Monday, July 14, 2008

Irony is All The Rage

By now I'm sure you've all heard about the flap regarding the cover of this week's New Yorker magazine. It features a satirical (take note of the word, satirical) image of Senator Obama, and his charming wife, Michelle, in the oval office dressed in Muslim gear and as a para-military assassin, respectively. To their right, in the fireplace, burns an American flag. They are smiling at each other while doing the infamous fist bump.

To my eyes, this satirical cover is no more, or less, offensive them the one, a few months ago, of Obama and Clinton (in bed together) both reaching for the phone as it rings at 3am. The New Yorker has always had a penchant for poking fun at the hypocrisy of politics and the media and, in this case, did a remarkably good job of it.

Since Obama became the presumptive Democratic party nominee the right wing of the Republican party and their media partners (FOX News, The New York Post, talk radio, et al) have moved very quickly to create a sense of unease amongst the working class about Senator Obama and his wife. Everything from relentlessly parsing Mrs. Obama's comment that for the first time in her adult life she is really proud of her country to using the Senator's full name - Barrack Hussein Obama - whenever possible, to FOX News commentators discussing whether or not the fist bump is a terrorist signal - I am not making this up.

The fact that anyone takes the rantings of the uber conservative talking heads seriously is absurd to me, but such is the state of American politics that there is a small, but rabid, faction of the population that takes it very, very seriously. It is the very absurdity of the right wing that prompted this cover.

What I find truly insane is that the Obama camp have reacted with pompous political outrage. First off, if they hadn't led such credence to the "offensive" cover it would have simply disappeared - instead they chose to fan the flames. This "controversy" offered Senator Obama the perfect opportunity to address the cover, and the ridiculous rumors which prompted it. Why his campaign manager chose to go on the offensive while Senator Obama himself, refused to comment at all seems rather odd to me.

Following a week in which Obama allowed his children to be interviewed by Access Hollywood, and then made the rounds of the morning talk shows to lament the decision and assure the media that they would have no further access to his children - as though the original interview hadn't been orchestrated by his campaign, with his blessing, makes me wonder who is actually steering this ship.

As this campaign advances there is a greater sense that the Illinois Senator is remarkable thin-skinned, especially as he takes every opportunity lately to respond to any slight - large or small - real or imagined - levied against him. There is a real danger, if he does not pick and choose his battles, that he will continue to be pulled into these media inventions masquerading as "controversies" and the right wing will have gotten exactly what they want - the opportunity to set the tone of the campaign and the very real possibility of painting Barrack Obama as an angry black man.

My advice to Senator Obama and his campaign generals would be to pick their battles carefully, and consider every possible outcome. Fighting a war on too many fronts is a losing proposition - just ask Geroge W. Bush.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love you Paul, but I couldn't disagree more. Calling someone a terrorist, even for the purposes of satire, is a very damaging thing...The last thing we needed right now was more link between Obama and terrorism. Plus, I don't think Obama's reaction increased coverage of this cover- people were upset about it before he responded. I guess I just think that anything that doesn't help hurts and this hurt him. He didn't need any further controversy on this point. And we all know that many american people can be influenced by two ideas mentioned in the same sentence (ie wmd, iraq...)- I just personally think they should have avoided linking Obama to terrorism even if it was intended to mock ignorance...John Kerry tried to rise above the swift boat BS last time around by not bothering to comment on it and this approach did NOT help him in the least...I really think the New Yorker was irresponsible here....