Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Like Beauty, Satire is in the Eye of the Beholder

Credit: Huffington Post

There was an volcanic eruption of controversy over a cover of the newest issue of The New Yorker, one in where the cover by Barry Blitt, titled "The Politics of Fear," shows Michelle and Barack Obama depicted as the worst of the prejudiced, smearing characterizations that have dogged them over the course of the campaign: Michelle Obama as a revolutionary in military fatigues, packing AK-47 and ammo; her husband dressed like the Muslim he is stubbornly accused of being. Both of them stand in the Oval Office, with a portrait of Osama bin Laden behind them over a fireplace, in which an American flag burns.

Many on both the right and the left attacked the cover as an obvious character smear and a attempt to prey upon and to pander on the worst fears of others. While Andy Ostroy called it "The New Yorker's Willie Horton Incident," Earl Ofari Hutchinson had a more nuanced take on the controversy. In pointing to the proliferation of viciously racist anti-Obama sites sprouting up on the Internet, Hutchinson is quick to point out, "(T)he right to propagate malicious slander and lies hardly qualifies as a free speech protection, let alone legitimate political criticism.

But even as the dust-up over the New Yorker's cover art dominated the televised political roundtables, another incident would have fallen beneath everyone's radar were it not for the expose provided by Media Matters, where this past weekend on The McLaughlin Group, the program's host, John McLaughlin, personality injected racially divisive stereotypes into a discussion of Sen. Obama, asserting that he "fits the stereotype blacks once labeled as an Oreo -- a black on the outside, a white on the inside."

McLaughlin: "Question: Does it frost Jackson, Jesse Jackson, that someone like Obama, who fits the stereotype blacks once labeled as an Oreo -- a black on the outside, a white on the inside -- that an Oreo should be the beneficiary of the long civil rights struggle which Jesse Jackson spent his lifetime fighting for?"

McLaughlin's statement was so obviously out of touch and inappropriate that two members of the McLaughlin panel refuted the basic premise. Panelist and Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow Peter Beinart said: "Who knows what Jesse Jackson is thinking? But that's a completely unfair depiction of Barack Obama."

Later in the discussion, Michelle Bernard, MSNBC commentator and President of the Independent Women's Forum, went on to say: "I want to go back to the point you made about whether or not Obama is an Oreo, because if Barack Obama is an Oreo, then every member of this generation of African-Americans is an Oreo, because we stand on the shoulders of the people who fought for our rights."

Someone has to hold a mirror up to someone and make them see who they really are in the reflection. Talk about a flock of dodos.

No comments: