Ebony and Irony
The recent New Yorker cover featuring Barry Blitt’s illustration of Barack and Michelle Obama dressed up as flag-burning Muslim terrorists has kicked up quite the controversy among the left.
The first to complain were those who felt an immediate, visceral nausea from the picture, which from the view of content alone could have been produced by somebody on the right; the image represents the worst of the misconceptions and lies about the Obamas, the kind of b.s. that the Fox News Channel, that fat drug addict talk show host, or even the National Review cynically spread to their audiences.
These Obama supporters were then quickly pilloried by the intellectual left for their knee-jerk response. The lefties held that the New Yorker cover was satire, a comment on the misconceptions of the Obamas propagated by right-wingers.
There’s so much wrongness here I don’t know where to begin.
First of all, the more sensitive lefties clearly overreacted. It’s a magazine cover, a drawing, a lousy cartoon by a mediocre illustrator on the cover of a magazine that hasn’t been must-read material for years.
Since the Reagan era, there has existed in this country a meanness toward the disenfranchised, toward those who have been victims. Barack Obama, as a black man, can be assumed to speak for many such people, and to kick a symbol of black success feels out of bounds. That the ugly image—and not an original one in the first place—has been “repurposed” by the New Yorker doesn’t make it any better, and in fact the intellectual dishonesty and vapidity of the intellectual left’s defense of same is not only embarrassing, it is offensive.
But freedom of speech means freedom of speech; we can’t lose that. The best thing to do with dislikable stuff like this is to ignore it, because raising a stink is the best way to draw more attention to it. Remember Dread Scott Tyler’s stupid painting of Harold Washington? Remember Piss Christ? Yeah, only because people screamed so loudly that others had to pay attention.
Tthe majority of my anger about this is reserved for the political cartoonists, professional irony merchants, and self-proclaimed smartest guys in the room who are busily excoriating us saps and dummies who just don’t understand satire.
I think it’s a crock.
First of all, I always assumed that one critical component of satire is that it’s funny. The Barry Blitt drawing is only a knee-slapper if your favorite activity is to sit around and engage in endless intellectual tail-chasing…or if you think that making fun of black people and Muslims is a regular riot.
The satirical drawing, we are told, is funny not because of its content, but its context—because of where it was printed. It would be offensive if it were on the cover of the National Review, because the editors of said rag hate Democrats; on the New Yorker, it’s obviously satirical, and therefore okay, because the editors of said rag are clearly East Coast intellectuals who, one should then assume, would disagree with guys like that fat drug addict talk show host.
Who has time for that? If someone can’t just look at an image and react, instead having to spend their time and intellectual capital deciphering the layers of Barry Blitt’s ironic detachment, then why should anyone care?
What has this post-modern over-intellectual satire, this snarky ironic posturing, brought us? A world where the simple statement is no longer acceptable. It now has to be parsed, chopped, remixed, and deemed acceptable by the brainy elite, because obviously we’re all too stupid to understand art.
This era of irony has given us a world where the president can screw us, screw the constitution, screw anyone he doesn’t agree with, and the intellectual left, the Tom Tomorrows of the world, who know much more about both politics and art than the rest of us, make fun of him in nationally distributed cartoons and write best-selling books, propagating and benefiting from the whole process, instead of calling for his head on a pike! Just to get the “point” of a political cartoon, we have to wade through the deserted minds of the benighted, self-important wankers running the printing presses.
A bad cartoon is a bad cartoon, and an offensive message is an offensive message. You make a joke and we don’t think it’s funny, and you blame US?
Well, I blame you guys. I blame you for an overinflated sense of self-importance. I blame you for forcing us to accept a mean-spirited image as some sort of intellectual “statement” because you think you’re smarter than the rest of us.
And I blame you for not being funny!
To hell with irony.