Damian Penny first drew my attention to the current issue of the New Yorker, and its cover. (As a subscriber, I'll probably be getting my copy in the mail this week.) His fix on it is generally sound, although his hypothetical--the same cartoon appearing first in Bill Kristol's The Weekly Standard--is a bit unconvincing.
In any case, the cover is good satire, and I like it. It's the perfect send-up of the benighted Fox News anchor who raised the whole idiotic "terrorist fist-jab" nonsense in the first place--and the knuckle-dragging anti-Obama hordes currently in full spate.
But it's also proven to be yet another opportunity for a torrent of outrage, faux and real. It's been angrily denounced by the Obama campaign, and McCain has added his piping voice to the chorus. And my brothers and sisters, alas, are not immune to the temptation either. Now the editor of the New Yorker has been forced to do his 'splaining in the most serious terms imaginable, although the cartoonist, Barry Blitt, has maintained his aplomb. And the pundits have weighed in: reconstructed "leftist" Oliver Kamm's contribution here is the (unintentionally) funniest, because he thinks the cartoon is unfair to the anti-Obama side. In this, perhaps unsurprisingly, he joins arch-conservative Little Green Footballs.
Andrew Sullivan publishes an email today that takes the "it's not funny" meme to new lows, its author suggesting that "Spike Lee even in his piece of genius "Bamboozled", felt compelled to preface the film with Webster's definition for the word 'satire'". I see this as further evidence of the long-term harm done to American culture by decades of laugh-tracks. Maybe we indeed need comedy labels in the absence of such prompts, as Lee's sad truckling indicates. "Warning: the following is a joke. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental."
The level of political discourse in America has been lamentably free of content ever since I can remember. But at this point I'm beginning to think that Jonathan Swift would be on the ropes about now, trying to explain that he didn't really mean that we should actually eat Irish babies. It's just one more reason to stop following a campaign that's rapidly turned boring and disgraceful together, as Obama inevitably tries to show that he's no different from the other guy. Humour was all we had left, even inadvertent humour, but now even that has dissipated into puffs of indignant vapouring.
Bland is in. Tapioca, rice pudding and vanilla are on today's political menu. And my side of the aisle, God help us, is holding the ladle.