Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Benefit of the Doubt

Jack Shafer, unsurprisingly, is exactly right about the dumb controversy surrounding the illustration on the cover of The New Yorker:
Calling on the press to protect the common man from the potential corruptions of satire is a strange, paternalistic assignment for any journalist to give his peers, but that appears to be what The New Yorker's detractors desire. I don't know whether to be crushed by that realization or elated by the notion that one of the most elite journals in the land has faith that Joe Sixpack can figure out a damned picture for himself.
This makes me think of a great line from Voltaire. "I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: 'O Lord, make my enemies ridiculous.' And God granted it." Let's not forget how ridiculous these people are by playing down to their level. People really can understand nuance and satire.

1 comment:

Alexander Haddad said...

There is satire, and then there is a bad joke which serves as an intellectual crowbar with which a publication intends to brain its readers. The cover may have been intended for one thing, and it may have engendered another, but at the end of the day it's still in surprisingly bad taste for a publication of The New Yorker's quality.

Why this is a political issue I'm not sure exactly. Last time I checked, nobody (at least nobody outside Conde Nast) elected the New Yorker's editorial board. The press has been writing, cartooning and publishing ridiculous, outlandish and offensive things for as long as (or, actually, longer) than our country has been around. Why does this particular cartoon come as such a shock to people? And why do people on the left and on the right feel as though it's their prerogative to "set right" one well-known and respected publication for this one freak occurrence of its lack of sensitivity?