Friday, July 18, 2008

Black Journalists Respond To The Infamous New Yorker Obamas' Cover...

To The Editor Of The New Yorker:

As journalists and human beings we all understand that public life is not a kindergarten and that politicians and others in the public eye are always at risk of hard rough challenges. We also believe that journalism has the right and the duty to expose falsity and corruption wherever they are found.

That being said, we believe there are certain bounds within which responsible journalism must find itself constrained: we have no right to rob people of their dignity, their privacy or their reputations. And, as your Justice Holmes once said, Freedom of speech does not give anyone the right to shout "Fire" in a crowded theatre.

Your editor, David Remnick is quoted by Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post as defending the Obama cover as a 'satire' – as a way of making fun of all the rumors. We confess that we and everyone to whom we have spoken, must have missed the point of the satire. We see no 'fun' in it. What we see appears to be a clumsy, maladroit drawing which is obviously directed at the Obamas personally and not at 'rumors'.

Satire – if it is satire – requires wit and point, it requires art, in turning the obvious on its head to illustrate the truth hidden beneath. Satire does not need to be amusing, but it should be able to provoke an insight, a glimpse of a larger truth and the recognition, wry or rueful, perhaps, that we have been led, perhaps even tricked, into a new point of view, a perspective hitherto unnoticed.

Your plain, bald posterisation of the major untruths circulated against Barack and Michelle Obama does not provide any of this. In the present state of race relations in the United States and round the world, this is incendiary stuff, the equivalent of shouting fire in a crowded theatre.

It seems calculated to provoke hatred and contempt for Barack and Michele Obama and other people of colour, and like, the Danish cartoons featuring the prophet Mohammed, likely to incite violence.

All of us have been readers of the New Yorker over the years and none of us can remember anything so patently inhumane or propagandistic ever appearing before anywhere in the magazine.

We think you owe the Obamas and the world, an apology

We are three senior journalists from the Carribean with over a hundred years of experience between us

John Maxwell <>
Canute James <>
Rickey Singh <>

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