Friday, July 18, 2008

That Old Lady in Dubuque Is Smarter Than You Think

Another take on the now renown cover of the New Yorker

...they get it in Dubuque, “it” being the much-dissected New Yorker cover illustration... The image is so over the top that it can only be what the editors of the liberal New Yorker say it was meant to be: a spoof of attempts by some on the right to cast Mr. Obama as a menacing Middle Eastern version of the Manchurian Candidate. Is it witty? That judgment lies in the funny bone of the beholder.

“But certainly, anyone with above-average intelligence and cultural awareness would see that something like that is satire,” said David Rusk, the publisher and editor of Julien’s Journal. His is a monthly magazine about Dubuque, which, for New York provincials unable to locate anything west of Twelfth Avenue, is in northeastern Iowa.

I didn't get it.

When The New Yorker came into being in the 1920s, its founder, Harold Ross, held up Dubuque as the sort of backwater he wanted nothing to do with. Ross, with Eustace Tilley nose in the air, said the magazine would not be “edited for the old lady in Dubuque.”

Not surprisingly, Dubuquers thought it terribly snooty of him, not to mention unfair. But they know enough to recognize satire. “Yeah, we get it in Dubuque,” Mr. Rusk said by phone. “Anybody with a reasonable sense of humor” does.

Well, I stopped reading the magazine years ago, considering it uninteresting. It did have some stuff I liked, but not enough.

With The New Yorker, some of the sensitivity undoubtedly has to do with Mr. Obama’s being black — half black, anyway. Concerns about possible accusations of racism have plainly caused some comics to tiptoe carefully.

Mr. Thompson candidly acknowledged that race may help explain why he felt insulted. “Part of it might have been that I’m an African-American, and I responded that way,” he said.

Perhaps, then, the answer is for satirists to joke only about the half of Mr. Obama that is white.

Hold on. Was that something we shouldn’t have said?


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