July 14, 2008

A few thoughts on the New Yorker / Obama cover kerfuffle [UPDATED]

In the comments to Karl’s earlier post on this subject, Lisa writes:

Yeah, I get that it’s satire. But, ya know, maybe it’s, um, a little ahead of its time, given that approximately half the country would forward this picture to a relative with the note: “Even the New Yorker thinks they’re black power terrorists!” without a trace of irony.

Appropriately, I think, Education Guy replies thusly:

No offense Lisa, but so the fuck what. Are we now supposed to not say anything that could be misconstrued? Are we to live our lives totally at the whim of the least common denominator?

This response is, of course, precisely correct.

Everyone who’s read here long enough knows my position on such things — and I’ve taken to the woodshed over attempts to marginalize intentionalism (which I’ve noted is simply the natural order of things) not just well-documented idiots like Oliver Willis or opportunistic hacks like the folks at Think Progress, but also Bill Kristol, the White House, and many on the right side of the sphere who were up in arms over a memorial designed to resemble an arch.

Clearly, this magazine cover was an attack on a cartoonish version of rightwing critics of the Obamas who the artist recognizes aren’t happy with the couples’ past associations or some of their publicized rhetoric and published writings. Hell, it could have been drawn by our old buddy thor, if you think about it — given that it attempts to ironize away any and all suspicions people have about the Obamas’ worldview and their social and professional coteries by over-exaggerating those suspicions to the point where they will (the artist hopes) appear downright silly. And in so doing, the intent is to shame those who would in the future raise such questions about the Obamas and their associations — or at the very least, to have a readily available iconic referent that indexes such knowing mockery.

The thing is, if everyone today scurrying about Obamalot (and the left side of the sphere) wasn’t so busy fearing that people they’ve long convinced themselves are uneducated enough to get the satire aren’t going to, you know, get the satire, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

The irony here — and it is choice, believe me — is that this satire was intended as an attack on the right. But now, because the artist tried to attack the right in a way he believed clever and ironic, he is being attacked by the left — his own tribe! — for launching an attack on the right that those on the right, the left is coming to fear, could use against the Obamas, either out of idiocy or malice.

This position, of course, assumes that those on the right are so stupid or unworldly that they aren’t able to suss out satire directed their way — and this is (deliciously!) the fear of some on the left, one born of their own prejudices. These leftwingers, of course, “get it” themselves, so it is really not the cover itself that angers them. Rather, these would-be pragmatists worry that the illiterate righties who people their fevered dreams might not. And then what?

Sadly, this is a bit like taking Swift to the woodshed over “A Modest Proposal,” or Christopher Guest to the woodshed over This is Spinal Tap.

What the progressive handwringers should be doing is gleefully and full-throatedly noting the satire, then preparing to laugh at anyone who sees this as an accurate depiction of Obama. What they should be doing is enjoying a wry smile at their next cocktail party over the (presumed) idiocy of the rightwingers who might take this cover at face value, so shallow is their understanding of the literary arts.

But the real irony here is they can’t do that — and that’s precisely because their worldview is predicated on being able to control “meaning” by consensus. And one of the problems with such an incoherent method for determining meaning (by way of reliance on a given interpretive community’s ability to shout down competing interpretations), is that, at least in theory, another interpretive community can come along and claim another, diametrically opposed meaning, and — if their will to power is stronger — control the narrative by way of severing any ties to original intent.

In short, the left fears being hoist by its own incoherent linguistic petard.

To further the irony here, such a scenario, which is what the left is now guarding against, is predicated on the belief that others have accepted their view of how “meaning” works. And so they are essentially fighting themselves and those they’ve trained (by way of the last thirty or so years of interpretive theory) — and in doing so, fighting the kind of interpretive paradigm that animates progressive and authoritarian worldviews.

Again. Hoist by their own petard.

And so we have the wonderful spectacle of (some — not all, naturally; hi, Scott!) leftwingers falling all over themselves to denounce a satire that they themselves understand and can readily recognize (and would probably enjoy) because they fear that it can be “used” against them by rightwing caricatures who they fear either are too daft to understand the satire, or else might adopt the same incoherent interpretive method that certain worldviews rely upon to destabilize meaning and turn it into what is essentially a battle of interpretive will.

At this, I chuckle. Because it was bound to happen, and will continue to happen so long as we as a culture privilege such nonsensical ideas about how meaning is created.

Here, the artist meant something particular. And what he meant is what this cartoon means, from a strictly semiotic standpoint: he has given us signs, not signifiers, and a sign is, by its very nature, already imbued with signification. Others may interpret it differently — and if they do, that is what the cartoon means to them — but to do so, they have to look at signs and think of them as signifiers, then worry about what, precisely, might be attached to those signifiers.

The question is, why privilege the interpretive maneuverings — and thus the intent — of the receiver of a text rather than the intent of the person who conceived of the text and imbued it with meaning to begin with? After all, the artist was trying to communicate something. And all it takes to break free from this laughable spectacle of denouncement and misinterpretation is to note, as Education Guy has, that we refuse to worry that our communications can be willfully misconstrued.

Else, we’ll be seeing these kinds of ridiculous dustups being played out again and again and again.

****
update: See, courtesy of Chris Matthews and Hot Air, Ryan Lizza and Ron Brownstein talking about the New Yorker cover, and speaking a bit about intention — as well as about how satire and the literary arts can’t concern themselves with appealing to the lowest common denominator (read: those who are either going to misinterpret the cover and miss the satire, or use it for their own cynical purposes — the latter of which would be impossible in a hermeneutic culture wherein original intent wasn’t considered on par with whatever idiotic interpretations a diverse readership with its own baggage and agendas can potentially divine from a set of signifiers).

Posted by Jeff G. @ 12:36pm
177 comments |

Comments (177)

  1. Wait, I’m confused. So they’re NOT black-power terrorists?

  2. No, for reals. I got an email that said he was. I’m gonna go find my bible and my gun right now.

  3. this is fun. maybe there will be protests. we should see what happens if someone defaces a copy of “a people’s history” by throwing it in the toilet. also, isn’t it “hoist by your own petard”?

  4. another interpretive community can come along and claim another, diametrically opposed meaning, and — if their will to power is stronger — control the narrative by way of severing any ties to original intent.

    They’re a lot trying to stay one step ahead though I think.

    By these lights, the mentality that presumes both sides of an argument are entitled to equal weight is what prevented the media from challenging the Bush administration more aggressively on the Iraq war and other issues.*

    Not printing an opposing view is a pretty darn coherent method for determining meaning I think.

  5. I remember Ralphie falling asleep with his Red Rider BB Gun. Angry clinger.

  6. I get the feeling that the only successes in their life was tricking their parents into doing things. Why else would the objective facts of the situation take a back seat to the dreadful “meaning”?

  7. Another amusing aspect to the whole thing is that the only people who will interpret this as signifying that Obama is a muslim and Michelle a terrorist are those who already believe that, or who are very inclined to believe that. I cannot seen anyone’s mind actually being changed by this, no matter if they get the satire or not.

  8. Wait, I’m confused. So they’re NOT black-power terrorists?

    You got me. All I can tell you is that the artist doesn’t think so, and he thinks that anyone who looks into the associations of the Obamas is ripe for satire.

    Didn’t work out how he planned, though.

    And yes, “hoist by.” I was already making the correction while I was adding the links. I don’t really proofread these things, you know. I need to get paid to give it that kind of attention.

  9. Let’s face the facts. Politics is not going to be transformed by intentionalism. Politics in the sound bite age is all about controlling The Narrative™ for short term gain leading to long term victory. The Obaminions response was predictable and was McCain’s Mutineers’ piling on.

    I’m beginning to wonder whether Obama may be in over his head on a national scale when it comes to “managing” his message. Either he hasn’t yet gotten a handle on the process or, as has been exhibited in debates and ineterviews, he’s much more of a lightweight than we thought. Then again, McCain hasn’t yet proven himself a master narrative yogi. These two may stumble to the election like a coouple of 30 year old hot rods belching smoke from a bad cylinder.

    Either way it is quite amusing to watch the political aparatcheks blast their mighty E-Mails in willfull ignorance of the intent of the cartoon while inflating the issue far more than could possibly be good for the narrative framing.

    Must. Make. More Popcorn.

  10. I think there’s a lot of people on the left that think for real that Baracky and his woman are every bit as goody goody gumdrops radical as this cover satirizes, and this cover is way too “don’t think of an elephant” for their comfort.

  11. It was satire??? Shit.. I thought it was one of those, you know, Candid Camera things.. A kind of glimpse of the Obamas in an unguarded moment… showing them as Che adoring, America hating, hippie, Angela Davis wanna-be, proggies… Where’s the satire again?

  12. You have a point, happyfeet, and I would have explored it a bit further given time. I think part of what is causing such consternation is that they fear the satire is too uneasily situated on a version of the truth that they themselves don’t really believe.

    There’s some meta stuff going on here. But for my purposes in this post, I was only interested in showing the irony of having to fight your own incoherent interpretive worldview — mostly, because these people are always willing to build and unleash their golems, yet they never consider that something with feet of clay might actually turn on them one day.

    From a sociological perspective I find that fascinating.

    Also, good point, cranky-d.

  13. Could it be that the reactionary left does think that Obama is a muslim and Michelle a terrorist?

    It’s like a row of fucking funhouse mirrors with these fascist clowns.

  14. Ouroboros —

    I’m sure you already know this, but we can believe every depiction in that artist’s rendering and still recognize that, given his political bent and the exaggerated mode of expression (not to mention the venue in which it appears) that it is intended as satire.

    That doesn’t mean it’s effective satire, or particularly illuminating satire. Just that, regardless of what some on the left think, just because you are able to ironize something doesn’t mean it will go away. The attempt is to shame and to preemptively make such questions seem ridiculous. Doesn’t mean it will work. Still, the fact that it might not work doesn’t mean that rightwingers don’t recognize the attempt at satire, either.

  15. No offense, but this is starting to sound like the plot to a Three Stooges short.

    I don’t care what Barry does or does not like. Ditto McCain. I don’t HAVE to, they’re the one applying to me for the job, not vice-versa.

    If you twits can’t take the heat, consider other lines of work. But in any case, man up and stop whining.

    Losers.

  16. The meta stuff is very confusing to me. The New Yorker cover is also, however you interpret it almost, really defiantly unserious. It seems to sort of puncture all that at this time, at this moment, we are the change, give us one moment in time when we’re more than we thought we could be high note Baracky keeps reaching for.

  17. Okay, for the UMPTEENTH time: Obama criticized the satire. He did not demand that it be banned. Your ass could say “So he found the satire tasteless. Big fucking deal.” O-fucking-kay. Don’t you think writing THREE articles having goddamned vapors about his criticism (acting like he called for the repeal of the first amendment) is pretty fucking lame? Who exactly is making a big deal of this thing?

  18. As Spock once said .. humor, it’s a difficult concept

    The satire or irony is in the eye of the beholder.

    Like all that negative coverage of Ronald Reagan that, when you turned off the sound, looked like campaign commercials, the cleverness of the New Yorker is lost on those who will never read the words, but are left to only see the cover, which, it seems, is whatever you want it to be.

  19. He did not demand that it be banned.

    There’s that pesky elephant again. You’re not supposed to have to say that, Lisa.

  20. “…half the country would forward this picture to a relative…”

    – Well, it was that or send Granny the program of benediction of his campaign by the Reverend of his church…but that was out, Granny would never understand….

    – Maybe send her a picture of him sitting on a board with some of his close Chicago friends. Oh wait, he has to stay away from that guy now, the FBI has been watching him for the last 45 years….So, no, better not go there…

    – How about one with him and his wife posing in front of their new home with his close friend that helped him buy it…Ummm, no, his friend is in prison…

    – Damn, this is tough…

  21. Should have been praising it, that’s all, Lisa. It’s meant to be teh funny, ha ha. What, can’t lighten up and laugh at the stupid fucking repub morons?

  22. “That doesn’t mean it’s effective satire, or particularly illuminating satire..”

    Hahahaha… I guess not because I could swear that earlier this morning I heard about half of this country say “Damn Right..” in unison as they got their first look at the O! cover…

  23. In short, the left fears being hoist by its own incoherent linguistic petard.

    Much as failed leftist policy regularly proves false the leftist premises that install it, leftwing rhetorical swamps should therefore offer a clue to those mired there — a clue that the logical backbone is missing, which should speak reams about the theory. Yes? Nope.

    And: Cartoongate. What First Amendment?

    And: THE FIRST AMENDMENT ANYWAY! MCBUSHCO ASSAULT ON THE CONSTITUTION! Or as Reynolds would say, they told me that if Bush were elected, etc.

    You simply can’t make this lunacy up.

  24. Sad, though, that this New Yawker cover is a more effective poke at O! than anything the McCain camp has put out….

  25. The question is, why privilege the interpretive maneuverings — and thus the intent — of the receiver of a text rather than the intent of the person who conceived of the text and imbued it with meaning to begin with?

    There are more of us than there are of you.

  26. Is that Scott saying hi back?

  27. Okay, for the UMPTEENTH time: Obama criticized the satire. He did not demand that it be banned. Your ass could say “So he found the satire tasteless. Big fucking deal.” O-fucking-kay. Don’t you think writing THREE articles having goddamned vapors about his criticism (acting like he called for the repeal of the first amendment) is pretty fucking lame? Who exactly is making a big deal of this thing?

    I only wrote one bit, and it had more to do with intentionalism per se than with the Obamas.

    I’m not getting the vapors. This happens to be an area I deal with regularly. I find what is happening in response to this cover instructive, given that it shows the problems with an interpretive paradigm that has become entrenched, but that happens to be, from a linguistic perspective, incoherent.

    There was nothing hysterical or hyperbolic about this post, I don’t think. In fact, I tried to explain things from a bit of a scholarly perspective. But I’m out of practice, so maybe I just didn’t pull it off.

    Note: just because several posts use the same story for a launching point doesn’t make the posts themselves the same, or even concerned with the same things. As interpretive theory and semiotic happens to be a special area of interest and expertise for me, I thought I’d chime in.

    Now I know that I shouldn’t have. Just leave your suggestions for what you want me to post on in the box to your immediate left, and I’ll be sure to dance for you just as soon as I can get around to it.

  28. There are more of us than there are of you.

    MIGHT MAKES RIGHT! DEAL, BITCHES!

  29. Wow, only 1057 words and 21 paragraphs on something so stupid 90% of your readers (who worship you) won’t even remember in a week? The delicate genius crafts a masterpiece. Long live concise blogging.

  30. All that being said, I’ve outlived my usefulness. But that’s cool: I have throwing dummy to go practice on, so I can step away from politics for something a bit more substantial.

  31. Don’t you think writing THREE articles having goddamned vapors about his criticism (acting like he called for the repeal of the first amendment) is pretty fucking lame?

    As I said to someone in re Tony Snow posts over at Patterico: No. And if you don’t like it, you don’t have to read them.

    Seriously; it’s like in the Constitution or something.

  32. Lisa: Who exactly is making a big deal of this thing?

    Oh, I don’t know — Huffington Post, Daily Kos, Digg, Reddit, Feministe, every other leftoid blog/”news source” I could stomach checking?

    They’re all in full-blown supersonic screech mode over this.

    You’re starting to sound a lot like SEK’s position yesterday, frankly. Double standard much?

  33. “SHUT UP!”, Lisa explained.

  34. oh. Number four was kind of a suggestion in that I was curious if you had any thoughts just cause it’s pretty rare for the AP to be held up to the light by politico type people and examined like that. But there’s a lot going on today. I don’t think anyone is going to really notice that story, but I’ve noticed people have noticed Fournier’s influence without maybe understanding that there’s a design to it. It seems relevant to intentionalism I think, in that it blows the idea of there being anyone in the role of arbiter really out of the water.

  35. Oh, fuck off “Learnedhand”.

  36. Oh, and Obama himself, of course. It seems like he’s making a pretty big deal out of it.

    I think you were asked this in the other thread, but I don’t recall seeing an answer. Have you ever heard Bush comment on one of the innumerable depictions of him as a drooling chimp?

    Hint: No, you haven’t.

  37. Wow! I have people who monitor my word count and paragraph breaks? Sweet.

    I totally fucking rock.

  38. I think LearnedHand has a crush on you, Jeff. He/she went through the trouble of getting the wordcount and counting the paragraph breaks.

    “Looooooove, exciting and new…..”

  39. You have to explain to me what you mean, happyfeet. I’m not following you with respect to intentionalism.

    Anyway, back later. I really do want to start making a break with this kind of fruitless nonsense. I’m not going to change anyone’s beliefs. Instead, I’ll just be treated to drive by dickishness by the likes of anonymous fucksticks such as Learnedhand.

    What’s the point? This country is pretty much fucked. I just want to tend my garden.

  40. I remember Ralphie falling asleep with his Red Rider BB Gun. Angry clinger.

    According to my interpretation of that epic, Ralphie was an atheist. So he was a godless clinger.

  41. I said it before: The satire is unhelpful on two levels: It is attempting to sling an arm around Obama’s shoulders and say “Those damned flyover states are soooooo stupid aren’t they?! Ha ha and LOL!” Which is deeply unhelpful to a candidate who is trying to woo these folks. On the other hand: There is a considerably large group of people who think Obama is a muslim, was educated at a madrassa, and that his wife is a castrating anti-American bitch. THOSE are the people that you don’t want to legitimize such imagery with.

    This is not about the left’s attempt to change the meaning of things, twist the truth, and stifle your right to free expression. It is about expediency. This shit does his campaign no good so he is criticizing it. Further, the article contained within is not exactly flattering to his ass so it is an attempt to change the subject. Standard political operating procedure.

    Since when did someone criticizing something become this big terrifying attempt to crush and destroy?

    Can you be any more hyserical and overwrought? Do you need a Midol?

  42. We long ago learned that Obama reacts negatively when other people speak ill of him. See his treatment of his mentor Rev. Wright after Wright pointed out Obama acts as every other politician acts. That was the final straw. Bang, out goes Wright. He’s touchy that way.

  43. Thanks, Jeff, for breaking the 1000 word barrier.

    It shows *sniff* that you really care about us, maaaaan. You know, for the dense content, maaaan.

    *bawls*

  44. Okay, for the UMPTEENTH time: Obama criticized the satire. He did not demanass could say “So he found the satire tasteless. Big fucking deal.” O-fucking-kay. Don’t you think writing THREE articles having goddamned vapors about his criticism (acting like he called for the repeal of the first amendment) is pretty fucking lame? Who exactly is making a big deal of this thing?

    You kiss your momma with that mouth, child?

  45. You are overdetermining, I think, Lisa.

  46. I agree. Learnedhand probably wishes he could use little hearts in his text. Let me help you out, IgnorantHandjob:

    ♥♥♥Jeff♥♥♥

    (may not display in all browsers)

  47. Yes I do, but I use soap first.

  48. “…Obama is a muslim, was educated at a madrassa, and that his wife is a castrating anti-American bitch. “

    OK, I’ll concede that I’m pretty sure O! spent little if any time in a madrassa..
    Still.. 2 out of 3….

  49. Two more thoughts:

    1. Camp Obama stated that they thought most would find it not merely “tasteless” but “offensive,” which inherently means they think — or want or expect most to think — that it was more than merely tasteless.

    2. No, Jeff, you have not outlived your usefulness. To the contrary, I was vaguely annoyed that I was left to toil in the vineyards of intentionalism last night drafting my earlier post, while you were out galavanting to the sounds of semi-Styx and Puppet Show. Because I knew you would put it much better than I did. Intentionalism is your bag, baby.

  50. re: the intention versus the inference

    I was part of an advocacy group (non-overtly political) coming up with logo, we ended up using a “plus” sign in a Arial Bold kind of font for reasons having to do with the message and such. A board member who’d not taken part in the process decided that the plus symbol was “too Christiany” and it offended her sensibilities as a Jew (yes, really) and we should simply scrap the work that was done.

    At which point I told her that was simply daft and called for a vote – it passed.

    Half of getting anything done is disregarding the 1/4 of one percentage of the population’s loopy dumbass interpretations of meaning.

  51. I see no hysteria or overwroughtness in what Jeff wrote. I guess I need a pair of LiberalGlasses™ to see it.

    *puts them on*

    Oh, wow. Hey, you know what? All this writing about one topic (though it’s from a few different writers and the topics addressed are different) is really getting me down. We get it, okay? No need to pile on. I think everyone here should just shut up now about it and MoveOn.

  52. on something so stupid 90% of your readers (who worship you) won’t even remember in a week?

    90%? Jeff, YOU TOLD ME I WAS SPECIAL!

  53. “Who exactly is making a big deal of this thing?”

    From here, it looks like that’d be you, Lisa.

    In a related vein, Robert McLaughlin refered to SEN Obama as an “oreo” yesterday. I didn’t see it, but I have my suspicions about his intent. But if I were going to write about it, I’d probably focuson the impropriety of McLaughlin’s age using such “young” slang….

  54. He did not demanass could say

    I don’t know what I meant by that but it totally undercuts my snark about Jeff being hysterical.

    Damned crack.

  55. if I were spiteful, I’d have put red dots on either arm of the plus sign and one at the base. But I didn’t.

  56. I said it before: The satire is unhelpful on two levels

    And as others have asked before, what obligation does The New Yorker have to be “helpful” to Obama?

  57. – Come aboard…We’re expecting Joooosssss….

  58. I said it before: The satire is unhelpful on two levels: It is attempting to sling an arm around Obama’s shoulders and say “Those damned flyover states are soooooo stupid aren’t they?! Ha ha and LOL!” Which is deeply unhelpful to a candidate who is trying to woo these folks. On the other hand: There is a considerably large group of people who think Obama is a muslim, was educated at a madrassa, and that his wife is a castrating anti-American bitch. THOSE are the people that you don’t want to legitimize such imagery with.

    So? Are you saying if the artist really wanted to support Obama, he should have had his cartoon vetted first by the Obama campaign?

    This is not about the left’s attempt to change the meaning of things, twist the truth, and stifle your right to free expression. It is about expediency. This shit does his campaign no good so he is criticizing it. Further, the article contained within is not exactly flattering to his ass so it is an attempt to change the subject. Standard political operating procedure.

    Expediency at the expense of a proper understanding of meaning in the context of a speech act. Criticize the thing as an ill-timed satire if you wish, one that doesn’t help Obama and so has him upset. I have no problem with that. But that doesn’t meant that a) it isn’t a satire, or b) the “right” is incapable of recognizing it as such (and so of understanding its meaning). The people who are upset about this are upset precisely because they fear this will either be misunderstood by illiterate gun toting redneck wingnuts, or else that the “right” might be able to “use” the cover in ways the artist didn’t anticipate.

    From where I stand, they are only in this boat because they’ve promoted an interpretive paradigm that lends credence to the idea that a text means whatever a reader wants it to mean. Which is true in a sense — but only because we’ve marginalized original intent as the locus of communicative meaning and allowed the reader’s intent to resignify gain purchase as a viable addendum to a text’s meaning. It isn’t. It is a rewriting of the original text, and so it is a new text altogether.

    Whereas, had we not gone off the linguisic rails to begin with, we wouldn’t be having this conversation, outside of some debate about whether or not it was useful to the Obama campaign, which raises separate issues.

    Since when did someone criticizing something become this big terrifying attempt to crush and destroy?

    I have no idea what you mean by this. Who is attempting to crush and destroy here? I’m not the one criticizing the artist for his attacks on the rightwing, though I find it a poor attempt at satire. No, ironically, those seeking to crush and destroy are on the left, and they are seeking to crush and destroy a satire aimed at the very people they themselves routinely satire.

    Can you be any more hyserical and overwrought? Do you need a Midol?

    Show my my hysterics. Show me where I’m overwrought.

    You seem to be missing the point of what I’m outlining here — namely, that the embrace of certain (wrongheaded) ideas about interpretation has necessitated making a mountain out of a molehill.

    The hysterics, that is, aren’t coming from these parts. So you might want to take that Midol, but please, do it on your own account. I’m fixing to watch an episode of “Monk” and have some lunch.

  59. Since when did someone criticizing something become this big terrifying attempt to crush and destroy?

    Jeff links to a number of prior links in the chain I described this morning. That is not to say that this was first and foremost in Camp Obama’s hive mind at the semiotic level. But it is pretty clear that O! wants as much control over his narrative as he can get. You can start with his semi-fictional autobiographies(!) and take it right through his public attempt to wave off donations to lefty 527s in favor of donations to the Obama-DNC combine. So the Obama reax here is of piece with his effort to control the narrative, just as progressives have done in the other examples Jeff links. It’s why George Lackoff goes on and on about “framing.” And so on.

  60. Oh. Here is another chunk from that politco piece.

    In the stories the new boss is encouraging, first-person writing and emotive language are okay.

    So is scrapping the stonefaced approach to journalism that accepts politicians’ statements at face value and offers equal treatment to all sides of an argument. Instead, reporters are encouraged to throw away the weasel words and call it like they see it when they think public officials have revealed themselves as phonies or flip-floppers.

    It just strikes me that for AP reporters to call it like they see it is a lot the same as AP reporters refusing to worry that their communications can be willfully misconstrued. They’ll just give you the undiluted narrative and could give a shit if you think it’s accurate. Maybe this doesn’t go where I think it goes. If I could explain it better I guess I’d have my own blog.

  61. But it is pretty clear that O! wants as much control over his narrative as he can get.

    Um, yeah because if he does not control it, someone else will. Politics 101, sweetie: Get a tight grip on your image or someone else will.

  62. “This is not about the left’s attempt to change the meaning of things, twist the truth, and stifle your right to free expression.”

    No. It’s not. Confused as to who you think thinks so.

    “Since when did someone criticizing something become this big terrifying attempt to crush and destroy?”

    What attempt would that be? Do I need my “crush and destroy attempt” detector recalibrated?

    “Can you be any more hyserical and overwrought? Do you need a Midol?”

    Do you need a mirror?

  63. A great fucking post, Jeff.

  64. IgnorantHandjob: here’s a version that’s supposed to work in all browsers. We’ll see.

    ♥♥♥Jeff♥♥♥

  65. Nope, still doesn’t work in Firefox. Should look fine in Safari and IE, though. Ah, well.

  66. If I goofed on George’s name, I assume it was freudian.

  67. Get a tight grip on your image or someone else will.

    I don’t think “I’m a stupid, humorless whiner” is really the image he wants to be projecting, but then I’m not much of a politician, I guess.

  68. Lisa,

    Image control certainly is Politics 101. Part of it is taking a whack at anyone who you think is interfering with it, even deliberately misconstruing others’ take on your image or empowering the lowest common denominator’s interpretation of some else’s “speech.” We’re just pointing out than in addition to this particular incident, it is part of a much broader mode of politics.

  69. Spies:

    I’m running Firefox, and I see all the hearts fine.

    Maybe I’m just extra-perceptive on account of all the New Yorker covers my parents kept around the house when I was a kid. :)

  70. Put another way, for those who take politics as war by other means, langauage is a primary weapon of politics (as is image). The side that has the power to define the meaning of their opponent’s language (even a meaning contrary to the plain menaing) gains an enormous — and many would say unfair — advantage. That’s what we’re talking about.

  71. oh. *politico* … I guess what I mean is that it’s still polite to show your work and how you get to your conclusions. If your editor has to explain your work for you, maybe you’re doing it wrong. But now I’m confused and overthinking things. It just seems to me that this whole New Yorker cover thing makes it seem like a lot of liberals are really pissed at the whole idea of art. That can’t be right. But journalism and art are getting really hard to tell apart I think. I think I will go get cigarettes now and be quiet.

  72. Hmm… have you upgraded to Firefox 3? I saw that it was a known bug in Firefox 2. I haven’t made the jump yet myself.

  73. hf,
    “If your editor has to explain your work for you, maybe you’re doing it wrong.”

    The key word there is “maybe.” OTOH, if someone is deliberately assigning a false meaning to your work for political reasons, perhaps you and your editor are getting mau maued.

  74. Jeff,

    Top class, and why I love reading your stuff.

    Very disappointing, and totally predictable response from McCain’s campaign, don’t you think? Immediate condemnation and sense of humour failure.

  75. I’m on FF3 and I see lots of hearts, Spies.

  76. Pingback: From The Maas

  77. Monitoring your word count and paragraph breaks is probably akin to Google-proofing, Jeff. Like most things, it’s ultimately for the children.

    Ingrate.

  78. What if you intend to be ambiguous? Puckish. Obviously New Yorker guy didn’t mean to be. But if you step back and look at what people are saying, he kinda was. Now I have to go cause for real I don’t have a license for this level of conversation.

  79. Yep, Fox 3. Haven’t had any problems with it so far.

  80. So? Are you saying if the artist really wanted to support Obama, he should have had his cartoon vetted first by the Obama campaign?

    The artist is not obligated to support anyone. No one in the media should be vetting anything. WTF is that crazy question coming from? However, Obama is not obligated to ignore when some satire is damaging to his image. He can puff and bluster about how it is tasteless all he wants. Or he can use it to change the subject if he pleases. That does not imply some dark plot to silence all criticism – it means he is getting out in front of any unpleasant images and trying to control the narrative like a good politician should. Maybee pointed out that this might backfire, and she might be right.

    Expediency at the expense of meaning. Criticize the thing as an ill-timed satire. I have no problem with that. But that doesn’t meant that a) it isn’t a satire, or b) the “right” in incapable of recognizing it as such. The people who are upset about this are upset precisely because they fear this will either be misunderstood by illiterate gun toting redneck wingnuts, or else that the “right” might be able to “use” the cover in ways the artist didn’t anticipate.

    I don’t know that anyone is upset. There is more of an “Ouch. Bad timing.” response. I think your conculsion that the criticism is some smear of the right is off base (and pretty hysterical and vaporish too boot). I think he is trying to make sure that he is not seen as the guy chuckling over the stupid jerk flyovers. Nor is he trying to have something out there that the stubborn holdouts who really do believe he is a secret muslim with a bitch commie wife to add to their “evidence” file.

    No, ironically, those seeking to crush and destroy are on the left, and they are seeking to crush and destroy a satire aimed at the very people they themselves routinely satire.

    Yeah that is not hysterical at all. Once again, criticism is NOT crushing and destroying, poppy. It is…..well….criticism.

  81. Here is the non-satirical image Barack Obama is fostering.

  82. “A great fucking post, Jeff.”

    Except he’s not actually doing the ‘fucking’.

    He’s just interesting in watching the action, and likes to
    comment on the technique.

  83. stupid fucking repub morons?

    I think it’s funny the only ones taking this cover seriously happen to be Hillary Democrats at Noquarter.

  84. #67: Yeah he is really coming off as a humorless, tight-sphintered bore. Seriously, he needs to chill the hell out and have a couple of laughs.

    When he first announced he was running he was a lot of fun. But he is so damned dour now all he is missing is a bow-tie and a bunch of bean pies for sale.

  85. #82, Semanticleo. Proving that a moniker can have real meaning.

  86. I strongly condemn myself for #84.

  87. Oh and Perfessor: I was quoting Melissa McEwan when I made that statement you cited. I think I included that in the comment.

  88. Jeff is (characteristically) looking at this kerfuffle from an intentionalism perspective. Lisa is looking at it from a political perspective. From the political perpective the New Yorker violated one of the Left’s prime directives: Hamsher’s Law. Here it is, as Jane Hamsher famously put it to Elizabeth Edwards:

    So here’s the rule. You never repeat right wing talking points to attack your own, ever. You never enter that echo chamber as a participant. Ever. You never give them a hammer to beat the left with. Just. Don’t. Do. It.

  89. #87
    The fact that you were quoting someone else at a left-leaning website kinda makes me chuckle that you then went on to ask who is making a big deal of this. Heh, busted.

  90. Lisa,
    You had me nodding my head in (mostly) agreement with you until the part about Michelle not being a castrating bitch.

    That is clearly an ironclad requirement to be the spouse of a democrat nominee in modern times. I’m think Kitty Dukakis was the last one that wasn’t. But then, it’s difficult to be castrating when you are half drunk and scarfing anti depressant meds like Skittles.

  91. “I strongly condemn myself for #84.”

    – Where is Eddie Murphy when you really need him.

    – The loooooove boat, soon will be giving you the runsss….

    – The love boat, promises dysentery for everyone…..

  92. I’m on FF3 and I see lots of hearts, Spies.

    As do I, after upgrading. Thanks, guys.

  93. Y’know, when I first started seeing discussion of this, it was based on an understanding of the cover as satire. There was some weaving around it as representative of stereotyping, the assumption that non-leftoids reading it might not get the joke.

    Then the Obama campaign weighed in, and something remarkable happened.

    …the left fears being hoist by its own incoherent linguistic petard, Jeff notes. But what’s occurred here is precisely that, in a different way.

    It must be recognized that the whole business is a lie. The academics and leftoids do not intend that “the [generic] reader” will make his or her own interpretation of the “work”. They intend that they are permitted to make that interpretation and deliver it to casual readers, thus substituting their own intent for that of the original author. Casual readers are not supposed to make their own interpretations, they are to accept the interpretation according to Teh Narrative™ rather than the original intent. They have been largely successful in putting that idea across.

    So when the Obama campaign delivered the interpretation that the message of the cartoon was an attack on Obama, that is what it became. The original intent as satire is lost completely. In order to object to it as an attack, they had to define it as an attack — and the very structure they and their allies have carefully put in place substituted that definition for the original one. At eight o’clock this morning, it was satire against the Right. Eight hours later it is firmly established as a powerful attack on Obama.

    I suspect that if they had asked, they would have been advised not to do it. Even if considered outside the semiotic paradigm, laughing at your enemies’ sallies is a much better tactic than trying to meet them head-on — which is why Bush’s “smirk” is so maddening to the Left. But they didn’t ask, and thus converted a joking nudge aimed at someone else entirely into a possibly-damaging stroke on their own cause.

    It couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch. It remains to ask how it happened. If intentional (!) it’s as fine an instance of political jiu-jitsu as has been seen.

    Regards,
    Ric

  94. Aldo

    She’s going to have to revise the Law

    So here’s the rule. You never repeat right wing Hillary supporter’s talking points to attack your own, ever. You never enter that echo chamber as a participant. Ever. You never give them a hammer to beat the left with. Just. Don’t. Do. It.

  95. – I ♥ FF3…

  96. So when the Obama campaign delivered the interpretation that the message of the cartoon was an attack on Obama, that is what it became.

    Much like his hyper-sensitive, insecure response to Bush’s speech in Israel.

  97. The artist is not obligated to support anyone. No one in the media should be vetting anything. WTF is that crazy question coming from?

    You keep saying the cartoon wasn’t “helpful”. Excuse us for assuming that you’re using “helpful” in its accepted meaning; could you explain the sense in which you’re using it for us?

  98. Seems okay so far. I’m not sure I like the way the address bar is working, though.

    I’m in awe of the new potential for generating self-denunciation.

    ♠ Racist.
    ♦ Antisemitic.
    ♥ Homophobic
    ♣ Anti-clingy weapons freaks.

  99. Topsecret: I’m sure Hillary’s head will be the first to roll after the revolution, before Cheney’s even.

  100. Topsecret: I’m sure Hillary’s head will be the first to roll after the revolution, before Cheney’s even.

    See: Leon Trostsky.

  101. (OT: FF 2.0.0.15 displays the oddball characters just fine, although of course I can’t guarantee I’m seeing the same ones you put in)

    Regards,
    Ric

  102. “Excuse us for assuming that you’re using “helpful””

    CornCob;

    Your use of the phrase ‘accepted meaning’ should precede Lisa’s definition of helpful, as English seems foreign to you.

  103. What if you intend to be ambiguous? Puckish. Obviously New Yorker guy didn’t mean to be. But if you step back and look at what people are saying, he kinda was. Now I have to go cause for real I don’t have a license for this level of conversation.

    You can intend to leave a signifier open to multiple interpretations. You can, as de Man noted, refuse even to signify.

    But that in itself is intended. It doesn’t trouble intentionalism one bit.

    The artist is not obligated to support anyone. No one in the media should be vetting anything. WTF is that crazy question coming from? However, Obama is not obligated to ignore when some satire is damaging to his image. He can puff and bluster about how it is tasteless all he wants. Or he can use it to change the subject if he pleases. That does not imply some dark plot to silence all criticism – it means he is getting out in front of any unpleasant images and trying to control the narrative like a good politician should. Maybee pointed out that this might backfire, and she might be right.

    Where do I say Obama is obligated to ignore the cover? I simply pointed out that he and his camp (and most on the left) have had to turn an obvious satire into something “offensive” out of fear that stupid rightwingers either might take it wrong, or else “use” it against Obama in the way the artist didn’t intend.

    That rightwingers can even do this, I note, is a product of a particular kind of interpretive paradigm that is associated with academic leftism, and which I’ve long argued is linguistically incoherent.

    I don’t know that anyone is upset. There is more of an “Ouch. Bad timing.” response. I think your conculsion that the criticism is some smear of the right is off base (and pretty hysterical and vaporish too boot). I think he is trying to make sure that he is not seen as the guy chuckling over the stupid jerk flyovers. Nor is he trying to have something out there that the stubborn holdouts who really do believe he is a secret muslim with a bitch commie wife to add to their “evidence” file.

    Making public statements about something being “offensive” suggests they might be upset, but who knows? Not really the point.

    And I haven’t said (that I’m aware of) that the criticism is some SMEAR of the right. Instead, it is a rebuke of the left’s own interpretive paradigm, and marks a FEAR that the right might be able to capitalize on something intended to do something else.

    Yeah that is not hysterical at all. Once again, criticism is NOT crushing and destroying, poppy. It is…..well….criticism.

    You have people on the left denouncing the artist, who they know to be doing satire, and whose intent they know was not to harm Obama, but rather to poke fun at conservatives.

    My pointing that out, with a chuckle, no less, isn’t hysterical. It is purely observational — accompanied by a gloss of the assumptions, both linguistic and philosophical, that make such a spectacle possible.

    If you keep reading the post, Lisa, eventually it’ll sink in that you are arguing with someone other than me.

  104. – You know the real irony is the Muslim faith doesn’t care in the least what the Left in America, or what any non-Muslim group thinks for that matter, or how they choose to interpret the Qur’an. To them hes an apostate, a born Muslim that has converted to the Christian faith, and I seriously doubt they’ll be changing their doctrine of 1500 years to please “Teh Narrativeâ„¢”. But then, when did the facts on the ground ever matter to the reality challenged community.

  105. Is Obama over-trying to be taken seriously? Perhaps he needs to look at McCain and see that humor has served the maverick pretty well, especially the self-deprecating kind. Obama is in danger of becoming another John Kerry, a tight assed humorless elitist trying deperately to float above the icky confines of politics as usual while he and his minions wail against the noise machine.

    Of course, McCain’s people seem so obsessed with being above board and considerate when it comes to these things that he’s in danger of looking like a girly-man message wise. He may need one or two more jokes about killing Iranians, perhaps utilizing the imagery of a nuclear powerplant meltdown. That would burnish the old macho bona fides.

    Man, it’s a gonna be a long slog to November. Oh, denounced, blah, blah…

  106. “If you keep reading the post, Lisa, eventually it’ll sink in that you are arguing with someone other than me.”

    No doubt someone clever by half.

  107. Ric —

    What you’ve described is the political usefulness of the interpretive paradigm I identify. It matters not what the casual reader thinks, only what the consensus of meaning comes to be according to the group. To belong to the group, you accept the meaning.

  108. (OT: FF 2.0.0.15 displays the oddball characters just fine, although of course I can’t guarantee I’m seeing the same ones you put in)

    There it is in a nutshell.

  109. That’s right, Cleo — she must be arguing with you, right? <snicker>

  110. There it is in a nutshell.

    Intentionalism, indeed.

  111. I, for one, just love the Mav’s self-defecating humor, BJ.

    Huh?

    Oh, sorry…my bad.

  112. kelly, denounced you are.

  113. If you keep reading the post, Lisa, eventually it’ll sink in that you are arguing with someone other than me.

    Yeah yeah. You are always misunderstood.

    You are a regular Chuckles the Clown.

    ;-)

    See you later, I have to do my bid to combat global warming (take the train).

  114. Get a tight grip on your image or someone else will.

    Fine. But he’s doing it wrong, because he’s reacting without strategizing. The campaign just sounds dumb and whiny if taken a face value, or haughty and powermad if taken Jeff-wise. If what they’re complaining about is what actually bothers them — or is something like it, elided slightly to avoid another too-obvious “clingy” moment — then they’re fucking up.

    If they really want to control the part of the message they seem to be bemoaning their lack of control over, they should complain about something else. In this case, express “disappointment” that the publication — not the artist — “chose” — you have to say that word — to portray Obama and his wife — or better, have Obama say it himself, and only mention his wife — as lighter-complexioned than Bin Laden, and question the motive — but not really; just say you “can’t imagine why.” That complaint would surprise The New Yorker, and put The Fear in others. It’s not quite true, but it doesn’t have to be. Better that it not be.

    Because The New Yorker definitely didn’t do that intentionally, whiten Obama, or darken Osama, or whatever; there’s more than one insinuation in that complaint, and it’s not clear which one is the right one to react to. That’s a great power differential in favor of the complainer, if it’s one to whom the complain-ee is already supplicant. And they are. They tried to help him and they failed him in a way they didn’t anticipate.

    So they’ll try more carefully in the future. There’ll be a lot more “running it by the campaign” by similarly positioned access-seekers. Obama could veto anything then, control any part of the message — among the controllable, at least, and such a move would starkly reveal them — without his ever revealing what’s really being controlled.

    They wasted a great opportunity here.

  115. – Maybe we should all gather in a circle and have a group denunciation….sing a few chorus’s of Kumbaya, and light some votive shunning candles….

  116. And drums, BBH, lots of drumming.

  117. “(take the train).”

    – I have no idea which train you take, but if its like the line that ran along the Ohio river down the hill behind our house when I was growing up, thos things are hell on the local fauna.

    – You could have supplied a good sized butcher shop with the roadkill you’d bag just walking the tracks each day.

  118. sometimes I read psycho and I sigh like a lovesick little girl

  119. Your use of the phrase ‘accepted meaning’ should precede Lisa’s definition of helpful, as English seems foreign to you.

    Only the bizarre, almost Pig Latin, version of English you use, semen-boy.

    For someone who argues in favor of slavery, you sure are full of yourself. I’ll just defer to Lincoln’s prescription for those in favor of slavery: you first.

  120. Jeff, all this meaning business reminds me of nothing so much as this scene from Princess Bride:
    ——————————————————————————–
    Man in Black: All right. Where is the poison? The battle of wits has begun. It ends when you decide and we both drink, and find out who is right… and who is dead.
    Vizzini: But it’s so simple. All I have to do is divine from what I know of you: are you the sort of man who would put the poison into his own goblet or his enemy’s? Now, a clever man would put the poison into his own goblet, because he would know that only a great fool would reach for what he was given. I am not a great fool, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. But you must have known I was not a great fool, you would have counted on it, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me.
    Man in Black: You’ve made your decision then?
    Vizzini: Not remotely. Because iocane comes from Australia, as everyone knows, and Australia is entirely peopled with criminals, and criminals are used to having people not trust them, as you are not trusted by me, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you.
    Man in Black: Truly, you have a dizzying intellect.
    Vizzini: Wait til I get going! Now, where was I?
    Man in Black: Australia.
    Vizzini: Yes, Australia. And you must have suspected I would have known the powder’s origin, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me.
    Man in Black: You’re just stalling now.
    Vizzini: You’d like to think that, wouldn’t you? You’ve beaten my giant, which means you’re exceptionally strong, so you could’ve put the poison in your own goblet, trusting on your strength to save you, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. But, you’ve also bested my Spaniard, which means you must have studied, and in studying you must have learned that man is mortal, so you would have put the poison as far from yourself as possible, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me.
    Man in Black: You’re trying to trick me into giving away something. It won’t work.
    Vizzini: IT HAS WORKED! YOU’VE GIVEN EVERYTHING AWAY! I KNOW WHERE THE POISON IS!
    Man in Black: Then make your choice.
    Vizzini: I will, and I choose – What in the world can that be?
    Vizzini: [Vizzini gestures up and away from the table. Roberts looks. Vizzini swaps the goblets]
    Man in Black: What? Where? I don’t see anything.
    Vizzini: Well, I- I could have sworn I saw something. No matter.First, let’s drink. Me from my glass, and you from yours.
    Man in Black, Vizzini: [they drink ]
    Man in Black: You guessed wrong.
    Vizzini: You only think I guessed wrong! That’s what’s so funny! I switched glasses when your back was turned! Ha ha! You fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous is never get involved in a land war in Asia, but only slightly less well-known is this: never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha…
    Vizzini: [Vizzini stops suddenly, and falls dead to the right]
    Buttercup: And to think, all that time it was your cup that was poisoned.
    Man in Black: They were both poisoned. I spent the last few years building up an immunity to iocane powder.

  121. “The Looooove boat, soon will be making another runnnnnn… ”

    ♥♥&hearts

    View Page Source, for all your html deciphering needs.

  122. BBH,

    IIRC, it’s the DC Metro — which wasn’t run on solar or nuclear power, last I checked.

  123. crap crap crap

  124. Never leave off the terminal semi-colon.

    (Words to live by.)

  125. “They tried to help him and they failed him in a way they didn’t anticipate.”

    – He could try that ploy psycho, but its doubtful it would get much traction, since most people that would happen to see the cover simply aren’t into nuance, so the image stands on its own and elicits whatever ephemeral image that develops in the mind of the observer, with all the complexities that involves.

    – Those that understand the general thrust of the The New Yorker wouldn’t buy it. So while you’re approach might be the smart one, it wouldn’t probably be the “workable” or “effective” one.

    – You have to make the game plan in accordance with your audience, or all the nuance in France goes to waste. ie, see P.T.Barnum.

  126. McGehee,

    You are thisclose to getting denounced by SEK.

  127. – Its ok Karl. Remember McGehee has that “approval chit” he scored from Rose the other day.

  128. “which means you must have studied, and in studying you must have learned that man is mortal”

    Hahahhahaha… ahhaha.. ahaaa.. Eccccccchhhh!

    ( a very funny scene..)

  129. I’d just like to add this little list, though it’s a bit OT:

    • has a grandiose sense of self-importance
    • is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
    • believes that he is “special” and unique
    • requires excessive admiration
    • has a sense of entitlement
    • is interpersonally exploitative
    • lacks empathy
    • is often envious of others or believes others are envious of him
    • shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes

    Those are the characteristics in DSM-IV for Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

    It includes also “[T]hey often react with disdain, rage, and/or defiance to any slight criticism, real or imagined.”

    That’s how we know Dubya doesn’t have a personality disorder: he doesn’t react to criticism, no matter how vile. An NPD would erupt in narcissistic rage.

  130. Man, I hope they didn’t take the picture at the Obama’s house in Chicago. I think that gun might be illegal there…

  131. I’m less worried about SEK than Prof. Caricature.


  132. Thinkin’ about thinkin’
    leads to drinkin’

  133. believes that he is “special” and unique

    “”In fairness to the American people, I am relatively new on the political scene, compared to a John McCain or a Hillary Clinton. My profile is not typical of a presidential nominee, not only because I’m African American, but I’m relatively young as a candidate,” he said. “So it’s not surprising that people are still getting to be familiar with what I’ve done, who I am, what I stand for. I do think it’s been fed pretty systematically by e-mails that have been sent out. There’s a concerted strategy to raise questions about me and to spread lies about my background, and in the Internet age, that’s pretty effective.

    “What’s remarkable is that despite all that, things that have been going on since we announced – I’m the nominee and have a pretty good shot at winning,” he added.*

    He’s winking at you, Carin. Gonna make you make you make you notice, he is.

  134. ack. I meant dicentra, not carin. dicentra.

  135. I’m late to this party (damn work!), but I didn’t realize I was being helpful to the cause by posting a list of words and phrases that will likely be commandeered by some outraged population.

    It doesn’t have to make sense. For example, you can’t talk about the Latin Vulgate without a bunch of Mexicans getting insulted by the term.

    Black Holes, people. And now at The Corner, they’re talking about Obama’s “lightness”. Hang on…

  136. McGehee, no, BumperStickerist, I mean, Ouroboros, FEETS!

    Hey, no prob. My mom has yet to call me by my full name without the first half of my sister’s name appended to the beginning. And vice-versa.

    Look, if even Excitable Andy notices that wanting to speak at the Brandenburg Gate and the stadium in Denver is a little much, then I figure we’ve got ourselves a real-live narcissist.

    Not that they’re a dime a dozen in politics or anything.

  137. I know I’m way late to this one, and answering without even reading the preceding comments (jesus! By the time I finish reading ONE downloaded string, ANOTHER forty commments have shown up! Don’t ANY of you SOB’s have LIVES??), but, I just gotta say, THIS (Jeff’s essay itself) is why I started reading PW a long time ago, and I’m REALLY glad to see Jeff’s outrage as a linguist seeing the 1984/Progg “Words Mean Whatever We Say They Do” chickens coming home to roost (so to speak).

    Bless you, Jeff, and I hope I haven’t repeated something someone else has already said; I’ll go read the comments on this thread now (I’ve just come back from the thread Jeff first linked: Damn you people; I’m unemployed now, and I STILL can’t keep up with all of you!).

  138. Oh: #27, JeffG? I wish I’d have read that before jumping in here; you’re basically telling Lisa what I’d just said about why I lurk here, only now you sound like you want to just Tend Your Garden again, which will suck for the rest of us.

    (Why am I channeling happyfeet and his String O’ Consciousness act all of a damn sudden? I guess the booze is finally starting to hit. I guess I’ll go back to reading….)

  139. Goddamnit, now I just read that idiot Learnedhand at #29 (yes, I know he’s a troll), and I hope to G_d he reads what I’ve just spewed.

    “Won’t even remember in a week”? Dude, I’ve been hanging around here for YEARS, and I’m nearly to the point where I can just look at a ref’d PW essay by fucking NUMBER (as in, linked) to know EXACTLY what it said.

    And I consider MYSELF to be one of the STUPIDER lurkers here.

  140. “Comment by Spies, Brigands, and Pirates on 7/14 @ 2:56 pm #

    Topsecret: I’m sure Hillary’s head will be the first to roll after the revolution, before Cheney’s even.

    See: Leon Trostsky.”

    Leon’s head din’t so much roll as hole.

  141. Pingback: Hot Air » Blog Archive » The gallery of rejected Obama New Yorker covers

  142. Well, you are all denounced with the deepest fervor. Damn cranks, the lot of you. But clever and fun ones, nevertheless.

    ;-)

  143. What you’ve described is the political usefulness of the interpretive paradigm I identify. It matters not what the casual reader thinks, only what the consensus of meaning comes to be according to the group. To belong to the group, you accept the meaning.

    I would have to agree that you are right. I have been frustrated about the same thing – but from the other side of the aisle. The last incident that I saw as the hive deciding what the meaning of something was with the Wesley Clark thing. Suddenly, it was not what he said but what the hive decided he “meant” by what he said.

    The left is really good at that shit, but the right are no slouches either. Before you retire to your fainting couch over my wretched moral equivalency, let me say that I am pointing out that I have the same frustration that you do. I see the game the left hive plays with “meaning” but I am not blind to the fact that the right has learned it and employs it with relish. It is easier to spot when the other side is using this ploy to “define” what you mean by use of mob-consensus. Not so easy to spot when you are doing it yourself.

  144. I am always joyous when I get the Perfesser’s attention. (Excellent!!) But he is usually telling me how spurious my arguments are. (Bogus.)

    Fun times anyway though.

  145. but I am not blind to the fact that the right has learned it and employs it with relish.

    If you click through some of the links in the above post, Lisa, you’ll see me taking the right to task for using this same procedure.

    I happen to think they do so nowadays because we’ve most of us been immersed in this incoherent idea about “democratizing” interpretation, and so they are merely following procedures they believe to be hermeneutic givens, but that’s an argument for another day.

    see Gramsci, et al.

  146. Jeff,

    You may want to click-through to Allah for the video.

  147. I guess what I’m finding interesting is the reactions right and left. The Rall stuff disgusted the right [and me], even though Bush never responded, while the left laughed along with him. Here’s a case where I’m just laughing at the cover while they’re disgusted on the same gut level.

  148. So let me get this right:

    Now the lefties claim they don’t like commie bitches, grievance queens, race pimps, crypto muslims, real muslims, million man marchers, strong men, self-loathing americans, socialists and terrorist sympathizers?

    I don’t get the Kover Kerfluffel: if you see Obama like we, New Yorker readers, secretly see him and don’t like like it, then you are a bad person for seeing him like that–you are doubly bad for not liking it.

    Goddamnit stop telling me 2+2 is 5! I’ll never love Big Brother even if he can q’uote the Q’uran and has a suitably bitch-commie wife!

  149. As a fascist wingnut longtime NYer subscriber totally delighted by the Obamatron cover and the falI-out thereupon, I just couldn’t keep myself from checking out HuffPo for the first time in years (really, truly), and found to my delight, amongst the countless whiners bitching over McQuaid’s get-over-it shtick, a new PC phrase: “low information voters”.

    Wow! Can we abbreviate that to LIVs?

    There’s a awesome touch of kumbaya delicacy in there. How come nobody around here can come up with that calibre of creative intelligence?

  150. #88 Aldo

    Thanks for reminding me of Disciplining Elizabeth.

    Lisa? please go skim that post and see JeffG’s comment @ #3.

  151. Excellent. But let me add a wrinkle:

    The cover is a ruse. Unless my eyes fail me, I saw no Reverend Wright, no Father Pflager, no Typical White Woman, no doing lines of coke off of Scarlett Johansson’s boobs, no wizard bong, no Tony Rezko slipping cash into BO’s pocket, no Bill Ayers with a funny cartoon explosives plunger – there’s more, but I can’t think of them offhand.

    So I see the NY cover as one of those exploding barrels that submarines launch when they’re being chased by a torpedoes to try to get the torpedoes to chase the barrel instead.

  152. “..doing lines of coke off of Scarlett Johansson’s boobs..”

    O! did lines of coke off Scarlett’s boobs?

    Lucky…

  153. Great post, as usual, Jeff. Hearts, and all that.

    We’ve seen the maddened left wrest ambiguous meaning and still-murky intent away from the artist and turn it completely inside out, and enjoyed the popcorn while the artist’s target audience beats him and his editor to a pulp! And, we’ve added that silly drawing to the trophy case of political mistakes where we all can laugh at it for the rest of this political season (and on into the future) while the Obamas fume.

    Still, in fairness to the outlier artist, I believe there’s something else not yet uncovered…a whiff of vindictive nuance…because much of this backlash is so obviously predictable. There has to be someone behind a curtain. Not so much pulling the artist’s string, but definitely his editor’s.

    Smells of male Clinton.

  154. Listening to Chris Matthews is a horrible experience. David Remnick has stupid hair. Ryan Lizza needs to learn to feel comfortable saying hey you fucked up my makeup. Do it over.

  155. hf,

    At least you hope that makeup is bad…

  156. jeyi,

    It’s not a new term invented by the HuffPo. Type it in the site search box in the left sidebar here and enjoy!

  157. It was pretty creepy, huh. But they work miracles on Chris I think. And I didn’t know that Ron Brownstein was so congenial-seeming.

  158. “… this cover is way too “don’t think of an elephant” for their comfort.”

    This is the only comment on the thread that I understand, and therefor I can only conclude that it is a masterpiece of insight. Thank you.

  159. “Since when did someone criticizing something become this big terrifying attempt to crush and destroy?”

    Since Bush said that the Dixie Chicks were entitled to their opinion, but that he disagreed with them? I mean, there were Rolling Stones covers and everything.

  160. “But he is so damned dour now all he is missing is a bow-tie and a bunch of bean pies for sale.”

    Not to mention a few dozen copies of The Final Call

  161. There’s no way to know, but for real I have a hard time believing Hillary would have been this boring.

  162. The cartoonist is gonna vote for Obama. So is the entire staff.
    Obama should know that New Yorker cartoons are rarely “funny” or even understandable.
    Ann Althouse linked the following exchange from a Seinfeld show:
    Elaine: Look at this cartoon in the New Yorker, I don’t get this.

    Jerry: I don’t either.

    Elaine: And you’re on the fringe of the humor business.

    George: Hey!

    Elaine: Hey! George look at this.

    George: That’s cute.

    Elaine: You got it?

    George: No, never mind.

    Elaine: Come on, we’re two intelligent people here. We can figure this out. Now we got a dog and a cat in an office.

    Jerry: It looks like my accountant’s office but there’s no pets working there.

    Elaine: The cat is saying, “I’ve enjoyed reading your E-mail.”

    George: Maybe it’s got something to do with that 42 in the corner.

    Elaine: It’s a page number.

    ***

    [The New Yorker cartoon editor] Mr. Elinoff: Oh! yeah… That’s a rather clever jab at inter-office politics, don’t you think?

    Elaine: Ah, ah… yeah… uh but, why is it that the, that the animals enjoy reading the email?

    Mr. Elinoff: Well Miss Benes. Cartoons are like gossamer and one doesn’t dissect gossamer… heh… hemm…

    Elaine: Well you don’t have to dissect if you can just tell me. Why this is suppose to be funny?

    Mr. Elinoff: Ha! It’s merely a commentary on contemporary mores.er)

    Elaine: But, what is the comment?

    Mr. Elinoff: It’s a slice of life.

    Elaine: No it isn’t.

    Mr. Elinoff: Pun?

    Elaine: I don’t think so.

    Mr Elinoff: Vorshtein?

    Elaine: That’s not a word…. You have no idea what this means do you?

    Mr Elinoff: No.

    Elaine: Then why did you print it?

    Mr. Elinoff: I liked the kitty.

    Huh?
    Exactly.

    On Rall: Asshole. Difference here is Rall hates Condi Rice, The New Yorker cartoonist will vote for Obama

  163. I’ve been watching the campaign, and getting the feeling that Obama and crew are like a sensitive woman who mis/interprets everything said according to her mood of the day. To get along, you have to walk on eggshells, try to guess the mood, and speak only in platitudes, but not too much because that means something too.

    I think this is what Jeff is trying to say.

    Amazing what happens when someone says what people are actually thinking. Boom.

    Derek

  164. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent who has supported Obama’s fight to debunk the rumors, said even humorists need to be careful.

    “We all have to watch very carefully what we say – our attempts at humor, our attempts at informing people – because some of what we say can be misinterpreted and do real damage,” he said.*

    So there’s that then. Watch your fat mouth.

  165. See? This is completely ass-backward. We don’t need to watch our attempts at humor. We have to police our ideas concerning interpretation.

    Unfortunately, the former is the easier of the two to scold about. So naturally, lazy fucks like Bloomberg go that route.

    Completely at odds with we want, however. Frankly, it was refreshing to hear a few liberals say as much today. But then, they were circling the wagons around one of their own.

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  167. So.. The New Yorker says they intended this as satire. Yes, I suppose we can assume there are no PUMAs working there. Nothing to see here. Never mind.

  168. – I’m suspicious the Left is unconsciously trying to lose this election because they do not want to give up the race card, especially after the events of the past 2 weeks. “Griefers Unite!”

    – Take ♥ Jesse and Al, all may not be lost after all.

    (How about TFNFV’s – Touchy feely no facts voters?)

  169. This country wasn’t founded by people who watched their mouths. Likewise we didn’t slay all the dragons in our path by being sensitive about offending someone. Someone needs to tell Bloomberg to take a hike.

  170. Someone needs to tell Bloomberg to take a hike.

    Sure EG, you can’t say anything bad about Obama so you immediately use a vile Jewish epithet to blast Bloomberg. Disgusting!
    .
    .
    …….what? Oh “hike”?
    .
    .
    I think my phrasing may have been a bit off. No hard feelings EG? We cool?

  171. I agree with Jeff G. “This is Spinal Tap” was a pretty good movie.

  172. Whatever the intended meaning of the signs, their use also seems to show that the Obamas are easily caricatured in these ways.

  173. HoistED by their own petard, JG.

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  177. I was away and came home this week to find the Obama cover on my New Yorker and the ensuing controversy… My response to the cover was, whoa, how’d the artist get this by David Remnick??? I guess the New Yorker staff is still unhappy at Hillary’s demise. Or artist Britt has really done an “emperor’s new clothes” scam on them by suggesting that his editorial cartoon was really a parody of an editorial cartoon.

    That cover in no way satirized anybody but Obama and his wife, and quite effectively. I recall a drawing by the same artist on the NY cover a month or two ago, with Hillary and Obama IN BED TOGETHER reaching for the red hot line telephone. That cover also poked fun at both candidates in a way that didn’t exactly flatter them. Maybe the New Yorker isn’t so left-leaning afterall!