Although every critic of the New Yorker understood the simple satire of the cover, the most fretful of them worried that the illustration would be misread by the ignorant masses who don’t subscribe to the magazine. Los Angeles Times blogger Andrew Malcolm wrote, "That’s the problem with satire. A lot of people won’t get the joke. Or won’t want to. And will use it for non-humorous purposes, which isn’t the New Yorker‘s fault." Malcolm continues in this vein, calling it a "problem" that "there’s no caption on the cover to ensure that everyone" will understand the punch line.
Here’s ABC News’ Jake Tapper singing the harmony line:
Intent factors into these matters, of course, but no Upper East Side liberal—no matter how superior they feel their intellect is—should assume that just because they’re mocking such ridiculousness, the illustration won’t feed into the same beast in emails and other media. It’s a recruitment poster for the right-wing.
Calling on the press to protect the common man from the potential corruptions of satire is a strange, paternalistic assignment for any journalist to give his peers, but that appears to be what The New Yorker‘s detractors desire. I don’t know whether to be crushed by that realization or elated by the notion that one of the most elite journals in the land has faith that Joe Sixpack can figure out a damned picture for himself.
How did we arrive at the point where a simple wisecrack like Blitt’s causes such a hullabaloo? Has the public’s taste for barbed drawings waned since the Paul Conrad, Herblock, Pat Oliphant, and Bill Mauldin heydays, or have the voices of the would-be bowdlerizers gotten stronger? Shall we don blinders and erect barriers so nobody is offended or misled?
Only weak thinkers fear strong images. The publication that convenes itself as a polite dinner party, serving only polenta and pureed peas, need not invite me to sup.