Monday, July 21, 2008

TAKE THAT, EUSTACE TILLEY



Nearly every conversation with members of my wife's extended family this weekend somehow got around to that New Yorker cover. One of the more enjoyable parts of family visits with my relatives-by-marriage, all of them New Yorkers and New Englanders, is talking politics. My immediate family is wonderful in many respects, but I check my political views at the door when I visit them. For the sake of my sanity and for the sake of family peace, I long ago gave up debating the issues of the day with my Rush Limbaugh-fan dad, my apolitical mom, and my Republican sister. But my wife's family loves arguing about politics even if, by the standards of the rest of America, they occupy a moderate to leftish band on the political spectrum (only one Republican in the mix, to the best of my knowledge).

I doubt whether the New Yorker has penetrated the consciousness of my Rustbelt family (though I'm certain that my dad thinks that Obama is an ideological kin to Osama), but up in Newton and Cambridge, our discussion invariably veered back to the question of what constitutes effective political satire, whether or not Middle Americans really believe that Obama spent time in a Madrassa, and whether or not the satire was funny. I got bored of thinking about that insufficently satirical bit of cover art sometime early last week, but the rest of liberal, highly-educated, East Coast America (if my relatives are typical) doesn't seem to be tiring of it. And being the lively intellectual lot that they are, our conversations quickly ranged to Thomas Nast cartoons, anti-semitic depictions of bankers during the Greenback/Goldbug controversy of the nineteenth century, and Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Consensus: there's no satirist as great as Nast at the New Yorker right now. And even those offended by the Obama spoof agreed that it was mild compared to the vicious, xenophobic stuff that passed for political humor in late nineteenth century Democratic and populist circles or in early twenty-first century Copenhagen.

So to my politically savvy relatives (and to whoever else is reading this blog), I offer these two satires of the satire, both of which are, in my opinion, funnier and more effective than that infamous New Yorker cover itself. The first is from this wonderful collection of political cartoons, the second is from The Nation.

Now I promise never to talk about that New Yorker cover again. Ever.