Two things about the New Yorker terrorist-fist-bump cover, which I will now ruin your mind by reproducing here:
1. The New Yorker carries a cover flap which obliterates one-third of the cover image, obscuring it with descriptions of the main stories inside the issue, and makes the whole picture incomprehensible. So the people who spent yesterday worrying that rows of cover pictures on the newsstands would ruin the minds of passersby cannot have ever seen a copy of The New Yorker on a newsstand. (For that matter, the way many U.S. newsstands are built, with magazines crammed together like sardines, there is no danger of catching a glimpse of more than one-sixteenth of any random cover.)
2. As recently as a year ago, my reaction to a debate over a magazine-cover image would have been to go to my local newsagent and see what the cover looked like in real life. But I just went to my favourite vendor and he still has last week’s New Yorker on the stands. Of course he does. Because Canadian magazine distributors have decided their response to collapsing sales in the industry should be to get cheap and lazy and to distribute magazines later than ever before. In France — France! — the current issue of The New Yorker is already on sale, but in Canada we won’t see it until Thursday if we’re lucky. Or it may be nap day on Thursday too and we’ll have to wait a whole other week before Monday’s weekly U.S. magazines finally appear, dusty and obsolete, at your favourite kiosk.
What the heck, one more thing.
3. Does anybody actually believe the above cover is the product of a New Yorker vendetta against Barack Obama and his wife? Did anybody actually look at the cover and say, “Wow, hate literature. These folks at this New Yorker publication seem to harbour many grudges against that fine upstanding Barack Obama fellow and, I would go so far as to suspect, against liberals in general and many other decent folk as well”?
Or — and this is crucial, and I see it about a hundred times a week in political circles — did more people tell themselves something that sounded a little more like, “Well, I get it — I see the joke, funny or lame — but I’m quite sure the simple folk, the ordinary voter who is far less sophisticated in these matters than I am… well, they can’t be expected to understand a joke! And therefore I am outraged on their behalf, for I am ever steadfast in my solidarity with the ordinary cretin who can’t be expected to reason things through for himself!”
Because you get a lot of that around here. Politics is full of people who think they’re the only one to get a joke, to see through a fake candidate, to hear the lie in a disingenuous argument, to see the double agenda in a policy stance. I once wrote column about the myth of the “electable candidate” — Wesley Clark, Belinda Stronach, André Boisclair, there’s always another. The gist was that when somebody says “Well, yeah, but he’s electable,” what they usually mean is that while they see right through a candidate’s limitations, they don’t expect ordinary people to be nearly as insightful. I strongly suspect the same condescending instinct is at play in this monumentally inflated controversy, from which Canadian magazine shoppers are excluded until Thursday at the earliest, over a not-particularly-funny but thuddingly innocuous cover illustration.