Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Satire, It's Not for Everyone

I typically recuse myself from the day-to-day inanity of the electoral season, but the vortex spinning around the cover of The New Yorker featuring the Obamas in the Oval Office as caricatures of right-wing fear-mongering campaigns speaks to a larger issue: the regression of intellect in American politics. And despite his claim to represent a abrupt departure from politics-as-usual, the Obama campaign has shown itself willing to lower the bar alongside all the rest.

Beginning with fighting back against the 'elitist' claim emanating from San Francisco, and passing through denunciation of Reverend Wright and the wearing of flag pins, Obama has steadily engaged in regression to the mean, playing into the contrived opposition to an 'elitist' President. Whereas his initial answer to the Reverend Wright controversy, as well as his aversion to hollow symbols of patriotism exhibited a willingness to apply basic intellectual principles to his politics, all actions taken since have played directly into the hands of those who profit from keeping campaigning as low-brow and absent of content as possible.

Republicans have long played off the idea that Americans want a President who's one of us, and strangely enough Americans don't feel the slightest bit patronized by that position, willfully lapping up a President who clears brush on a ranch he bought as a campaign prop and looking with scorn on those effete, intellectual snobs on the left. An outside observer of American politics might very well assume that things should be the other way around.

Enter the most recent issue of The New Yorker, which features a caricature of the various smear campaigns used against the Obamas to paint them as radicals or, worse, some sort of Manchurian candidate sent to sabotage our very system. There's no point in addressing those campaigns on their merits, as anyone swayed by them is not particularly susceptible to rational thought. However, it should have been evident from the outset that the cover was meant as satire, especially given the fact that it graced the cover of a magazine surely no big fan of McCain.

The Obama campaign's response seals its fate as standard political fare:

"The New Yorker may think, as one of their staff explained to us, that their cover is a satirical lampoon of the caricature Sen. Obama's right-wing critics have tried to create. But most readers will see it as tasteless and offensive. And we agree," Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton said.

And with that, Obama stated conclusively that whatever indications he gave in the early campaign season that he was willing to supply the political arena with even the barest of intellectually-robust arguments have fallen aside in favor of the usual hand-wringing and faux outrage.

This is what passes for a campaign season these days. We just bounce back and forth between which surrogate said which stupid thing today, until finally everyone illustrates they're completely incapable of grasping even the most blatant forms of satire. All the while, Iraq, Afghanistan and the American economy still burn.


He Who Speaks for the People, April 17
Newsbusters Loses Its Mind, June 30

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