Skip to primary content


David Remnick of the New Yorker, It’s Time to Apologize

David Remnick, it’s time to apologize, not for running the Barak and Michelle Obama as terrorists cover on the New Yorker, but for not engaging in a conversation with your audience members who find it offensive. Brushing off the folks who think you made an error of judgment with a  brief Q&A at the is an insult to their intelligence — and it is their intelligence to which we hope New Yorker editors have been marketing their ideas.

Here is part of your response,  in which you basically say the audience doesn’t get it, but never for a moment thinking that maybe you are the one who doesn’t get it:

Normally I’d want the work to speak for itself — normally I’d not want to explain jokes, or short stories, or a piece of non-fiction that we publish — people always read things the way they’re going to read them. In this case, since I see that it’s stirred the pot somewhat, and some people have misinterpreted it very quickly…

You add:

The fact is, it’s not a satire about Obama – it’s a satire about the distortions and misconceptions and prejudices about Obama.

To get an idea of the range and depth of the discussion you are dismissing, see Richard Prince’s Journal-isms column at the Maynard Institute. And if you really want to see political satire in a cartoon look at Mike Luckovich’s cartoon of Jesse Jackson at the same site. It is enormously humorous based on reality, not some Drudged-up, manufactured slime. Prince, by the way, writes of the New Yorker cover:

What makes this piece of satire unusual is that the objects of the satire — those who are distorting the Obamas’ personas — aren’t pictured. Instead, the Obamas are shown.

That’s Prince’s polite way of saying that many of the audience members think you have helped Drudge-up the relentless slime that is being used against Obama and his wife as a way of slithering around true political discourse. This New Yorker cover rather than ignoring that slime factory or exposing it has only added to it with this iconic image.

The other argument I see out there is that you and the New Yorker are too cowardly to do the same to the Right — for example running a cover cartoon of a drooling John McCain in wheelchair being pushed by Karl Rove or Dick Cheney in an old people’s home with President Bush — not in a turban — but in a dunce cap in a portrait in the background.  I do believe the Left would find it amusing, excellent satire because it speaks to an exaggeration grounded at least in part in truth. And the Right, rightfully so, would be running about screaming foul.

Also I notice that others in the media who defend you and other journalists at all costs, have written this audience criticism off as left-wing hysteria. For example, Gary Kamiya at Salon proves that Rush Limbaugh was right by using the language that has been invented by the slimemeisters. Look at the catch phrases Kamiya uses to make this argument, in which he dismisses any audience argument:

  • witnessing the left-wing blogosphere’s bizarre reaction
  • Vast swaths of the left
  •  the cowering — but oh so semiotically sophisticated — left-wing commentariat
  • The more brain-dead among the posters on left-wing blogs angrily denounce
  • Some on the left, however, are so terrified that Americans
  • the left’s reaction
  • What next — riots in the left-wing blogosphere
  • The magazine’s left-wing critics, understandably scared (and perhaps deafened)

 So there we are, the audience as usual, when it voices angry complaint is hysterical, brain-dead  or simply not smart enough nor sophisticated enough to comprehend the wisdom of journalists big and small like you and Kamiya.

One Response to “David Remnick of the New Yorker, It’s Time to Apologize”

  1. Grayson Says:

    Damn this post. Now I actually have to stop and think about this whole cover satire thing. Hate when that happens! But too bad all this started raging BEFORE New Yorker subscribers received their now-infamous issue in the mail.

    That one pristine moment where I could have best gauged my own personal gut reaction to the cartoon (and yes, it’s always a cartoon you know you’re getting with a New Yorker), without the tainted hindsight of a media-thrashed controversy, was stolen from me; now I’ll never know what I’d have felt or how I’d have reacted if I’d just pulled the issue, unsuspectingly, out of the mailbox and had a moment to react and process what I saw then, free from prior and outside, even excessive, influence. I’ll simply never know my own visceral POV on the matter. Would I have been angry? Sad? Dismayed? LMAO? Hard to say; the moment was never there for me as the last place I inhabit is a media vacuum.

    Media overkill sure can steal our own best insights and judgement right out from under our very own nose.