The latest issue of The New Yorker depicts Barak Obama as a turban-wearing Muslim, Michelle Obama as a gun-toting, crazed Negro woman, and Osama bin Laden ensconced in a portrait in the Oval Office, all while the American flag roasts on a fire. According to the New Yorker, the cover, entitled, "The Politics of Fear," is meant as a satirical response to Sen. Obama's right-wing critics.
But did they go too far?
Now, I understand satire, it is meant to be so over the top that people will immediately see the truth. The problem, however, is that there are still large segments of the population that truly believe that Sen. Obama is an unpatriotic Muslim looking to infiltrate the white house. Crazy, right? But some people fall victim to this type of propaganda and fail to research the issues on their own. A recent Newsweek Poll found that...
...white voters continue to be a challenge for Obama, with McCain leading the Democrat in that category 48 to 36 percent. Some of Obama's lag in white support may be explained by continual confusion over his religious identity. Twelve percent of voters surveyed said that Obama was sworn in as a United States senator on a Qur'an, while 26 percent believe the Democratic candidate was raised as a Muslim and 39 percent believe he attended an Islamic school as a child growing up in Indonesia. None of these things is true. Finally cracking the code with less-educated whites could have a big payoff for Obama: 85 percent of undecided voters are non-Hispanic whites and only 22 percent of those undecideds have a four-year college degree.
This is precisely what disturbs me about The New Yorker cover. I can appreciate its wit and its purpose as a satirical commentary on the absurdity of extremist politics, however, as my cinema professor's once said, once you release your art to the world, your intention no longer counts. The perception of the viewer is all that will matter in the end. And here in lies the problem. We know the nature of people, they view images and create their own stories in place of the real thing. So to have such a depiction on the cover of such a venerable publication is, at the very least, problematic for Obama and his campaign, considering people actually think this is the real him.
But what do you think? Do you find the image offensive? What kind of an effect (if any) do you think it'll have on the campaign?