Outrages Upon Outrages

So a number of readers were OUTRAGED that the media seems to be defending the OUTRAGEOUS New Yorker magazine cover. They're OUTRAGED that people aren't OUTRAGED enough. Another strand in the vast media conspiracy is unveiled.

Reasonable people ought to be able to disagree about whether, had they been sitting at David Remnick's desk, they would have commissioned the same cover. We can debate whether it's funny, whether it's in poor taste, whether it's banal or immature, whether will strike the prejudicial id.

But when art like this outrageous us to the point of condemning the New Yorker as an enterprise, of making facile allusions to anti-Obama propaganda, of insisting that the New Yorker vet its cartoons to make sure they don't spread stereotypes, we've lost the crucial distinction between what's hurtful and what's harmful -- a very important distinction for a liberal democracy to preserve. Everyone brags about their own ability to resist subliminal messages -- although this is quite liminal, but we assume the worst about our fellow citizens, and we assume that they can't handle the same complex images we can handle.

By the way: those Outrageists who protest the cover are responsible for making sure that the New Yorker cover -- which, incidentally, a lot of us readers tend not to notice each week -- will be seen by millions and millions of more people.