No, This Isn’t the Same As the Obama Cartoon

Jamie Kirchick of The New Republic wonders if there’s a double standard going on in the media, what with the outrage around the Obama cartoon and the relative silence in reagrards to a cartoon that ran along side a recent Rolling Stone profile of McCain:

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Kirchick writes:

Whereas the New Yorker cover made light of the smears directed at Barack Obama — that he’s a crypto-Muslim terrorist with Angela Davis for a wife who will burn the American flag in the Oval Office fireplace when elected president — the Rolling Stone image propagates the smears directed at John McCain — that he’s an unhinged warmonger rendered mentally unfit because of his experience in Vietnam, a meme that’s been repeated by a number of high-profile Obama surrogates over the past few months. And whereas the New Yorker cover was, in my opinion, funny (even if so many liberals seem incapable of laughing at their own jokes), the above cartoon is genuinely offensive for ridiculing the wartime service and years of torture endured by McCain.

First off, let’s look at the picture again. Yes, it’s a depiction of McCain being poked with spears by people who appear to be Vietnamese soldiers. But look a bit closer…on the left you have what appears to be Barack Obama, on the right, a person who could be Hillary Clinton…and sitting on top of the cage…could that be George Bush?!? Personally, I think it’s fairly obvious that these are members of McCain’s rogues gallery, the political rivals that are the proverbial thorns in his side. Is this making light of McCain’s service and subsequent torture in Vietnam? You could make the case, but I’d say the presence of the Democratic presidential candidates (and the sitting president) in the picture might weaken the argument. This is pretty clearly (to me, at least) a satire of McCain’s political problems.

To go back to Kirchick’s statement above, though, he says:

The Rolling Stone image propagates the smears directed at John McCain — that he’s an unhinged warmonger rendered mentally unfit because of his experience in Vietnam

Sorry, but that’s not at all the message I got from looking at the picture. To me, it conveys a man trapped on all sides by his political adversaries, nothing more, nothing less. As I said, the POW reference is definitely something that some folks might consider out of bounds, but I don’t think it propagates the idea that McCain is an “unhinged warmonger” (nor do I think it speaks to his mental state); rather, it reminds everyone (again) that McCain was, in fact, a prisoner of war (and perhaps that he’s under siege in his march toward the presidency, something that would be true of any candidate). McCain’s service is central to his biography and goes directly to his claims that he would be a better commander in chief than Obama. However, nobody is attacking McCain’s service with this cartoon. The problem with the Obama cartoon (vs. this depiction of McCain), as others have noted, is that the “humor” it’s supposed to convey is based on a set of claims that are demonstrably false but that are still thought to be true by a great many people because of simple ignorance (not stupidity…they’re not the same thing). And, as Jonathan Alter pointed out in a Newsweek web column, these images are harder to debunk than rumors spread by e-mail over the internet:

In the same way, the New Yorker cover, now being displayed endlessly on cable TV, speaks louder than any efforts by Obama supporters to stop the smears (though it doesn’t help that barackobama.com makes it hard to navigate to the truth-squading). As the author Drew Westen has shown, negative images burn their way into the consciousness of voters in ways that cannot be erased by facts. With one visual move, the magazine undid months of pro-Obama coverage in its pages.

Apparently, the New Yorker is losing some subscriptions over this flap. That’s silly. It’s hardly a crime to let a clever idea for a magazine cover (rare) trump political sensitivities (common). Getting too huffy about cartoons is something we should leave to extremists. But let’s not pretend the cover doesn’t play into a lot of garbage that otherwise smart and reasonable people actually believe, and in places far beyond Dubuque. (emphasis mine)

Methinks Mr. Kirchick doth protest a bit too much. Nothing like trying to push that square peg into a round hole. And in any case, McCain is doing quite a bit on his own to promote the idea that he might be a war monger.

Update: See Matt Yglesias making very much the same points here.

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~ by uvasig on July 16, 2008.

One Response to “No, This Isn’t the Same As the Obama Cartoon”

  1. With Obamas war of hatred against America in full swing, and escalating, there isn’t a whole lot of humor going around about his presidential dreams these days. Being Americas greatest enemy from the inside isn’t anything anyone can find a happy future in. And America is only beginning to pay the price for his life in Washington DC that is still only speculation at best.

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