Art Spiegelman Defends 'New Yorker' Obama Cover

Renowned graphic artist Art Spiegelman knows a thing or two about controversial New Yorker covers.

His 1993 cover called, "The Kiss," showed a Hassidic Jewish man and a black woman kissing. It came after tensions between the two groups spurred intense riots in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn.

Speaking with Farai Chideya, Spiegelman defended the latest controversial New Yorker cover, which the magazine says satirizes misconceptions about Barack and Michelle Obama.

"It seems to me that showing the fevered image directly will be a possible way of looking at and dissipating that image," Spiegelman said. "I think, as a result, it's a fairly brave thing to do."

'New Yorker' Editor Defends Obama Cover

New Yorker cover i i

Taleb Alkardai holds up a copy of the New Yorker magazine cover showing Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama dressed as a Muslim and his wife as a terrorist at his midtown newstand Monday. Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images
New Yorker cover

Taleb Alkardai holds up a copy of the New Yorker magazine cover showing Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama dressed as a Muslim and his wife as a terrorist at his midtown newstand Monday.

Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

The controversial cover of this week's New Yorker was meant to poke fun at the "politics of fear" surrounding Illinois Sen. Barack Obama's candidacy, says top editor David Remnick.

"The intention is to satirize not Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, but, in fact, to hold a pretty harsh light up to the rumors, innuendos, lies about the Obamas that have come up — that they are somehow insufficiently patriotic or soft on terrorism," he says.

The cover shows an illustration of Obama dressed like Osama bin Laden, and Obama's wife, Michelle, wearing military gear. They are sharing a fist bump in the Oval Office. The title of the cartoon, listed on the contents page, is "The Politics of Fear."

"Satire doesn't run with subtitles," Remnick adds. "A satirical cartoon would not be any good if it came with a set of instructions."

Remnick says the cover has caused so much controversy, in part, because so many voters are dissatisfied with this country's political course and have invested much of their hopes in Obama.

"The kind of e-mail I get is telling me, 'I get it. But I don't think so-and-so is going to get it, I don't think so-and-so in West Virginia or out there in the Middle West,'" he says. "That, to me, is a false argument. That, if you can get it, why can't other people get it? I don't think that this notion that only Upper West Side Manhattan elitists get satire is the case at all."

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