Reader Response: We Are All Racist For Not Hating that 'New Yorker' Cover

A reader is upset with Gawker for wholeheartedly embracing The New Yorker's terribly offensive cartoon about how Barack Obama is a terrorist. She writes:

I've become accustomed to Gawker's racism [really? -ed] — from articles tagging black rappers with "HNIC" [that's the name of Prodigy's album! From an item about Prodigy! -ed] to videos of kids playing and adults having conversations with each other in Chicago accompanied by the headlines "Gun Warfare!" and "Drug Dealing." [Well, those were maybe a bit more questionable. We're charitable today! -ed] Sadly, I continue to return for the occasionally funny, entertaining and/or informative posts (which are becoming fewer and farther between).

We're so sorry for your inability to stop reading our site.

However, your coverage of the New Yorker Obama cover has been nothing short of appalling. The bloggers who put up the posts killed themselves trying to argue that no matter how offensive the images, artistic and editorial freedom justified any offense to the public or to the Obamas themselves. They even went so far as to add a third post lamenting the imprisonment of a Dutch cartoonist for posting sickening and degrading images of Muslims that lacked any political value and served no purpose other than to nauseate the viewer. When your bloggers are bending over backwards to defend someone whose images clearly demonstrate that he barely sees Muslim people as human, it is clear that Gawker has missed the entire point of the outrage over the Obama cover. This isn't about the New Yorker's right to print anything or the cartoonist's right to draw anything. It's about whether the New Yorker cover adds anything meaningful to the ongoing conversation about the Presidential candidates. It doesn't.

Let's call the images what they are: cookie cutter racist stereotypes pasted together onto a page. In the endless round of commentary, the Gawker bloggers and commenters debated back and forth on whether the images should be withheld simply out of fear that they would be misinterpreted by "dumb" red-state Americans who don't subscribe to the New Yorker. Aside from a single commenter (American Dreamer) not a singe individual recognized that the images themselves — a caricature of black and muslim people as armed, be-afroed and anti-American — are offensive and insulting. Whether intentionally or not, the cartoon mocks blacks and muslims just as much as it does right-wingers. Why not face the fact that the cover is not cutting edge or avant-garde, but actually reproduces the same old, tired stereotypes that have been around for decades? Taking a racist image and putting it on liberal magazine does not suddenly make it not racist. It's sad that Gawker isn't willing to acknowledge that fact in any way. It's even more sad that only one person in the Gawker "community" is aware enough to see this.

The absurdity of this is demonstrated by how different the blog posts and comments are on Gawker, as compared with Racialicious, Daily Kos, Jezebel and the Huffington Post, among others. Take a look and quit your snarky self-congratulatory statements about editorial freedom. When you've sunk so low that you have to justify your position by defending an image of Jesus sodomizing Mohammed, it's just embarassing. That is all.

This is the kind of condescending bullshit that does actually encourage us to agree with the idiots who think the covers are a problem because everyone else in America won't get them. The rightness of our position-that if people refuse to understand obvious satire because they don't trust anyone else to understand obvious satire then we might as well all pack it up and go home because there's no intelligent way to contribute to the National Conversation anymore, at all-is demonstrated by how different the blog posts and comments are on Gawker, as compared with Racialicious, Daily Kos, Jezebel and the Huffington Post, among others. No offense to those sites (well, no offense to Racialicious and Jezebel), but yes, we have a different position, which is that there is somewhere out there still a nation of adults. Adults who understand how irony, absurdity, and, yes, context work.

The entire point is that while we don't find anything edifying or amusing about an image of Jesus sodomizing Mohammed (except inasmuch as an image of Jesus sodomizing anyone is inherently hilarious), we shouldn't be throwing crackpots who draw such an image in jail. And furthermore anyone who'd equate said cartoon (provocation with no point other than provocation) with the New Yorker's cover (provocation in the name of getting you to think about your response to the image) in a blanket condemnation of both is dense and dangerous.

If the image is offensive, it's because the smears and whispers the image illustrates are offensive, and that is the point of illustrating all of them at one-both to call attention to these "dark imaginings," in Remnick's nice little phrase, and, by exaggerating them, to defang them, slightly. And the commentariat's outright refusal to get it is disingenuous and utterly unsurprising.

Reader Response: We Are All Racist For Not Hating that 'New Yorker' Cover

But in the interests of mending fences or building bridges or whatever, we've commissioned this totally inoffensive and not at all racist photoshop of Barack Obama, in a library, wearing a Harvard shirt, that we will use from now on. We wanted him maybe playing polo, waving a French flag (Happy Bastille Day!), and drinking a latte with his pinkie extended, but this will have to do, for now.

Photoshop Credit: Steven Dressler