Monday, July 14, 2008

Webster's to the rescue

A spokesman for the Obama campaign has denounced the cover of the current New Yorker, showing Barack Obama dressed in the garb of an observant Muslim and his wife carrying an assault rifle, and the two of them doing a "fist bump" in the Oval Office, as "tasteless and offensive."

From the BBC story: "Obama spokesman Bill Burton dismissed the cartoon, saying: 'The New Yorker may think [sic]... that their cover is a satirical lampoon of the caricature Senator Obama's right-wing critics have tried to create, but most readers will see it as tasteless and offensive. And we agree.'"

Contra Mr. Burton, the New Yorker does not think it is satire; it is objectively a satire, which a standard dictionary (Webster's New World College Dictionary, 3rd edition) defines as (among other things) "the use of ridicule, sarcasm, irony, etc. to expose, attack, or deride vices, follies, etc." Whether it is tasteless or requires too much interpretation to be altogether effective can be debated, but to suggest that it is not a satire, that the New Yorker merely "thinks" it's a satire, is absurd. It is clearly sarcastic and therefore it is "the use of...sarcasm to expose...follies." In other words, it is satire.

P.s. Michael Eric Dyson (Georgetown Univ.) and Eric Bates (Rolling Stone) discussed the cartoon with Gwen Ifill on the PBS NewsHour tonight. Its website will have the transcript.

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