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Chances are that you have, or someone you know has, asked this question: "Have you seen The New Yorker this week?" Even if you don't subscribe to the magazine, or read it regularly, you've probably seen its most-recent cover, drawn by Barry Blitt.

If you've just emerged from the wilderness, this is what it looks like:


"The Politics of Fear" Courtesy of The New Yorker hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of The New Yorker

Some critics have suggested that the illustration will reinforce untrue rumors, circulating on the Internet. They've said that any humor, satire, or tongue-in-cheek-ness will go over the heads of Americans who don't live in the five boroughs. Others have said that it's stupid. That it isn't funny.

The editor of The New Yorker, David Remnick, released this statement:

Our cover "The Politics of Fear" combines a number of fantastical images about the Obamas and shows them for the obvious distortions they are. The burning flag, the nationalist-radical and Islamic outfits, the fist-bump, the portrait on the wall — all of them echo one attack or another. Satire is part of what we do, and it is meant to bring things out into the open, to hold up a mirror to prejudice, the hateful, and the absurd. And that's the spirit of this cover. The reader of the same issue will also see that inside there are two very serious articles on Barack Obama inside — Hendrik Hertzberg's Comment, "The Flip Flop Flap," and Ryan Lizza's 15,000-word reporting piece on the candidate's political education and rise in Chicago.

And yesterday, in an interview with Michele Norris, on NPR's All Things Considered, he said that "this notion, that only, you know, Upper Westside Manhattan elitists can get satire. I don't think that's the case at all."

What do you think of the cover? Is it funny? Should The New Yorker have run it? Do you think that it will hurt Obama's candidacy?



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the target of the cover was not supposed to be obama, but he is the one on the cover. to satirize those people who think obama is muslim, show THEM!

Sent by ANN wright | 2:13 PM | 7-15-2008

Hits the mark, you're spending almost an hour talking about it.

Sent by jeffrey t howard | 2:14 PM | 7-15-2008

I am listening and don't generally have a problem hearing differing opinions, however the person you just had on, the comedian....He said that Obama should not be lampooned because we are war. However, many are quick to jump on the bandwagon of lampooning our current president during a war. Being black does not shield you from being mocked.

Sent by Rick | 2:15 PM | 7-15-2008

I think it's ridiculous to think that there's a danger that certain folks won't "get it." If they don't get it, they aren't likely Obama voters anyway...

Sent by Leah | 2:16 PM | 7-15-2008

First off, did anyone on TOTN vet their first guest on this issue before bringing him on the air?

That said, anyone remember Obama's opening remark to AIPAC, "If anyone sees the Barack Obama guy, let me know. He sounds scary." While the joke there wasn't perfectly executed, it's a tact his campaign should have stuck with in this instance.

More on this line of thinking here:

Sent by Cheese in Philadelphia | 2:17 PM | 7-15-2008

whoever the first guest was, he wasted 15 minutes of mine and the rest of the NPR listening community's time. the only joke was his comments. why was he a guest again?

Sent by Doug | 2:17 PM | 7-15-2008

Had the caption been visible on the front cover, this would have been acceptable. Unfortunately, this picture ilicits memories of the widespread falsehoods surrounding Barack's candidacy.

Sent by Jill | 2:18 PM | 7-15-2008

Get over it. No one had a problem when Hillary was called a bitch. Get a thicker skin. The Obama's are no better than anyone else just because they happen to be black.

Sent by me | 2:18 PM | 7-15-2008

I believe that satire is often very misunderstood by a large portion of society. Unfortunately, many of the anti-Obama public may not ever read or hear Mr. Remnick's explanation and therefore will not appreciate its message. Having freedom of speech carries huge responsibility. Perhaps this particular cover would have been better placed on Wednesday morning, November 5th.

Sent by Diane Fawcett | 2:19 PM | 7-15-2008

Are you kidding me? Again on TOTN with the everything must be racism! Your guest clearly doesn't read the New Yorker. Even if you think (wrongly) that the cover is offensive, that is your problem. It's a magazine and a great one. Sorry but Black Americans are not sacred cows and black politicians will be satirized along with everyone else. In this case the satire is being used to point out how absurd these lies about Mr. Obama are.

Sent by Scott (M) | 2:19 PM | 7-15-2008

Regardless of the cover, tasteless or not, I am weary of the stance that any time there is an attack on a minority, the basis of the attack is racially motivated. While racism is a huge problem, and continues to be so, the intense sensitivity that identifies every white comment as racially based is as equally prejudicial, and only hardens the position of true racists on all sides of an argument. The comment by your first speaker (whose name I have forgotten) that because a black man is running for president all white people are scared, can be described as equally racially motivated as anything the New Yorker Magazine can be accused of.

Sent by Karen Kirtland | 2:19 PM | 7-15-2008

Not being black I can't begin to understand what the reaction would be from the black community but, by constantly being baffled by right-wing nonsense I thought it was apt pastiche and something the right wing deserved to have thrown back in their face.

Sent by Daniel | 2:19 PM | 7-15-2008

The reaction to this New Yorker cover --whether you believe it worked as satire or not -- just shows how, politically, we are a nation of children, with little sophistication and apt to be easily distracted from the serious and substantive issues. This falls into the "poor dumb bastard" fallacy, that, hey, I get it, but all those other poor dumb bastards out there are going to be suckered.

Sent by Keith King | 2:19 PM | 7-15-2008

According to Saul Alinsky rule #5 of the Rules of Radicals is Ridicule is man's most potent weapon"and rule number 12 "pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, polarize it" The Clintons ran all campaigns using Alinsky rules quite successfully. Are David Remnick and Bill Clinton cronies? Hillary Clinton did major college research on Alinsky. Just musing - since I don't believe the world is random - Cheryl Ostrow

Sent by Cheryl Ostrow | 2:20 PM | 7-15-2008

I think New Yorker should have taken into account that some cultures in the US do not use IRONY and SARCASM in the same way that the normal readership of the New Yorker is used to. The cover reaches to a much wider audience and the humor is lost on them. It could have been handled better.

Sent by Tim Brown | 2:20 PM | 7-15-2008

Will Rogers said, "If they laugh, it's funny.

Sent by Len | 2:22 PM | 7-15-2008

I'm listening too. Reverse psychology? Maybe. I'm wondering if they're that clever.

Sent by HB | 2:22 PM | 7-15-2008

I vigorously support the New Yorker's right to put anything they darned well please on the cover of their magazine. I hope the Obama campaign takes the high road and does not make a big deal out of it. They cannot afford to come across as thin-skinned: our next President needs to be tough! If he gets elected, he's going to have to endure far worse than a satirical cartoon whose subtext actually supports him.

Now it's up to the media not to act like a bunch of ignorant buffoons playing up (and by extension perpetuating) the ensuing controversy rather than the cartoon's intent.

Sent by Iolanthe | 2:22 PM | 7-15-2008

Regarding the irony your guest referred to, the real irony is in the response the cover got from guys like Paul Mooney. Don't think that's the response they were quite looking for, ya think?

Sent by John Alton | 2:22 PM | 7-15-2008

the problem with the new yorker cover is that as satire, it does not
go far enough. Seems strange to say that about a cartoon which has
Osama Bin Laden hanging in the Oval Office and the flag in the
fireplace, but I could see this cartoon at the top of a newsletter
sent out to right-wing reactionaries as an example of their worst
fears. If "A Modest Proposal" made it possible for readers to say
'well perhaps cannibalizing babies isn't such a bad idea!' then it
would fail; only when it is crystal clear who is the butt of the joke
can satire succeed. Where are the targets of the satire in this
cover? Nowhere to be seen.

Sent by SA | 2:22 PM | 7-15-2008

I think you have to consider the audience. People who know and read the New Yorker might understand this cover. Other people who may not know the magazine or understand satire may see the cover and think it is serious. It is like taking quotes out of context. People don't LOOK for the whole story, they see only the illustration.
I speak from having been in Ohio and West Virginia in the last few months and talked to people who are suspicious of Barak Obama because of his middle name!
Someone needs to EXPLAIN the cover to those people but they don't really want to hear it. What are the conservative radio shows saying about the New Yorker. I am certain THEIR spin feeds the politics of fear further.

Sent by M Day | 2:22 PM | 7-15-2008

I am very disappointed with the cover of the magazine. It is amazing to me that it is OK to questioned how american is he. but what is even more offensive that is that a large part of the population ACT like the dont get why some people are offended. Would there be the same reaction be if it had been Reagan?

Sent by c s | 2:23 PM | 7-15-2008

I think the discomfort comes down to this: Many stupid people believe the false images depicted. Will this cartoon increase or decrease their number? Stupid people don't understand satire.

Sent by Mike Fleissner | 2:23 PM | 7-15-2008

The comments of the host, and of the guests, largely miss the point. Of course the Obamas, as public figures, are not above satire, but the misperceptions about them should reflect poorly on those who hold them, not the Obamas themselves. So really, why are we seeing *them* on the cover, being mocked in this way, instead of the folks who hold these problematic views?

Sent by Sabrina Stevens | 2:24 PM | 7-15-2008

It has often been said, "A picture is worth a thousand words". The recent picture on the cover of the New Yorker magazine is not worth a single word, spoken or written.

Sent by Steve | 2:24 PM | 7-15-2008

The criticism is over-sensitive. First of all, the people who are being lampooned in this cartoon are NOT Barack O'Bama, Angela Davis or anyone other than the Republicans who use the sort of fear mongering displayed in the cartoon. Further, the mostly liberal readership of the New Yorker, who may be heeding some of this fear mongering, are more likely to be guilted into maintaining their liberalism. Far from hurting O'Bama, the cartoon (which isn't really very funny) will probably help him.

Sent by Sandy Foster | 2:24 PM | 7-15-2008

Amazing how liberals are so ignorant - according to the Pew study, the people who believe that Obama is muslim are almost exactly likely to be democrat as Republican.

Sent by Marc van Niekerk | 2:24 PM | 7-15-2008

I think this cover is a complete outrage and an insult to the inteligence of all americans. The New Yorker should be boycotted and rebuked.

Sent by Winston Smith | 2:24 PM | 7-15-2008

I "get" the cover, but I bet I am part of only a small percentage of Americans who do. I think this cover plays right into the hands of those who will grab onto anything to disparage and discredit Obama. In this case, I think publishing clever satire should not take precedent over promoting thoughtful, responsible journalism. This just undoes so much of what Obama supporters have been doing to "umsmear" their candidate from conservatives.

Sent by Susan | 2:26 PM | 7-15-2008

The cover as it is criticizes the Obamas and reinforces the lies about them. If they intended to criticize the authors and promoters of the lies about the Obamas they should have shown the authors of the lies as promoting the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Mein Kampf, flat earth and other lies.

Sent by Lou | 2:26 PM | 7-15-2008

The impact is all in how you read it (visually). Obviously The New Yorker is the magazine of a very particular audience, mostly liberal, who GET THE JOKE. I can sympathize with those who have concerns that the image will not be read correctly by others, who might not read it as parody of those stereotypes but rather a reinforcement of them. However, I don't think anything you say to anyone who GETS THE JOKE will convince them (and by them I mean us) that this image will do the Obamas any lasting harm.

Sent by Curt | 2:26 PM | 7-15-2008

Here's the problem with the cover. The liberals at the New Yorker take for granted that the rumors about Obama are outrageous, but a lot of Americans are willing to entertain them as true. Those people are much more likely to see the cover on TV than to even see the magazine, let alone reads the story. So the objective result of the cover is to reinforce the prejudices that the magazine seeks to discredit. It's not about freedom of speech, it's about the editors at the New Yorker being politically stupid and self-regarding.

Sent by Steve Kale | 2:27 PM | 7-15-2008

This whole issue reminds me of when Randy Newman had a surprise hit with the song "Short People" in the 70s. many people were up in arms because they thought that he was actually making fun of short people. The point of this song was that prejudice based on skin color is just as ridiculous as prejudice based on height.

I agree with the previous poster who said that if the caption had been displayed on the cover, there would probably be no discussion.

Sent by Mike in Ok | 2:27 PM | 7-15-2008

Your first caller shows one of the problems with this. He mentioned Barrack Obama's "Muslim" past! For the record Mr. Obama has no "Muslim" past, at least none that I know of. His absent father was Muslim, but there is no evidence that Barrack Obama ever participated in any way in the Muslim religion.

Personally I think the cover was tasteless and offensive, but The New Yorker had every right and privilege to print it. It is all very well that The New Yorker thought it was clever and cute, and afterall, The New Yorker seems to think its "intellectual" audience will understand and appreciate the joke. The problem is that our nation is not in large part made up of New Yorker style "intellectuals", but rather folks like your first caller who think Barrack Obama was or is a Muslim despite all of the evidence to the contrary.

Sent by Charles Rountree | 2:28 PM | 7-15-2008

Even you, the moderator, are claiming that this cover satirizes Obama, but it doesn't, it satirizes the Americans' fantasies about Obama.

Does this mean that it is an "ineffective" satire?

Sent by Ann Schlee | 2:28 PM | 7-15-2008

If the cover said "Joe Lieberman is a money-grubbing Jew", and only inside it continued "...Or so his opponents want you to believe", there would have been a HUGE outcry. Why is this different? The cover is irresponsible at best and exposes the artists' OWN unknown miconceptions.

Sent by Richard Moore | 2:28 PM | 7-15-2008

how about equal coverage? mcCain as a neo-fascist in jack boots, saluting a portrait of Hitler, one foot on the neck of his wife?

Sent by peter | 2:29 PM | 7-15-2008

I believe it's a brilliant and beautiful cover- printed by a known left-wing publication, it really pushes the boundaries of what we see and talk about. The fact that we're talking about it proves that it achieved its goal.

What I want to know is what is Rush saying about it? What is Olberman saying about it? What are the christo-fascists saying about it? What are the Latinas for McCain saying about it?

I have only heard the leftists screaming about how risky it is- GOOD! We need to call up these lies and debunk them ourselves- don't wait until October to address the blatant misconceptions about our public figures- especially one as ground-breaking as Obama.

Sent by Dave Schein II, Baltimore, MD | 2:29 PM | 7-15-2008

It is satire! It puts together all the crazy ideas that have been spread about Sen Obama. New Yorker continues its wonderful tradition of great cartoon covers. The magazine cannot be responsible for those who can't get it. If we censor for fear of ignorance we guarantee that continued ignorance.

Sent by Jim Blackburn | 2:30 PM | 7-15-2008

A few months ago, Obama and Clinton were in bed together, both reaching for the red phone at 3:00 a.m.

Great Cover.

I heard about the cover before I saw it, so I didn't get the usual unprepared look at it. It didn't initially register - I didn't quite get it - at first, until I looked at the caption. I didn't think the cover was problematic at all. The New Yorker's taste is extremely reliable, I think.

More satire, please.

Sent by Michael Jefferis | 2:30 PM | 7-15-2008

Does anyone realize that this is the problem with us Liberals!? We take things like this and endlessly debate them which causes more divisiveness, and plays into the hands of conservative strategists? Hopefully the New Yorker has an equally controversial cover next week so we can forget this one and move on!

Sent by Cindy Daly | 2:30 PM | 7-15-2008

goodness me, what is wrong with us? it's satire...has anyone ever heard of Mark twain?????

Sent by Lynn Hobart | 2:30 PM | 7-15-2008

It was funny! Obama needs to lighten up.

Sent by Barby | 2:31 PM | 7-15-2008

My first reaction on seeing it was "Why?" I'm not a NY reader. Once the "why" passed, and knowing the mag's rep., I see it as a torpedo aimed towards USA's sensitivities. These aren't ignorant people. The NY staff knew what they were doing. The lampoon isn't on Obama, its on all of us. And yes, they got a reaction.

Sent by Thomas Thurman | 2:31 PM | 7-15-2008

I can see how this cartoon would be offensive and maybe it went to far. I have a couple of comments regarding this...

First...why is there so much more slandering of Obama than McCain? Is it perhaps that McCain supporters have more to fear? I'm not talking just about this cartoon, but in general. My email is constantly filled with ludicrous claims that Obama is a Muslim, he eats babies, kicks puppies, etc...

Second...isn't it ironic that a nation of mostly "Christians" freak out so much about a burning flag. Isn't there a commandment about worshipping idols?

Sent by Michael | 2:31 PM | 7-15-2008

The cover aside, I am so sick of people in Kansas being used as the new "stupid". I live in Kansas City, and for those of you who do not know, the city spans the state lines of Kansas and Missouri. Can we please not use Kansas residents as the representatives of all those who are ignorant? Believe it or not there are stupid people everywhere (think Washington DC). People in Kansas and Missouri get irony, we are educated, some of us even went to college!!! How about just using the uneducated in all of our 50 states as your scapegoat for those who won't get irony!

Sent by Amanda | 2:31 PM | 7-15-2008

The racist Yahoos will turn it into a t-shirt, poster, alerts, etc. I get it, but it's a bad move

Sent by Gess Healey | 2:31 PM | 7-15-2008

M Day could have said it better.
Blue States = Smart and sophisticated.
Red States = uninformed mental midgets.
(Am I allowed to say midget on NPR? Oops. Red State faux-pas.) How do I even know what faux-pas means, I'm from Kansas. Would you teach me, M Day?

Sent by Sue | 2:32 PM | 7-15-2008

I wonder if the New Yorker would print a cover that shows John Mc Cain in a wheelchair, with drool on his chin, a huge hearing aid, a nurse at his back, as well as his military awards dangling from his hospital johnny. How about adding a huge bandage over his cancer scar on his cheek?

Sent by Wendy Stevens | 2:32 PM | 7-15-2008

Good Afternoon,

It seems to me that in this conversation we have forgotten context. In art and in particular art that comments on current events we always have to consider context. The cover image of a news/commentary magazine is at least communication and it aspire to be at best art. in this day and age any image or text is preserved indefinately and if we do not accompany context we do not give the image a complete analysis. You do knw that in the future some hitorian will dig up the image and spin a different context, perhaps one that is contrary to what the magazine had wanted to be considered. Please help put the image in context and not just spout off opinions based on self experience. Let us really analyze the image and the intentions of the magazine. Failed or not.

Sent by Roy Roncal | 2:32 PM | 7-15-2008

I'm a 65-year old white lady, and am appalled to see this cover on the New Yorker (which we subscribe to). Having to live in the South with people who BELIEVE this stuff, I regularly run the gauntlet of idiots who smirk at me because they "know" he's a Muslim who will sell out the country to the A-Rabs. Satire is for people who are intelligent enough to understand it. And, trust me, these people here won't think it's directed at them. If you had an idiot sitting in a chair, with this picture in a bubble as being dreamed by them, then they might Get It. But not the way it was presented. They will now believe that people in New York believe it, too!

Sent by Bev in SC | 2:32 PM | 7-15-2008

As a cartoonist myself, I find this conversation quite amusing. I once showed a friend Art Spiegleman's MAUS, and he was horrified that this tragic moment in history was depicted in a cartoon format. This was a perfect example of people "not getting it" as is the case with this cartoon. I think the primary function of art and cartoons especially are to instigate a reaction in the viewer and I believe this cover does that quite well.

Sent by Bill | 2:32 PM | 7-15-2008

Great show, great cover. One of the fundamental problems in our current national discussion is the need to tone the discussion down to the level of the "average american" Irony is not dead, the people in control of the discussion are just afraid to use it. Give people credit for being able to think, even if you underestimate then at least you are moving in the right direction

Sent by Thomas Gilman | 2:32 PM | 7-15-2008

One of your speakers hit the nail on head - the satire with a thought balloon from Carl Rove, Russ Limbaugh, etc. would have placed the object of the satire on the cover. As it stands, the object of the satire is the Obama's. All New Yorker covers I've viewed show the object and depict what is [funny] abot them.

Jean Hester Chicago

Sent by Jean Hester | 2:33 PM | 7-15-2008

Before all the shocked reactions, I would have said, the cover won't change anything -- New Yorker readers aren't the ones believing or spreading the Obama smears and the ones who do believe and spread them probably don't read The New Yorker (and probably don't listen to "Talk of the Nation" -- sadly.) Now I would say this so-called controversy may change some opinions because all the newspapers are reporting on it and the McCain camp has even commented on it. So maybe the cover picture did do its job -- it got people talking about the smears more openly.

Sent by Jennifer Hill | 2:34 PM | 7-15-2008

If it's really satire, why not show white America as Nazis? Why not show white people as having stolen this country from the red and brown man and built it with the blood of the black and yellow (and more brown) man?

Sent by Clement | 2:34 PM | 7-15-2008

Regarding the New Yorker's Obama cartoon: Understanding the meaning, and using it as a stimulus for deep discussion, requires a certain degree of sophistication. Unfortunately, I am afraid many individuals (including my brother) will take it literally, continue to listen to Rush Limbaugh, and say to the rest of America: "I told you so."

Sent by Teresa Evans | 2:34 PM | 7-15-2008

Yes, the cover is satire. But most of America lives outside NYC and San Francisco, and most people who see the cover wont read the article. So what they will remember? The visual. Indeed a picture is worth a thousand words.

Sent by MotherLodeBeth | 2:34 PM | 7-15-2008

Having read the New Yorker for decades the meaning of the cover is obvious to me. I believe the resulting uproar says far more about the level of civil discourse and general ability to process complicated material in this country than about the cartoon itself.

Sent by Terrance Brennan | 2:34 PM | 7-15-2008

I appreciate that the image does indeed stimulate comment and conversation. It the same time I am disheartened by the fact that it(the image) only serves to feed the narrowmindedness of conservative right. As for stimulating comment and conversation ... so does a fart in church.

Sent by mb | 2:34 PM | 7-15-2008

Isn't the beauty of this cover found in its obsurdity. Each tibit left by itself can be a dangerous rumor, but put all together in a cartoon it shows how bizarre all of these lies and rumors really are.

Sent by Chris | 2:34 PM | 7-15-2008

It's incredibly egotistical and naive to imagine that this cover is going to inspire a national discussion on the nature of irony and satire. Millions of people who see this are never going to get irony or satire and will never delve into the logical disconnect inherent of the cover. Simply because the New Yorker readership is notoriously self-congratulatory about its sophistication, does not exonerate this misguided editorial decision.

Sent by Judith Infante | 2:35 PM | 7-15-2008

Further to me earlier comment, note that the cover generated discussion of the cover itself rather than the of rumors and lies that the New Yorker editor claims that the cover is about. It definitely did not achieve the editor's stated intention.

Sent by Lou | 2:35 PM | 7-15-2008

Better that the liberals got to this first! What kind of doors has this opened up?

Sent by Matthew Schwantes | 2:35 PM | 7-15-2008

If the subject was satire about people who don't believe in the holocaust, would it be OK to have a picture on the cover of Jewish people dancing their way into an oven - I don't think so. This is not because black politicans are "off limits" for satire. It crosses the line where satire is trumped by poor taste.

Sent by Stephen Matlock | 2:35 PM | 7-15-2008

I think that anyone who regularly reads The New Yorker would take pause to chew over and digest this cover and its message before responding. Those who are responding negatively I believe are those who haven't given much thought before responding. Anyone who thinks that this is derogatory of the Obamas doesn't get the joke and might think twice before responding to something they don't understand.

Sent by Jeanine | 2:36 PM | 7-15-2008

Sample size of One:

Toles had a wonderful cartoon (4/16)making EXACTLY the same point. It made me think and laugh so much so that I wanted to frame it and place it on the wall. (

The New Yorker image made me cringe. It was a bad decision and should be acknowledged as such.

Sent by Ken Harrison | 2:37 PM | 7-15-2008

The New Yorker absolutely hits the marks. First, it has stimulated discussion where its needed. As many have already stated, the lies lampooned need to be exposed for what they are. Second, it is helping us to be more sophisticated about satire and irony in service to satire. True to its roots, the New Yorker has sparked a national discussion that is literate.

Please use a dictionary definition of satire in your discussions. Satire is not required to be funny. "Tasteless" satire is frequently most successful provoking discussion.

Sent by Wil | 2:37 PM | 7-15-2008

What is a bad move---all the Obama supporters who act like prissy Conservatives, don't get the joke and end up looking like conspiracy theory fools. These responses just hurt Mr. Obama's chances---not help.

Sent by Scott (M) | 2:38 PM | 7-15-2008

My initial reaction to the cover was negative but listening to your show and all the discussion about it makes me think it will be a positive thing. I hope so, but I'm afraid that for some people who only look at the surface it will only reinforce negative stereotypes. I kind of wish it had been shown as a thought bubble from Kark Rove's head to insure that everybody "gets it".
Thanks for your show.

Sent by Bill Miller | 2:40 PM | 7-15-2008

I felt outrage when first viewing the New Yorker cover depiction of Senator and Mrs. Obama, seeming to clearly express many of the negative images emerging in this campaign.

NPR and PBS commentaries have informed me that the cover can be viewed as comic satire. Viewed in this light, the outrage has been replaced with a fresh perspective on our current political climate and how angry the electorate is on all sides.

The New Yorker can be applauded for its courage in these zenophobic times.

Sent by Mike | 2:40 PM | 7-15-2008

This was not meant for the non-New Yorker readers. Unfortunately it does get wider media coverage. Maybe they hoped browsers would pick it up hoping to find more about what they "think" is true only to find it is false. But now many will only see the picture of the cover. Yet with the discussion going around about the article being about lies, maybe the content will get out there anyway.

Sent by Adrian | 2:40 PM | 7-15-2008

There was news coverage recently of how memory is created and how, after a couple of handoffs in the brain, it is not unusual to have an opposite memory created. Thus 12% of people still believe Obama is a Muslim. The advice from the authors of the study for the Obama campaign was that they shouldn't say, "Obama is not a Muslim, he's a Christian" because those with the faulty memory will not hear the negative but, in fact, reinforce the incorrect information rather than replace it with the correct information.

The editors of The New Yorker assume that the people seeing the cover have the same intelligence as they do. This will not be the case after it has been plastered all over the media in a different context than originally intended.

Perhaps large letters should accompany the cover saying: If you believe this, you are a) uninformed b) prejudiced c) an idiot d) all of the above.

Sent by Richard Reuther | 2:41 PM | 7-15-2008

NPR demounces the media when its soft, when it doesn't expose, hit hard enough, etc.

Now we have this brilliant "In your face, you smear and fear pundits," and what do you say? "Oh, my, it's too this and it's too that, and it may scare people, and oh my."

"Hew to the line, let the chips fall where they may."

Use your time to get us out of these wars. Did you read the headlines today and yesterday? Dead all over. Their blood on our hands thickens while we wring them over whether the knives of this satirical cartoon are too sharp.

Sent by LaPlante | 2:41 PM | 7-15-2008

what about the musliems that live here with us they shouldnt have their image tarnish more i dont think thats fair @ all try useing a empty office with a tv on and nothing on what is that

Sent by bob uptown | 2:42 PM | 7-15-2008

Satire is only effective when it goes after worthy targets. When it go after innocent targets it's bullying. I believe The New Yorker attempted to lampoon the right-wing cable-news-consuming lazy-minded people who gladly believe the lies about Obama, but they executed it badly. If people can't tell it's satire or can't tell what you're satirizing, you're not doing it right.

Sent by Mike | 2:42 PM | 7-15-2008

I thought the cover was terrific - made you stop and think? I'm offended by the continual referral to rural people not understanding or believing the portrayal. I represent and work for rural citizens in Oregon - these people are bright and pay as much, if not more attention to these issues than most of my urban counterparts!

Sent by Kris | 2:42 PM | 7-15-2008

Barack Obama, as a Black candidate has to overcome racial mistrust among just about every ethnic group, including some African Americans. I think that the argument to just take it as satire and don't treat Barack Obama special as a candidate because of race, ignores the extent to which many people readily absorb even illogical and false information.

Sent by Tina R. | 2:42 PM | 7-15-2008

In 2000 there was a smear campaign against John McCain suggesting he had illegitimately fathered his adopted daughter. Since the NY Times uses its cover to satirize campaign smears, would it be appropriate for them to print a cover showing McCain fathering an illegitimate black child?

Sent by Paul | 2:44 PM | 7-15-2008

The editor calls his cover "fantastical images about the Obamas." While to most New Yorker readers the images might be "fantastical," they are not to lots of people who believe everything the cover implies about Obama. The will never see the cover on The New Yorker, because they don't read The New Yorker, but they will see the image over and over again during the next month that The New Yorker doesn't have a clue about. This cover does not satirize or rebuke those people, it validates them. (people from The New Yorker may not know those people, but most of us who live outside the bubble do.

My first thought when seeing the cover was that the people at The New Yorker had to be either Obama's blood enemies or just plain stupid. Hearing and reading the comments defending he cover only convince me more of its stupidity.

Sent by allen tz | 2:47 PM | 7-15-2008

New Yorker readers are a fairly sophisticated lot. However, especially in this electronic age, this image will be duplicated millions of times, mostly without attribution, explanation, or context. In many "reissues" the image will be used to denigrate (figuratively and literally) Sen. Obama and his wife. If the New Yorker's publication of this image was innocent, it was timed with terrible unconcern as the candidate tries to introduce himself to the nation at large. If the there is more to the use of this imagery than the publisher allows, then it is both vicious and disgusting.

Sent by Diego | 2:47 PM | 7-15-2008

I think this image exactly reinforces the rumors about Obama. For most of the folks here in Oklahoma, if Rush doesn't say it, it ain't true. Satire? Folks here may understand it, but they'll just chuckle and have their 'truth' reinforced. I don't know if it was intentional, and I don't think just the New York elite understands satire. I think this picture simply fails to convey its satirical point and instead reinforces the point it was supposedly trying to satirize.

Sent by Kevin | 2:47 PM | 7-15-2008

Responding to Mike Peters, a good (and talented) friend up the road in Aspen. This is Linda Lafferty downvalley in Carbondale.

What will be the response to the cartoon months, even years from now? Time will tell a different tale.

Exposure--ART, really-- is important, even if it hurts! I think it was a courageous move that struck at direct hit at the nasty, dark side of conservatism. Yes, make a satire of it, that image that some idiots have in the brains now. Put it out there visually, the fist-bumping, the turban, the automatic rifle of the dangerous revolutionary. Clear the air, friends, because it's time we overturn that rock and shine the light on the ugly grubs that thrive in the minds of the ignorant.

Wither those worms! Go, New Yorker!


Sent by Linda Lafferty | 2:47 PM | 7-15-2008

About the only thing accomplished by this cover is demonstrating the unbelievable provincialism of The New Yorker. The image on the cover is not at all representative of how conservatives or those of us yokles in "fly-over" country think about Obama. Polls have found that there are about equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats who think Obama is Muslim, although more Republicans than Dems are aware that he is a Christian. There is a very small percentage of the electorate which thinks of Obama in the way which is shown on the cover of TNY. However, as Hillary Clinton's campaign showed, these people are NOT all right wingers. And, thank God, regardless of political ideology, these folks represent a small minority of Americans (who hopefully are too dumb to find their way into a voting booth anyways.) OTOH, McCain has been out front in condemning this cover as well as other attempts to try and paint Obama as unpatriotic, a radical, ect. Any credit for that? Of course not! Instead we get the brainless commentary about how "people in Kansas will take this at face value." Or "If this was on the cover of The American Conservative, people would look at it and say, 'I knew it!'" It really would be hard to give the rest of America a plainer demonstration of how out of touch with reality you are than to say such ridiculous things. Do they have to search for people this incredibly dumb to comment in the media or can you just pluck them at random off the streets of NYC? Unbelievable!

Sent by Rebecca Trotter | 2:47 PM | 7-15-2008

On Digby's blog, Digby (who has written satirical pieces that are positively Swiftian) points out the Fear That Dare Not Speak Its Name, even in the conversation you just had on your program:

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.

Sent by Noel | 2:48 PM | 7-15-2008

Bravo! What a great group of commentators on this show, from gut feelings to highly-informed thinking. I do not agree with those callers who found the New Yorker cover distasteful, however I wish that the word "distasteful" could or would be applied to political actions (ie the Bush administration) as easily and freely as it can be applied to artwork.

Sent by Barry | 2:49 PM | 7-15-2008

My career was illustration. I believe the artist simply rendered a concept given to him by The New Yorker.

Sent by Tom Teague | 2:49 PM | 7-15-2008

I've been a registered republican for over 40 years and have this to say (yes, conservatives listen to NPR). First I was offended by the content of the New Yorker cover. But upon further reflection I have to give the New Yorker credit. They are trying to shed light on one of the foundations of the Republican party in the last 20 years that I am ashamed of. That is their masterful use of the "FUD Factor". FUD standing for Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt - otherwise know as "dirty tricks". For voters to make an educated decision, this nasty habit the RNC has adopted of exploiting the FUD Factor in an effort to gain votes needs to be exposed and disposed of. It is counter productive and short sited.

Sent by Roy | 2:49 PM | 7-15-2008

It would have been funnier and as ironic to have the faces of McCain and his wife dressed as the Obamas are dressed on the cover of the New Yorker.Same point Less offensive.

Sent by Andrew | 2:49 PM | 7-15-2008

I do not follow any organized religion. My biggest problem with this controversy is that it is now an insult to be called Muslim and no one seems to be defending any American's right to follow any religion he or she wants. What if he had been Muslim? Or Jewish? Or Buddhist? Or even atheist? I don't care what god a candidate professes to worship.

Sent by Toni | 2:50 PM | 7-15-2008

Dear NPR,
As an African American, I have always been struck by the differences between the humor from blacks and whites. What's funny to some of us, isn't to others. I thought the cover was right on and needed. It was sophisticated and didn't talk down to the reader. I'm not sure which group connected with it more--blacks or whites.

There's the famous quote by Truman: "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen." Well, this is the heat. It's the heat for Obama, for blacks, and for whites. We will all be challenged by the arrival of Obama. With Obama, we move into the larger society in ways we haven't been previously. This is a part of it. Join the crowd. Show up on the cover of the New Yorker. We don't need to be treated with kid gloves or talked down to. Do we really need thought bubbles to make sense of this ad?
I think there has been a tremendous overreaction here.

Sent by Sandra | 2:50 PM | 7-15-2008

the value of the cover, according to mr. spiegelman and others, is that it generates conversation. i have been listening, reading, and have yet to find a true deconstructing (or other theoretically grounded) discussion of the cover. no one to my knowledge directly dissected its evocative representation of a manchurian candidacy, what it means, economically, historically, politically, when a large segment of any nation embraces this notion. i want a deeply considered analysis by the media of this cover. there must be historical parallels! i, and i hope others, do not need more dancing around the edges of the very fear this cover putatively seeks to represent.

Sent by bonnie | 2:53 PM | 7-15-2008

When I first heard about the cover, I understood that it was based on the rumors floating around about Obama, and I was greatly disturbed then. When I later saw the cover I was even more so disturbed. It wasn't until I listened to today's show that I found out there was an appropriate title that went along with the cover. I think that if that title was on the cover along with the picture then it would have put the picture in the proper context.

Obama is not above satire. I get the point of the cover. However, with the strong under-current of racism in this country, something like this needed context up front. I'm glad the guest used the Kansas-reference, because I use it often myself. I'm afraid that Joe Farmer out in Kansas, who may get his news by word of mouth, will see or hear about this and say, "I knew it was true!!!" This cover (without proper context) give people like him more fuel for his un-informed fire.

Admittedly, I am not a reader of The New Yorker, and I don't know if they typically put titles (or captions) on their covers; however, I think this would have been a good time to start.

Sent by KP | 2:55 PM | 7-15-2008

The cartoon would have been great if it had been inside of the New Yorker as an illustration for the article, but to put it on the cover seems more like exploitation than satire. Those who don't read the magazine will see it in the news stands. For supporters of Obama, it is like a slap in the face. For detractors, it is an illustration of their worst fears. Yes, it generates discussion, but to what purpose?

Sent by Christine Connerly | 2:56 PM | 7-15-2008

It ain't funny unless everybody laughs

What the New Yorkists and their admirers don't realize is that satire is the lowest and least creative form of humor. It appeals to the nastiest of human sentiments -- the need some feel some to shame and embarrass an opponent. It has contributed mightily to the coarsening and cheapening of modern society, and to making 'pop culture' the oxymoron it has become. The only redeeming feature of the current situation is that the social juveniles at the New Yorker have had a backfire and scorched the sacred cow instead of barbecuing the scapegoat.

Sent by Raymond D. Tindel | 2:59 PM | 7-15-2008

The New Yorker is a publicly viewable magazine. Anybody can see it, including people who aren't "in" on the joke. To assume that only people who get the "joke" are going to form opinions from it is naive. Airtime for these rumors is validation, giving more voice to falsehoods & more opportunity to spread misinformation. People believe rumors b/c of smippets of heresay, not in-depth information. The "conversation" the New Yorker has stirred up is relevant only among people who already know the rumors are false,& will fuel the misinformation fire outside the circle of New Yorker readers.

Sent by Caroline | 2:59 PM | 7-15-2008

Sample Size of Two.

I agree with Sample Size of One. The Toles cartoon succeeds where the New Yorker cover fails. Eustace Tilly and the butterfly was funny because it was self-deprecating. The recent New Yorker covers, including this one, are self-congratulating and bloodless.

Sent by David Gillman | 2:59 PM | 7-15-2008

Political cartoons make the viewer feel good about themselves because they (get the joke, understand the irony, perceive the sarcasm). New Yorker cartoons make the viewer fell good that they are in an intellectual IN crowd.
The problem with putting this specific cartoon on the cover, is that the Humor is lost on certain cultures in the US that do not communicate using irony or sarcasm.

The New Yorker knows this.
They knew it would be controversial.

It might be an good exercise for the New Yorker's regular readership to stop for a second (just a second) and suspend their smugness and need for a magazine to make them feel clever. Maybe realize that the big joke is being played on them. That, at the expense of the very people they claim to be championing, they are getting their fix of irony.
Is it worth it?

Why don't those people get the joke?

Those people...........

Sent by Tim Brown | 3:02 PM | 7-15-2008

It's not Obama that is being satirized but rather those who fear Obama for race issues that are being satirized. If Americans have any reason to fear Obama, it is not because he is a radical new politician but because he is exactly the same kind of conventional centrist politician as so many have been in the past.

Sent by Sooj | 3:07 PM | 7-15-2008

i have an idea for some new, new yorker covers. i just tried writing them but i can't they are too disgusting. one had to do with mc cain and his blond intern, the next was of nelson mendela and racist views of africans, when i tried to draw attention to rumors about president bush it became more difficult because all my ideas were true. i don't think the new yorker cover was a good idea.

Sent by barbara Banquer | 3:08 PM | 7-15-2008

I am a devotee of NPR. But how's this quote for satire: "Any press is good press?" I get the feeling that NPR just aired a paid advertisement for the "New Yorker" magazine! Racial issues, misconceptions, the value of satire, and current politics are, of course, valuable discussion topics. Neal hobnobbing about his favorite New Yorker cover is not. I anxiously await Neal's forthright discussion with two former staff of "The Weekly Standard," "National Review," or "The Wall Street Journal" about their latest issue. :)

Sent by Randy Christensen | 3:08 PM | 7-15-2008

Neal, I just listened to your show and have to disagree with you for scolding some of your listeners who spoke out against the cover.
I grew up in the northeast and inside the D.C. beltway, reading and enjoying The New Yorker magazine. I appreciate the dry wit and sense of irony, which is reflected in most of it's lampooning humor. In that light, I also "get" the irony intended by the cover.
HOWEVER, three years ago, I have moved to the deep south to work on a project, and I have to tell you that MOST people in this region do not "get it". In fact, the cover reflects precisely how they envision the Obama's. NO AMOUNT OF FACT to the contrary seems to sway them otherwise. (you remeber the O.J. trial?)
I am reminded of Bill Mahr's rant, scolding the candidiates for claiming that the voting public is too intelligent to be baffled by the endless disinformation produced by surrogate groups. His response, "NO THEY'RE NOT!!!".
At the risk of sounding "elitist", it IS my (and your) understanding of the irony intended that qualifies us for that very title.
Even if "a majority" of the voting public is not confused by this cover, enough of them will be and empowered to carry it as a banner against Obama, perhaps with enough margin to loose him the election.

Sent by Brian | 3:09 PM | 7-15-2008

Even though there is another specific and true meaning behind the article "The Politics of Fear", others who are illiterate may not be able to analyze cartoons like this in depth, will take the illustration out of context; not knowing of its complete essence here. I think who thought of this starry illustration had other motives in mind.

Sent by Ann Chien | 3:12 PM | 7-15-2008

I have followed this story online in a number of websites, and the reaction is mixed, some of us got the satire message, and also believe it was meant to spark comment as well as make The New Yorker a daily name in conversation, others were saying I knew it it was true all the things people were saying about Obama was true, taking the cover as fact backed up by the New Yorker, and I believe these views are why Obama is offended by the cover.

Sent by Paul Millard | 3:17 PM | 7-15-2008

I thought the cover was fantastic - and an obvious satire on the people who perpetuate those ideas and all the other nasty attacks during presidential campaigns. Sadly though, we live in a society in which it is necessary to include the warning "do not drink" on a bottle of clorox, so if you don't spell it out exactly - they won't get it. That said - to have written anything on there would indeed have decreased it's power to "ignite" this dialogue - as one guest said. People have got to stop looking to be offended at every corner and making everything about race. That comedian you had on was clueless - the cartoon had nothing to do with race but CLEARLY poked fun at those who spread such stupid rumors about the Obamas.

Sent by susan | 3:17 PM | 7-15-2008

Unfortunately there are many people in the US who are afraid of Obama and are so narrow minded that they will not even read books by him or about him. Because of the untrue e-mails, we read the two books by him. Now we see why folks at The New Yorker would poke fun at these narrow minded people. We wish talk shows would encourage all readers to read "Dreams from My Father" and "The Audacity of Hope".

Sent by Margaret | 3:19 PM | 7-15-2008

To those who "get it, but are only worried about those who don't"...stop being so wishy washy, or worse - arrogant.

You're trying to have your cake and it to: "I'm savvy, and yet so conscientious." When really I think your just afraid of actually having to defend your position.

I respect the opinions of those who readily admit the cover offends them as much as those who defend it as satire because it demonstrates some sense of conviction and sincerity.

I appreciate the image for what it is, a scathing satire of the cartoonish image Obama's detractors want people to believe.

Sent by Brian Maggi | 3:22 PM | 7-15-2008

I see a lot of comments on the page stating: "it ain't funny if nobody laughs." The problem with that logic, however, is that the opportunity to evaluate this satire on its own merits has been lost forever by virtue of its overblown coverage in the press. Did you see the New Yorker cover BEFORE you heard about the controversy? Were you outraged BEFORE you were told you should be outraged by the pundits? This is one of the most embarrassing debates I've ever overheard - I can't believe the amount of press this "non-story" is getting. Are we seriously concerned that certain "not very clever" segments of our citizenry are going to think that Barack Obama is a Muslim terrorist... because of their perception of a New Yorker cover? 12% of citizens polled by Newsweek already think that Barack Obama is a a Muslim - these people are too stupid to have the right to vote in the first place, so let's not distract ourselves with the impact of the New Yorker on their voting decisions. How does the New Yorker cover get more scathing coverage than "terrorist fist bump" or "Barack Hussein Obama" or any of the dozens of incidents that this cover so effectively satirizes? Unbelievable...

Sent by Rick Haelig | 3:26 PM | 7-15-2008

#1,2 and3: The cover is neither funny nor satirical.
#4. It has a below the belt "shock/jock" appeal.
#5 It's purported "message" simply doesn't deliver to the alleged the non-NYer audience. And, since when do NYer readers need such a heavy-handed approach?

Sent by Camille | 3:31 PM | 7-15-2008

A cover like this propagates the mistrust and fear people have of Candidate Obama. Forget about the subscribers for a minute; what about terrorist Muslims? Do they get the satire, or do they think that Obama is THEIR candidate as well? To me he is protrayed as a terrorist-sympathizer.

Sent by A.T. | 3:32 PM | 7-15-2008

Has anyone seen Tom Stiglich's editorial cartoon today?

Even as a long-time New Yorker reader, and as someone intelligent enough to "get" the satire, I still cringed when I saw the cover. People who are not intelligent enough for strong satire are not New Yorker readers. They'll never see the inside of the magazine. Like the characters in Stiglich's cartoon, they'll see only confirmation of their prejudicial, racist, erroneous beliefs.

Please remember that more than 40 percent of respondents in a recent poll still believe that Obama attended a "Muslim school" as a child (source: NPR). Please remember the woman from the organization Latinas for McCain who said in an interview that Obama was raised as a Muslim, abandoned his religion to become a Christian for political reasons, then abandoned his Christianity over the Rev. Wright debacle. She also believes that when Obama denies these things, he's lying because "everyone knows they brainwash six-year-old children in terrorist schools." (paraphrase) (Source: NPR)

Of course it's appalling and shameful that the Muslim religion has become the Swift Boat of this election cycle. But I don't see a way to eliminate this prejudice before November. And it doesn't change the fact that many people believe lies if they're told over and over. The last election proved that once and for all.

And of course it's appalling and shameful that racism still plays so well in this country. One of our local stations was quick to point out that Obama's wife was depicted with an Afro, which they considered as strong a symbol of terrorism as anything else on the cover.

Finally, I wish Seymour M. Hersh's latest New Yorker piece on Iran was getting a tenth the publicity as the cover.

I was unable to call or email during today's show. Thanks for the opportunity to vent.

Sent by Melissa Porter | 3:33 PM | 7-15-2008

As an African-American, I'm generally leery of statements that begin, "As an African-American", however,

As an African-American, I recognize the cartoon as satire....albeit clumsy and unsatisfying satire.It's a little too spot on for my taste, and lacks a certain tongue-in-cheek quality.Personally, I was not particularly offended, although if I was managing editor of the New Yorker, I might not go to Harlem for a few weeks.

Also, the idea that "people in Kansas", are too stupid to recognize the inherent satire of the cartoon is insulting, and perhaps evidence of that fabled liberal elitism that keeps costing the left Presidential elections.Might want to tone that down.

Anyone inclined to use this particular image on a t-shirt to disparage Obama, was probably going to do so anyway, and likely has a store of far more offensive images set aside somewhere.

As an aside, I'll bet Jesse Jackson is really glad the new issue of the New Yorker is shipping right now.

Until the next Frank Discussion On Race in America.

Sent by Jay | 3:35 PM | 7-15-2008

I was raised in a segregated south, by racist parents. I support Barack Obama. I was deeply offended by this cartoon, but am unable to articulate why. I have also lived happily in Manhattan. I think this cartoon illustrates the incredible ignorance of New Yorkers - they are really citizens of edge-america (those that live on the 2 coasts).

Sent by Lois Boulware | 3:36 PM | 7-15-2008

Let me add this: those ignorant people who believe that Obama is a terrorist ALREADY BELIEVE THAT. So - why worry that they may take this cover the wrong way? It's not going to change the minds of those of us who support Obama. Much ado...

Sent by susan | 3:39 PM | 7-15-2008

It has been suggested that the entire cartoon should have been placed inside a Carl Rove or Rush Limbaugh thought-bubble. It seems to me that Art Spiegleman and those who, like him, defended the "satirical" cover are in their own thought bubbles. It is the conceit of the New Yorker (and its defenders) that their cleverness will inspire people who are so suggestible and biased as to believe these lies about the Obamas to rethink these beliefs, when in fact it will more than likely validate them. Clearly the New Yorker has not been following the latest research on the human brain and preconceptions. It will take more than a New Yorker cover to dissuade them.

Sent by Judith Newman | 3:41 PM | 7-15-2008

"Did you see the New Yorker cover BEFORE you heard about the controversy? Were you outraged BEFORE you were told you should be outraged by the pundits?" Rick Haelig | 3:26 PM ET | 07-15-2008

Yes, I did see the cover before I saw the comments about it and, yes, I was outraged before I heard anything said about it.

If you have to explain a joke, it's not funny. If you have to explain the context of satire, it's missed the mark. When you have the editor defending and explaining the cover, you know they are in full damage control.

Part of the problem is, there is no context for the images. A thought bubble coming from some on the right. Or a title, like: "Baracknophobia, the irrational fear of hope!" If it had something like that, it might have been funnier and there would have been less of a chance for people to misunderstand the intent. Neither were used. Instead we have to have a discussion to clarify what was meant. That's lousy satire.

Sent by ecotopian | 3:50 PM | 7-15-2008

I think the New Yorker should apologize for its cover. As a prominent publication, the New Yorker has a greater responsibility to the consequences of its art than to the art itself.

There's a campaign to get the New Yorker to apologize:

Sent by steph | 4:03 PM | 7-15-2008

I don't think its funny or sarcastic either, but does this common reaction say more about our collective unconscious than anything else? Our initial reaction is that it's slanderous, not sarcastic, which isn't really rational. The image is clearly stupid.

I hope I live to see the day when we immediately recognize something like this is ridiculous, satirical, ironic and sarcastic.

In the meantime as things stand today, despite my best effort, it is repulsive, distasteful, divisive and mean-spirited. It is what it is, and we are who we are.

We are collectively doomed if we let this election be decided as have several recent ones: by fear and prejudice. This cartoon and the dialogue just reinforces my resolve to ignore the pundits, yellow journalism and popular pablum press, and persist in my intellectual decision for Obama.

I am extremely thankful for the campaigns of both Obama and McCain so far, as they both seek to unify our county when we so badly need it. Their behavior and refreshing civil discourse serve us all very well indeed.

Sent by Louis F. Springer | 4:05 PM | 7-15-2008

I find it ironic that so much time is being spent debating the cartoon's satirical effectiveness when it's the subject of every major news outlet in the country right now. By sparking such controversy the New Yorker is drawing the attention of those outside it's regular readership to the myths and misconceptions that exist about Barack Obama. The resulting media conversations can only serve to dispel said myths and better educate the general public.

Sent by Brendan Lawler | 4:09 PM | 7-15-2008

Wow. The guest is so upset he forgot how to articulate a position. "Complexion Protection"?? b give me a break. TOTN, you can do better than just emotion, can't you?

Sent by Kevin Mattingly | 4:21 PM | 7-15-2008

I think we're all missing the point of the cover, which is to get the nation talking about the New Yorker magaizne. Bad publicity is better than no publicity.

Sent by Kevin | 4:24 PM | 7-15-2008

Is Barry Blitt and the staff at the New Yorker concerned about Muslim reaction? We've all witnessed how touchy they can be when it comes to cartoons.

Sent by MO | 4:25 PM | 7-15-2008

I have to fully agree, with those that believe the New Yorker cover page is tasteless. If the purpose was to poke fun at those who "believe" Obama a Muslim then create a different drawing depicting that thought. The New Yorker has a rich editing staff and I personally find it hard to believe that was an honest mistake. Instead of poking fun at those that believe misrepresentation the New Yorker helped prepetuate the stereotype.

Sent by John Brown | 4:35 PM | 7-15-2008

the INTENT was to be funny. HOWEVER we all know that we still live in a racist society and that someone is waiting to do evil to Mr. Obama. That said, I think this cover could give that person additional license and encouragement. Sad, but a fact. What a testament to U.S.A. today.

Sent by Jean Hunter | 4:38 PM | 7-15-2008

The really offensive thing in the discussion is not really the cartoon but Spegelmen's extremely dismissive and condescending tone. I find it a real pot and kettle irony when he says that it is the more a thing needs to be explained the less effective a tool it is at expressing his message. Physician heal thyself.

Sent by Bruce T | 5:03 PM | 7-15-2008

I'm an NPR listerner..and a New Yorker subscriber...even after your explanatory piece today on the radio, I still feel it was just very poor satire...not worthy of The New Yorker. Bad cover. Bad decision.

Sent by gary | 5:03 PM | 7-15-2008

I finally got on this damn show! I was the first caller, Adam from Tucson. I'm glad to see many of you also thought that first guest was kind of an idiot. I wish he'd answered Neil's question concerning my point about the media. Oh well. Peace over and out

Sent by Adam | 5:09 PM | 7-15-2008

I think the satiric drawing would have been more effective if it had been on an easel with Karl Rove as artist seated quietly in the corner with pencil in hand and beret on head.

Sent by Anne Marten | 5:32 PM | 7-15-2008

How is the New Yorker Obama caricature different than the (Danish, I think) cartoon not too long ago depicting the Prophet Muhammad with the bomb under his turban? Is it funny? Maybe yes. Was it in good taste? Probably no. Did the artist manage to offend a lot of people? Yes.

Was that what was intended? You decide.

Sent by MB | 6:18 PM | 7-15-2008

I do support Barack Obama for President.

I did hear about the controversy and I have not yet seen the cover on an actual magazine.

So, I have it explained to me that the cover is satire, yet even with that insistent explanation, the cover makes no sense to me. I think it is just stupid.

Now, the linked cartoon, the suggested thought bubbles, and the idea of Carl Rove as an artist are all funny for me. They make me smile at once.

I think the cover is just lame.

Sent by orcmid | 6:24 PM | 7-15-2008

Tell me something, why do you think presidential candidates spend the bulk of their campaign money on 30 secs TV commercial sound bites? Because it works, that's why. It may be sad that majority of the Americans get their news from 30 secs TV soundbites but it's the reality. So tell me again, do you think those same people are more likely to "get" the satire or take it as face value? The New Yorker is hugely irresponsible for putting up this cartoon because it will only fuel the same baseless rumors about the Obamas.

Sent by Bob | 7:01 PM | 7-15-2008

Sometimes i disagree with guests on the show, which would be a shock if that was to never happen but the comedian that was first in line on this subject was flat out ridiculous.

This website speaks for the other side far better than that fool.

Sent by Rebecca | 7:02 PM | 7-15-2008

Seattle P-I cartoonist, David Horsey had pretty good commentary:

Sent by Owen | 7:10 PM | 7-15-2008

But, you didn't see the rest of the picture. If you zoom out, you will notice that the New Yorker cover is sitting on an easel. Off to one side is a figure in an artist's smock, with a paint brush in hand and a devilish smirk on their face. On the smock is the name Rush Ann Rove (or just Karl Rove) ha ha

Sent by Dick | 8:23 PM | 7-15-2008

This cover would have been hilarious if only the words "What idiots think of the Obamas" because without those words the people you're making fun of won't get it.

Sent by Nicholas Ivan Ladendorf | 8:27 PM | 7-15-2008

I just heard a woman on the program defending Obama against people who were afraid of him because he was born outside the USA. What the? *^$#^**!!!
May God bless Obama because his defenders don't even know the truth.

Sent by Bucko | 11:11 PM | 7-15-2008

If the idea was to get the people talking about the ridiculousness of the wild rumors about Obama, it failed. Instead America is talking about the appropriateness of the cover itself. We've actually become distracted from the very topic that the cover was supposed to draw our attention to.

Sent by Brian K. Trotter | 11:45 PM | 7-15-2008

As I listened to the smary explanation that this cover was "just satirical", "just a cartoon", "just meant to get conversation started", I was reminded of that tired Rush Limbaugh trick of making some a terribly tasteless comment about some one then excusing it by saying, "Just Kidding." The comment was made and will be repeated by Rush's ditto-heads for weeks but Rush can distance himself by pointing out that he told everyone he was "Just kidding".

This completely tasteless cartoon is already making the rounds of the radical right internet. I have already received it twice. I expect to see it on T-shirts soon.

Sent by DrDick | 12:27 AM | 7-16-2008

The New Yorker is WAY over the line and this could be satire if 1. it wasn't on the cover 2.if the caption was shown 3. they have the guts to show Bush & Cheny as Satan & a demon,with a cross upside down, a burning Rebel flag,etc. How about,some equal time?? If not,you're RACIST

Sent by william | 12:43 AM | 7-16-2008

As a standup comic I've learned over many years that in order to bring the audience along with you, you need to tell them the joke that you are about to tell them, then you tell them the joke itself. This is not because the audience is stupid. Not by a long stretch. It is becuase social commentary is all about context, and providing a framework for the audience to understand the point of view of the joke. And while I concede that this cover is not supposed to be a laugh out loud "joke", I think it can be judged by similar standards, and by that set of standards the New Yorker's joke fails. They were naive to publish this with no framing device. Even great comedians bomb now and again. Bottom line is that you cannot, as a writer, get lazy or become so insulated that you simply assume "they know where I'm coming from." My wife doesn't always know where I'm coming from. My best friends don't always know either. How can I reasonably expect an audience of strangers to do better?

Sent by Michael | 12:52 AM | 7-16-2008

Not only do I think this is strong and valid satire, I think it is the most difficult and courageous kind of satire. This is the kind of humor that is delivered without a wink and a nod.

Bravo to the New Yorker for having the guts to publish it and to spark all this talk about the absurdity of the images put forth by the far right.

Sent by Dylan Brody | 1:02 AM | 7-16-2008

Just want to share with you and the readers here that the People's Republic of China news analyzed the cartoon and the explanations given. The Chinese journalists understood this is meant to be a satire. However, they don't think it's funny. They think only whites could be insensitive enough to make such a satire. I agree. Equality between the blacks and the whites is an ideal, but it's not a reality. The minority is not to be made fun of. Just because Obama is running for the Presidency, that does not remove the special consideration given to the minorities, who are more vulnerable in a white majority society. If Obama had been white, it would have been OK. If you disagree with this, you may be an idealist but you may not fully appreciate the racial reality and what the intention of the affirmative action laws in the US as well as being empathetic to the views of the minorities. Saying that "if you don't get it's a satire, you are stupid" is insensitive.

Sent by Liz Hoffman | 1:27 AM | 7-16-2008

This cover points out the lack of understanding of irony in the USA, and the conversation on Talk of the Nation over this cover pointed out our stereotypes of different areas and their political views. First thing I must say is the cover on the New Yorker was great! It has energized conversation about taboo points that are important to discuss. But the conversation around the cover was disturbing for me as a country girl. A few callers mentioned people in rural areas as unable to understand irony and that they are backcountry hicks. I have heared this from many city folk through out my short life, but I must clarify that this is a stereotype, that mimicks the stereotypes that have arisen around the name and race of Barack Obama. I myself grew up on a farm, and I am currently living in Italy. I can live on the farm as well as around the world, where I have learned the language and integrated into the culture in several countries. But how many people who grew up in the city are able to adapt to living on a farm?? What I would appreciate is if people would drop their stereotypes about those who live in the rural areas about their level of education and how they vote. Many new republicans I have met, who are also able to believe these rumors about Barack grew up in the suburbs with rich parents. So appreciate those who grow and raise your food a little, and remember people from all parts of the USA are individuals and have their own opinions. Stereotypes are hurtful for anyone! Go Barack!

Sent by Shelley | 3:31 AM | 7-16-2008

To bring back a old term from the seventies, "that's foul". Satire but foul. It belongs in the category of "truck load of dead babies" satire.

Sent by JR | 4:40 AM | 7-16-2008

While I can certainly see that some people might be upset by the cover, I am intrigued to see the hue and cry that has gone up over this issue, while Newsweek recently published an article on the "Voters of Appalachia" that, also attempting some form of satire, paraded out a series of the offensive and degrading stereotypes to which Appalachian people have been subject for years. However, this article has not been featured in spirited conversations like those on Talk of the Nation yesterday. No one is demanding resignations at Newsweek. If this article had been focused on African Americans rather than Appalachian Americans, there would have been a huge public outcry, but once again, it is clear that Appalachian people can be depicted as stupid, shiftless, and isolated from the rest of the world, and the media will not be taken to task for its prejudice.
Elizabeth Baird Hardy (who lives on a mountainside in the Blue Ridge section of Appalachia, has indoor plumbing, the internet, and a Master's degree)

Sent by Elizabeth Baird Hardy | 8:00 AM | 7-16-2008

several points.
Apparently even TOTN commentaters aren't above misinterpreting irony.
In two sentences, he insisted that the target of the photo was NOT Mr. Obama, but those who have embraced the fear-mongering images portrayed in the cartoon. Yet his next question was "Is Mr. Obama above being satirized because he is black?"
Seems to me either Obama is the target.
The photo, while assumedly ironic, hit any number of emotional 'touchstones', things which stir up a visceral emotional response which bypasses rational thinking.
While New Yorker may have carried several articles with deep insights on the subject, the vast majority of people will only see the picture, and that most likely on cnn or fox news, and probably with commentary by people not nearly as erudite as the magazine editors and writers.
I found the cartoon offensive. Will we next see McCain being Swiftboated again?

Sent by John Schipper | 8:06 AM | 7-16-2008

Personally I happen to find the cover offensive. That being said, I believe they they have every right to publish it. But, as a social psychologist, in my opinion this will serve only to strengthen the negative connotations they were lampooning.

I just don't think the majority of Americans are sophisticated enough to understand what is expressed through the cartoon. The image of the Obamas will simultaneously activate the negative symbols associated with them in that cartoon.

Sent by Maisha Birchall | 9:51 AM | 7-16-2008

I'm from Kansas and the asinine statement of the caller who believed people in Kansas don't read the New Yorker should be rebuffed.

Stop thinking of yourself so highly.

We're far smarter and more intellectual than you think. If for no other reason then we would never assume something about someone else without due cause.

Sent by CR in Kansas and proud of it | 10:11 AM | 7-16-2008

John McCain has received something like $162,500 dollars from the Pro-Israel PAC. To bring balance, why don't The New Yorker show a puppet McCain being controlled by Jews?

Sent by LoBianco, Joseph R. | 11:03 AM | 7-16-2008

Enough talking already!! Simple synopsis: Great Idea. Poor Execution.

If you have to explain the point of the joke than you probably could have told it better.

But seriously... this is tiring. MOVE ON...

Sent by Dan | 11:04 AM | 7-16-2008

New Yorker covers almost ALWAYS leave me scratching my head. This one is no different.

Sent by Mary Anne Davis | 1:25 PM | 7-16-2008

My simple question is: where is the satire? My understanding is that satire involves exaggeration, parody, sarcasm etc to show how ridiculous or untrue a concept is. In this cartoon, the New Yorker merely illustrated concepts that are very openly articulated through media outlets across the country. There is no irony, parody or exaggeration here, merely repetition.

So, I say forget about urban vs rural appreciation. The satire in this cartoon was not achieved. It only seems satirical to people who live in a liberal bubble- if you listen to contrary views and opinions on radio stations around the country, you might begin to understand. These ideas are not floating around under the surface but are being flung across the sky.

It's easy to see how, with poor technique, you can switch from true satire to being the unpaid illustrator of bad ideas- now there's a free image to go along with prejudice and bigotry regarding Barrack Obama in this country. For once, It's okay to admit you goofed!

Sent by Michael | 4:20 PM | 7-16-2008

The point is often made that the people who will not understand the cover do not read the New Yorker. However, the folks who won't understand it DO see the cover in the newsstand...and can indeed, in that sense, reinforce false images.

Sent by Sherri | 5:13 PM | 7-16-2008

Just wondering . . . would this cartoon have been considered less offensive if it was inside the mag, more clearly directed toward its readership & subscribers ("supposedly" capable of understanding the satire), rather than the public display for the whole world to see on front cover?

Btw, I don't think Muslims are the only ones who should be offended by this. The AK-47 toting rendition of Michelle does a horrible injustice for all working women.

Sent by Laura | 1:34 AM | 7-17-2008

Saying that the educated elite need to explain the cover of the New Yorker to the uneducated masses is akin to saying that we need pundits to spin the news for us and let us know what we should be thinking. To me, good art is challenging, although Neil makes a good point in saying that it doesn't necessarily challenge the readership of the New Yorker. If art reaffirms your own world view, does it have a purpose? The artist is the challenger and the mirror of the society. If you piece together the innuendo the media has incorporated into its new coverage of the Obamas, you do get this picture on the cover.

Initially, I was a bit angry about the cover. I thought it would play into the worst fears of the far right or right leaning voters. Then I remembered, Oh yeah. Art is provocative. Meaning, it provokes a reaction and starts a conversation.

Sent by jac | 10:02 AM | 7-17-2008

I am a 55-year-old white woman originally from Georgia, although I now live in France. The New Yorker cover surprised me with its tasteless, unfunny, stupidly satirical depiction of the Obamas in the Oval Office. And, yes, I do get it. The cover could possibly create a positive and intellectual dialogue among certain groups of educated Americans, but I can tell you that it will only confirm the worst beliefs about the Obamas among a vast number of the lesser educated. Those who in their hearts want to believe that Barack and Michelle Obama are really like their caricatures on the cover of the New Yorker will smile with delight. Their fears and racist tendencies will be confirmed! "Yes," they will nod sagely to one another, "we knew it all along!" The people at the New Yorker magazine are a bit too clever by half. Unless, of course,if the point was really to draw attention to the New Yorker magazine itself and thus raise their sales. If that was the idea, then they succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. Congrats New Yorker! I guess you got what you were looking for.

Sent by Maria Colin | 10:41 AM | 7-17-2008

Isn't the real irony that a left-leaning, pro-Obama publication such as the New Yorker actually wound up portraying the true essence of the Obamas. Many moderate, patriotic American people that simply believe that the Obamas are too radical for the White House. Forget the race issue, forget the Muslim issue, it is the life-long radicalism of these two people that hopefully will cost them the election. Thank you New Yorker.

Sent by Neil K | 3:39 PM | 7-17-2008

Neil K - what magazine cover are you talking about? In no way does the image in question portray any "life-long radicalism" of the Obamas (even if you believe their politics are radical instead of moderate). It makes fun of the fear-inspired politics that causes people to intentionally perpetuate false beliefs. Unfortunately, the cover will certainly perpetuate them as well.

I haven't heard interviews with any New Yorker editors but in my mind, the only reasonable, HONEST position for them to take would be something to the effect of: While this cover art will, beyond any doubt, contribute to the holding of false beliefs by many Americans who will then vote based on those beliefs, we believe that our right (and responsibility) as artists to comment on culture supersedes any responsibility not to disseminate false information on a mass scale.
I don't necessarily agree but it's their decision to make.

Sent by Andy O | 5:02 PM | 7-17-2008

Neil K - The cover has nothing to do with the Obamas' "life long radicalism" or any of their beliefs at all. Its subject matter is the false information being spread ABOUT them.

In order to not be liars, the New Yorker editors must preface any defense of the cover by saying, "We understand that this will certainly reinforce and create false beliefs in thousands of people but..."

If it is productive to have as many people as possible know as many true facts as possible in an election year then this cover is counterproductive.

Sent by Andy O | 11:03 AM | 7-18-2008