At this very moment, me and Kenyatta are debating New Yorker cover. She's a little more pissed than me--particularly about the Michelle Obama pic and the Afro. I think the problem is that it's very hard to satirize the rumors around Michelle and Barack. Satire needs overstatement. But the cover doesn't actually overstate the beliefs of the scaremongers. Indeed its the sort of image you'd expect to see at one of the nuttier websites or publications, and so in that sense it doesn't work very well.
I think "offensive" is bit much, but I can see that we do have the makings of a problem. Bearing that in mind I've come up with a compromise. White people--step away from the sepia-toned crayons. Black people--recognize that incompetence and epic fail may be the only things more common than bigotry.
UPDATE: So David Remnick went ahead and talked to Huffpo about the cover and why he chose to run it:
>What I think it does is hold up a mirror to the prejudice and dark imaginings about Barack Obama's -- both Obamas' -- past, and their politics. I can't speak for anyone else's interpretations, all I can say is that it combines a number of images that have been propagated, not by everyone on the right but by some, about Obama's supposed "lack of patriotism" or his being "soft on terrorism" or the idiotic notion that somehow Michelle Obama is the second coming of the Weathermen or most violent Black Panthers. That somehow all this is going to come to the Oval Office.
The idea that we would publish a cover saying these things literally, I think, is just not in the vocabulary of what we do and who we are...
I think this basically true, except that, again, satire doesn't just reflect it actually exaggerates to comical effect. Sadly, that picture exaggerates nothing--that's exactly what a slice of Americans believe about Barack Obama. Expect that image to be on tee-shirts within two weeks. Later in the interview Remnick compares this to Colbert's lampooning of the Right. Um, no. Again, Colbert is so exaggerated that only an alien could think that he was actually a right-winger. Watch Colbert at White House Press Corps dinner. He is very clearly mocking the president and his allies. I get the intent of the picture, but I think it just fails. It's hard for me to believe that the New Yorker literally set out to push the worst right-wing smears. It just looks like poorly executed satire.
UPDATE#2: Below, Gussie argues for the NYer cover being a clear exaggeration. I understand that point, and to the NYer's core reading audience, it probably is. But in the broader body politic, it just isn't. 13 percent of people actually believe that Obama's a Muslim. That number seems small, but in the right states, it will turn an election. Much worse though is the Michelle Obama attempt. No less than Christopher Hitchens--who exists well within the world of NYer readers--has argued that Michelle really is a Stokely Carmichael disciple who pushed Barack into Trinity--this despite the fact that Barack joined Trinity, like, five years before he knew Michelle. "The Whitey Tape" was the work of Hillary supporters, not the right-wing smear machine. At this moment there are Hillary-supporters, over at No Quarter, clamoring for Obama's passport. At the very least, the Michelle Obama caricature exists--not just among right-wing nuts--but amongst the thuggish Neandrathal wing of the Democratic party.
My point is that that this cover actually does reflect--not exagerate, not satirize--the views of a sizeable portion of Americans. That image is exactly what Fox News thinks of Barack and Michelle. Compare that, again, to Colbert. No real conservative actually thinks bears are the greatest threat to America. But that's not the point. Steven Colbert's threatdown/bear riff exagerates the right-wing stance on the enviornment. That's why it works as satire