Foreign Policy Blogs

Did the New Yorker Insult Muslim Americans?

It is rather incomprehensible that the New Yorker actually intended to insult Muslim Americans , despite showing the Obamas as flag-burning militants in the White House. The fact that the cover of the July 21, 2008 issue of the magazine has offended Barack Obama and countless Americans may speak precisely to what the New Yorker's cover artist was intending to point out: Americans are scared and many assume that the Obamas are Muslim. The title of the front page cartoon, "The Politics of Fear," (by Barry Blitt) is meant to show Americans how scare tactics are being used to hurt Obama's increasingly successful campaign. The Huffington Post published a response from Blitt to the outrage. He wrote, "It seemed to me that depicting the concept would show it as the fear-mongering ridiculousness that it is." But Obama himself has specifically said that the cover illustration was an insult to Muslim Americans. He said on Larry King that "for this to be used as sort of an insult, or to raise suspicions about me, I think is unfortunate." A wiser comment from Obama was that "in attempting to satirize something, they probably fueled some misconceptions about me instead." Clarence Page of the Chicago Tribune says the caricature of Barack and Michelle Obama is startling in its image, "but not nearly as clear in its meaning." Page reminds us that when it takes you too long to figure out a joke, it's not funny and worth forgetting. Moreover, in contrast to Obama's comment, Page more accurately says that "Folks who say they think the cartoon depicts the real Obamas offer evidence that false perceptions already are out there, New Yorker or not." The editor of the New Yorker has written that the cartoon picture of the Obamas in the White House was "a lot like the spirit of what Stephen Colbert does," which unfortunately shows no understanding of why Colbert gets laughs. Even those people who accept the meaning and intention of the New Yorker's front cover probably aren't laughing.



Karin Esposito

Karin Esposito is blogging on religion and politics from her base in Central Asia. Currently, she is the Project Manager for the Tajikistan Dialogue Project in Dushanbe. The Project is run through the Geneva Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies with the support of PDIV of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. The aim of the project is to establish practical mechanisms for co-existence and peaceful conflict resolution between Islamic and secular representatives in Tajikistan. After receiving a Juris Doctorate from Boston University School of Law in 2007, she worked in Tajikistan for the Bureau of Human Rights and later as a Visting Professor of Politics and Law at the Kazakhstan Institute of Management, Economics, and Strategic Research (KIMEP). Ms. Esposito also holds a Master's in Contemporary Iranian Politics (2007) from the School of International Relations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Iran and a Master's in International Relations (2003) from the Geneva Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (GIIDS) in Switzerland.

Areas of Focus:
Islam; Christianity; Secularism;