Monday, July 14, 2008

New Yorker Magazine Cover Panders to Racist Media Portrayal of Senator Obama

I was pretty shocked when I logged on to the Website this morning and glimpsed the July 21, 2008 cover of The New Yorker Magazine featuring Senator Barack Obama and his wife depicted respectively as a Muslim cleric in Islamic-scholar dress and an AK-47-wielding terrorist-radical with an Angela Davis Afro.

Oh and there's a burning flag and a picture of Osama Bin Laden in the background too in artist Barry Blitt's appropriately titled, "The Politics of Fear."

Haven't seen it? Click the link above. Of course I immediately sent off an e-mail letter to the editor to the New Yorker to which I received this somewhat generic automatic reply:

"About this week’s issue: 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. In this same issue you will also see that there are two very serious articles on Barack Obama inside—Hendrik Hertzberg's Comment, ( and Ryan Lizza's 15,000-word reporting piece on the candidate's political education and rise in Chicago ("

Well if satire is what they do, then it was certainly executed with poor editorial judgment, lack of cultural sensitivity and from my take; really bad taste.

Even if their intent WAS to lampoon the distorted right-wing depictions of Senator Obama and his wife, was that cover the only artistic interpretation they could come up with? An image that essentially reinforces all of these media mischaracterizations; many of which are generated by Fox News and the GOP's "Karl Rove school of political slander."

This mind-blowing editorial blunder is already generating waves of controversy in print, across the Web and on both television and radio. Sadly, their journalistic intent (and the hard work of writers Hendrick Hertzberg and Ryan Lizza is almost completely overshadowed by the cover of the magazine.

As a media professional who works with companies who publish magazines, I can only say this mess reflects that unfortunate fact that there is an appalling lack of diversity within the US magazine publishing industry, on the junior staff levels, in mid-management and most importantly on the mastheads.

Complex magazine editor Rich Antonoiello's video interview from the Folio: Website on diversity within the magazine industry is timely; just click the link on the upper right hand page to view it.

Don't get mad, get productive and stay positive! E-mail the New Yorker with your comments at:

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