The Why and Wherefore

It’s Called Satire, People

Posted on: July 14, 2008

What, you don’t think the New Yorker is performing responsible journalism by portraying the Obamas as terrorist-fist-jabbing, Osama-loving Muslims?

On one hand, studies show that even mentioning rumors long enough to debunk them only feeds the flames; readers may or may not remember the refutation, but every mention of the rumor, even to refute it, will keep it in their heads. So there’s a legit argument to be made that JimBob in Mississippi is going to show this cover to his buddies and go, “See? Even a liberal publication like the New Yorker thinks Obama is a terrorist.” As Slate puts it,

The source of all of this injury is not daring exposé or cutting criticism by a New Yorker writer but one of “them damned pictures”—to quote Boss Tweed of Tammany Hall, who bled pints every time he was poked by Thomas Nast‘s pen. “I don’t care so much what the papers say about me,” Tweed said of Nast’s work. “My constituents can’t read. But, damn it, they can see pictures!”

On the other hand, since when does JimBob even see the New Yorker, much less read it? Or even know what it is, except as a member of Bill O’Reilly’s Enemies List?

Back on the first hand, though, just imagine how mind-bogglingly cool it would have been if the Obama campaign laughed it off, said ha ha, isn’t it silly how many Americans believe these stereotypes, and now let’s get to work changing that. Instead, they jumped right in to the latest round of Outrage-o-Rama (or should I say Outrage-o-Bama, though it’s not like McCain & Clinton haven’t done their fair share of it).

This year’s political campaign has basically been an extended version of “I’m shocked, *shocked* that gambling is going on in this establishment!” I think it’s a function of the fact that we had members of two historically oppressed groups battling it out on the national stage for so long, airing hundreds of years’ worth of grievances on behalf of vastly diverse constituencies. The party of old white men, meanwhile, have continued to express outrage on behalf of old white men “patriots” everywhere.

If 2004 was the Year of Fear (“vote Bush or those swarthy, turbaned villians will steal your children!”), 2008 is the Year of Outrage. The problem is, we’ve been conditioned to be outraged about exactly the wrong things.

Flag pins? Denigration of military service? Cartoons? How about, I dunno, the immunity granted telecom companies despite illegally providing private information to the federal gov’t? The trillions we’re pouring into Iraq (not to mention the tens of thousands of lives lost) when we can’t even provide basic healthcare for our own citizens? The constant, politically motivated alteration of scientific reports to reflect the administration’s preferred outcomes? No-bid Halliburton contracts? Vetting career civil servants at the Justice Department to ensure appropriate political ideology?

(If you’re not pissed off at this point, go here.)

(If you’re not pissed off after that, please go here.)

Ahem. I seem to have gotten a little off track. Anyway, lighten up, Obama. We have more important things to worry about.

2 Responses to "It’s Called Satire, People"

Excellent article


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