office with a U.S. flag burning in the fireplace under a painting of Osama bin Laden.
The cover art accompanies a long, 18-page, 14,620-word piece written by Ryan Lizza that traces Obama’s early career in Chicago politics, and how the skilled and calculating politician rose to the national stage by becoming a master of the skanky game.
But no one is talking about that. Everyone is talking about the cartoon.
They are talking about the imagery and what it represents. What it means and what we are supposed to think about. They are talking about the Internet whisper campaign that questions his religion, his patriotism and his race. They are talking about the right-wing scare tactics and misinformation that is being used to derail Obama’s campaign.
Both the Obama and McCain campaigns called the cover offensive.
M. Yaser Tabbara of the Council on American-Islamic Relations called it troubling because it places rumours about Obama’s religion on the same level as flag burning, gun toting and support for bin Laden.
But what critics fail to see, and what I failed to see at first before I got it, is that the cartoon is exposing what Obama-haters have been whispering all along — and it’s making us think and talk about it. (MORE)