By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

More on that Obama cover

In my latest for the Guardian, I argue that the Obama campaign and its supporters on the left have made way too much of the New Yorker’s satirical cover depicting Barack and Michelle Obama as flag-burning, Osama bin Laden-loving terrorists.

Which puts me at odds with Jon Keller, who included me in a piece on the controversy last night on WBZ-TV (Channel 4).

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  1. Doug-

    Dan,Did you realize that you are part of the ‘media elite,’ as Keller put it?All bow down, all bow down…DougBrookline

  2. o-fish-l

    I think Obama’s indignation, whether real or perceived, whenever the Muslim question arises, is enough to keep the suspicions alive.In a way it’s like Sen. Larry Craig saying, “I am not gay, I never have been gay.”Obama’s father was raised as a Muslim and many of his relatives continue to be. No big deal, until Obama and his supporters become frantic in distancing the candidate from the faith of his father. It smacks of political expediency, and demeaning to Muslims, for Obama “the uniter” to appear to be so bothered by what should be rather routine questioning.Millions, if not billions of people around the world follow, or at least agree in-part, with the religious beliefs of their father. Why is it so offensive to ask Obama if he does?

  3. Steve Stein

    Fish – that is crap. Pure and simple unadulterated crap. Obama has explained himself and his faith extensively. If you haven’t heard him, either you haven’t been paying attention or you willfully choose to pretend he hasn’t addressed it. Your “suspicions” say much more about you than they do about Obama.

  4. o-fish-l

    Steve, this isn’t about Obama’s faith, or my suspicions, it’s about the New Yorker cover and Dan Kennedy’s piece in the Guardian where he argues, “[T]hat the Obama campaign and its suporters on the left have made way too much of the New Yorker’s satirical cover depicting Barack and Michelle Obama as flag-burning, Osama bin Laden-loving terrorists.”I agree with Dan, and further argue that when it comes to the Muslim issue, “the [candidate] doth protest too much, methinks.” You’re doing it too, Steve. By being hypsersensitive to the Muslim label, Obama’s folks (a) keep the issue alive and (b)denigrate the faith of Obama’s own father, as if being Muslim is a terrible thing.

  5. Neil

    Obama’s campaign spokesperson claiming that the cover was “tasteless and offensive”, and Obama himself, when asked if he had seen it, “shrugged incredulously” (however the hell you do that) and said, “I have no response to that.”And from that small beer springs this “overreaction” angle? Chalk it up to deadline pressure, I guess–the gig requires a point of view.Dan once again you note the summer tempest-in-a-teapot nature of a topic, even while doing your part to keep the pot stirred. How about, if you think something matters damn little, skip it, and use the Guardian forum to write about something that does matter. Leave this sort of pro-forma clucking to your buddy at BZ.

  6. Steve

    Yeah, well, I realize that you and Republicans in general will do everything you can to write “Obama” and “Muslim” in the same sentence, as many times as possible between now and November. You’ll use any excuse you can, including faking any concern you can about “the faith of his father” – a man Obama saw once after the age of two.It’s still a load of crap.

  7. Marc Larocque

    Steve, what the fuck is wrong with having “Obama” and “Muslim” in the same fucking sentence. What is so inherently wrong about that? Why do you let it tick you off? If you’re trying to oppose the right on this issue, do you think it helps to squirm and complain like a little weakling to reinforce the notion that it is unacceptable to associate Obama with Islam? His name is a fucking Islamic name and he should be proud of that. Islam needs to be accepted not literally pushed aside by campaign advisors. ( It’s some of these ignorant Republicans that need to change on this issue, not those who believe Obama is sincere when saying he’s a Christian.

  8. Steve

    Marc – Why is it squirming weakness to call BS on fish’s little “faith of his father” act, when he’s so obviously not sincere?All he’s trying to do is push up Obama’s negatives with clever rhetoric designed to promote a lie.And you don’t believe that Muslim==negative? After the last seven years of fearmongering? Please!

  9. o-fish-l

    Steve, I'll leave it to some Muslim folks themselves to make their point. Feel free to label their concerns an "insincere act".All excerpts below are from a Bloomberg article on the topic, published today. Apologies in advance for quoting so extensively, but each paragraph makes a [my] point."Muslims in and around Detroit said they have been worried by several recent controversies, particularly a report last month that Obama campaign aides removed two young women wearing Muslim headscarves, called hijabs, from his camera backdrop. The candidate later called the women to apologize. Hassan Habhab, a 28-year-old Democrat who works at a Dearborn mall, said he supported Obama until the incident, though he hadn't heard about the apology. “I don't know if I should vote for somebody like that,'' he said. In addition, many Muslims said they were offended by the Obama camp's denials of the rumors about his roots, which they said made it appear that an Islamic identity is shameful. “I cringe every time I hear their response to these slanders,'' [former Congressman David] Bonior said. “He should educate people to let them know the overwhelming majority of Muslims and Arab-Americans are wonderful, decent, good people.''"

  10. Stella

    Clive Crook in FT:I would be happier with the idea that the New Yorker’s cover was satirical, as editor David Remnick claimed, if it was funny. Isn’t satire supposed to be funny? (Jeffrey Goldberg alerts me to the fact that an editorial writer at the New York Sun chuckled over it for several minutes. I didn’t chuckle even for a moment. It wasn’t that I was offended. I was just puzzled. What am I supposed to make of this, I wondered?)Imagine the cartoon were not on the cover of the New Yorker. Most people, I think, would then read it not as reducing a certain idiotic view of Barack Obama and his wife to a comical absurdity, but as expressing that idiotic view with caricatural emphasis. Would it have been satirical (in the sense David Remnick means) on the cover of National Review? At best, without a caption or headline to send the image up, its meaning is unclear: it is a joke without a punchline, and just doesn’t work (except, of course, as a way to get people talking about the magazine).Obama rightly made light of it. He called it (I’m paraphrasing) an attempt at satire that failed. That is exactly what it was.

  11. Neil

    fish yes, who could question your sincerity in championing the cause of offended American Muslims. Especially in light of Obama’s outrageous overreaction (“incredulous” shrugging of shoulders!) to the New Yorker cover.Two terms come to mind–Michael Kinsley’s “Culture of Umbrage”, and of course, concern troll.

  12. o-fish-l

    Neil, I never intended to champion the cause of offended American Muslims. I’ve merely pointed out that as an interested observer, I think Obama’s behavior on the Muslim issue has been bizarre. It so happened that the day after I said as much, the Bloomberg piece appeared with Muslims themselves complaining about Obama’s treatment of them. I’ll stipulate to my own insincerity if you address what the Muslims in the Bloomberg piece have to say, or are they “concern trolls” too?.

  13. Neil

    fish, purely in horse-race terms, Obama may have more to gain nationally by keeping Muslims at arm’s length than he stands to lose locally in Michigan where Muslims (“..and Arab-Americans”?) represent 4% of the vote. Four percent? Big deal.Obama is a Christian, after all.The Bloomberg article mentions that “many Muslims were offended by denials of the rumors about his roots”. Apparently, whether rumors are actually true or not (the article doesn’t bother to elucidate) has no bearing on whether you should deny them. Rather, you should only deny them if by doing so don’t offend somebody. The trend is again, Kinsley’s umbrage as “the new language of American politics”. (See the “tough guys, swooning with the vapors“) We are on the hair-trigger for offense, ready to pounce with our “mock outrage”. Which often becomes offense-by-proxy: I am not offended, but they might be offended and therefore, I am offended on their behalf. And that is a clue to insincerity–let the actual offendees speak for themselves.The Muslims in Michigan are just another offended constituency, aggrieved by the paltriest of slights, parading their umbrage.It’s all more absolutism. Do my bidding, or I strike thee. If I can’t have Hilary I’ll show you! I’ll vote for McCain. If Obama keeps Muslims at a distance during the campaign, they’ll take offense and vote for Ralph Nader, simply because he’s of Lebanese descent! Or perhaps even McCain. If you favor civil union rather than gay marriage, you’re an enemy!

  14. jed leland

    Stella, re: Clive Crook.Satire does not have to be funny.He also says "Imagine the cartoon were not on the cover of the New Yorker." and then goes on to say a caption was necessary.Well, it was The New Yorker, not Guns & Ammo, and the title of the magazine was all the captioning necessary.I'd guess there was some discussion about dumbing it down by making it a thought bubble in the head of Rush Limbaugh or you-fill-in-the-blank, but I applaud them for not doing that.You could even see it as a ploy by The New Yorker to force the FOXs, et. al. to deal with the issue directly. Unfortunately, the Obama campaign felt the need to issue the weary "tasteless and offensive" comment quickly, which gave FOX the out – all they did was comment on the comment, and skipped the rest.The candidate himself did a better job by shrugging it off.I'm sure glad the post-convention campaign period is going to be shorter than usual this year…

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