Getting Satire

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Satire is not hard to understand. The New Yorker cover depicting Barack Obama in full Muslim attire doing a fist bump with his wife, Michelle, in the Oval Office while an American flag burns in the fireplace—that is satire. The artist has brought together the most outrageous and calumnious rumors and lies from all the email forwards and political blogs on the Internet, exaggerated them, and held them up for all to see. The cover satirizes the lies people so easily and willingly believe. It does not satirize the Obamas.

Somehow this cover has had two unintended and opposite effects. On the one hand are Obama zealots who saw in the cover an attack on their beloved messiah. They accused the The New Yorker of racism and giving aid to the enemy. They were incensed to see Obama’s image tarnished again with the same slanders that have dogged him for much of his campaign. On the other hand are the very rumormongers who spread the vilification and forwarded the slanderous emails in the first place. They rejoiced to finally see their views validated in the elite press. Neither of these groups got the satire.

Just to get a quick idea of how many rumors there are about Obama, I searched snopes.com for his name and found 40 entries. A similar search for McCain turned up only 19 entries. Some of the entries, of course, may deal with things that are true. But all of them, true or not, have been spread by email forwards, social networking sites, and private bloggers like me.

For some reason Obama has inspired twice as many rumors as McCain.

For those who still aren’t sure, here’s a short list to help set the record straight:

  1. Obama is not a closet Muslim. One (and perhaps the only) benefit of the whole mess with Rev. Jeremiah Wright was that it finally sank in that Obama attended a Christian church not a Muslim mosque.
  2. Barack Obama’s fist bump with Michelle was not a terrorist fist jab. It was more like PDA.
  3. Obama was not sworn into the Senate with his hand on a Qur’an. That was Congressman Keith Ellison, representing Minnesota’s 5th district, and the official swearing in does not use any books. Ellison used a Qur’an that once belonged to Thomas Jefferson for the photo-op of his swearing in.
  4. Obama is not the antichrist. Neither was Kissinger. Nor the Pope. Nor any of the other candidates who have been nominated for that role in the long history of religiously motivated slander. Saying that so-and-so is the antichrist or the devil incarnate or the reincarnation of Adolf Hitler is just another way of saying, “I disagree with so-and-so, but I would rather slander him than come up with rational arguments for my disagreement.” Remember what the Pharisees said about Jesus.

Obama is not a leftist ideologue. One of the criticisms levelled at him by many of his own party is that he is too centrist. The same criticism is being levelled at McCain by Republicans. It appears that both parties are set to nominate candidates that are closer to each other than they are to the extremists in their own parties. Maybe the next president, whoever he is, will actually bring some unity and bipartisan drive into American politics.

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