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Cary Brunswick

August 2, 2008

Let's not fuel any paranoia about Obama

After the controversy over The New Yorker's mockingly racist cover of July 21 has faded away, we still will be asking ourselves how many gullible voters were affected by it.

I admit I was shocked after returning from Canada (and, no, not for a former draft-dodger convention) to find the magazine's cover cartoon jumping at me as I sorted through a week's pile of mail.

Barack Obama, whose campaign dubbed the drawing "tasteless and offensive," is shown in the Oval Office wearing a turban and other traditional Muslim clothes. His wife, Michelle, with a '60s black-power Afro, is fitted out in combat fatigues and carries an assault rifle over her shoulder.

The American flag burns in a fireplace, and over it is tacked a portrait of Osama bin Laden.

The Obamas are touching pumped fists, presumably after winning the election in November and moving into the White House in January.

I was shocked not by the message itself, because we've already heard too many racists and religious fanatics espouse their fear-mongering accusations about Obama's middle name and American loyalties. There's been plenty of such paranoid talk.

No, I was surprised and saddened to see a legitimate neo-liberal magazine feeding that paranoia. The drawing's intent obviously was satire, but the impact on many people will not be.

Imagine such a magazine cover in 1960 showing JFK and Jackie in the White House slapping high-fives with the pope and saying, ``Now, let them eat fish every Friday.''

One columnist has compared the drawing to the infamous covers of the magazine Der Sturmer, which spread Nazi racist anti-Semitic propaganda in 1920s and '30s Germany. You can't imagine such sickness having a major impact on a population _ but it occurred.

Of course, no one would question the right of The New Yorker to publish the Obama cover, but many observers have disputed the wisdom or morality of it _ for lending some credibility, perhaps, to the lies circulating in America about the Obamas.

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Cary Brunswick

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