The New Yorker's Weak "Satire" Only Reinforces Racist Stereotypes

Election '08

There is a lot of chatter today about the New Yorker cover, which is pleasing, I'm sure, to both the magazine and the right wingers. My feeling is that it isn't particularly creative satire and doesn't really ring true or make anyone think, which is the hallmark of great satire. It's especially disappointing since the New Yorker has the best cartoons in the world and could have done something so much better.

Having said that, I think it does bring up one of the subtexts of this campaign that nobody's talked much about yet, even in this brouhaha. In the cartoon you see the "muslim" Obama and the "black militant" Michelle fist bumping. What's the relationship there? Why would they be married to one another?

I've been wondering since 9/11 when the right would get around to conflating the Muslim terrorists with "black Muslims" and I think it may have finally happened in the couple of Barack and Michelle Obama. It would seem odd that the right wingers would smear him as being muslim. He's black, not arab, and it doesn't fit the stereotype. But it does fit the stereotype of the Farrakhan type of militant black muslims and that's what they're getting at with this. The image of the dangerous black radical is the purpose of the muslim smear, not the terrorist association. It's good old, All American racism.

Here's a transcript from a show this weekend on CNN in which one of their producers is traveling across the country asking people about the election:

HADAD: Next stop, Nashville, to talk American politics with fans of America's pastime.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cold beer on the house.
HADAD: The crowd is fun, politically engaged and about split between Obama, McCain and undecided. But I meet two people that rattle me a bit.
You've been a Democrat your entire voting life. And now, you're going to vote Republican. What is it that's making this huge switch for you after how many years of voting?

JANICE WOLFF, BASEBALL FAN: Well, I don't like the candidate. I think he's a Muslim.
HADAD: For the record, Obama is a Christian. She told me to talk to her friend, Tony, who was very into politics.
TONY SLAYDEN, BASEBALL FAN: Honestly I'm an old southern boy. And I just don't know if I can see a black man making a change. The only black man I've ever seen with change is with a cup in his hand.*
HADAD: Whoa! Did he just say that?
SLAYDEN: The only black man I've ever seen with change is with a cup in his hand.
HADAD: Well, it's a big country.
See how seamless all that is? They're good friends. The women is more "genteel" and uses the more accepted "m" word. Her pal there doesn't try to hide behind the terrorist threat and just admits outright that he's an old fashioned racist. Muslim, militant, black man, cup in his hand, etc. "Muslim" is just a polite word for you know what.

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