Totally Offensive

I know much of the blogosphere is talking about the horribly offensive New Yorker cover featuring Barack Obama dressed as a Muslim, but I personally would like to talk about another piece of infuriating media that offends my liberal sensibilities:


That’s right, Jonathan Swift’s 1729 treatise about how the Irish might alleviate their poverty by selling their children for food.

How dare Jonathan Swift perpetuate stereotypes of the Irish as being both poor and delicious! With lines like “A young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee, or a ragout” Jonathan swift ignores the plight of Papists everywhere, who have to contend with being objectified as delicious treats, perfect with a good ale, imported from the colonies.

Now, I know the piece is meant as irony and satire, but, beyond being unfunny (in my ever-so-humble opinion) much of our nation still believes that the Irish would make a fine delicacy. And, what’s more, because most people outside of our elite liberal arts school have no understanding of subtlety or humor, this essay will only perpetuate these ugly, yet mouthwatering stereotypes of the Irish. So shame on ye, Jonathan Swift, for offending both myself and millions of proud Irish folk with your bilious drivel. You will not get another penny-farthing from me!

Suggested further reading:
Rush Limbaugh was Right @ Salon.com
The New Yorker Draws Fire @ Slate

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56 thoughts on “Totally Offensive

  1. Anonymous

    i don’t know how to read, but i do know that children are delicious — all children, in fact, and not just irish ones (minorities don’t taste as good though). and if you ever have the opportunity to try it, aborted fetuses are absolutely out of this world. they’re like the veal of cannibalism. mmmmmm stem cells

  2. Anonymous

    i don’t know how to read, but i do know that children are delicious — all children, in fact, and not just irish ones (minorities don’t taste as good though). and if you ever have the opportunity to try it, aborted fetuses are absolutely out of this world. they’re like the veal of cannibalism. mmmmmm stem cells

  3. maxliving

    anon 11:03,If I understand correctly what you’re saying, I’m pretty sure I agree with you.

  4. maxliving

    anon 11:03,
    If I understand correctly what you’re saying, I’m pretty sure I agree with you.

  5. Anonymous

    they have to be young tho, cuz once they get old, the meat gets harder. too hard to eat enjoyably. i had to read this shit back in high school.

  6. Anonymous

    they have to be young tho, cuz once they get old, the meat gets harder. too hard to eat enjoyably. i had to read this shit back in high school.

  7. Anonymous

    i personally thing irish babies are delicious…especially when prepared in a porto reduction sauce

  8. Anonymous

    i personally thing irish babies are delicious…especially when prepared in a porto reduction sauce

  9. Anonymous

    @ anons 9:13 and 9:32,Absolutely right. @ maxliving,Look, man. Please try to understand my position before attacking a straw man. Satire is all well and good, and is going to be offensive if it’s effective. I think it’s great that people print this sort of stuff, in general. I advocate neither censorship nor a lack of a sense of humor, since both of those things directly impede our intellectual growth. It’s great that we’re even having this discussion.But putting it on the cover is not JUST satire. The cover reaches an entirely different audience from the people who will actually read the article. Listen, I live in New York City, and my friends are extremely intelligent people. Whey I say “massive numbers of people” I’m talking about the fact that only one of the people I’ve talked to personally about this understood that the cover was satirical right off the bat without looking at the article. I’m not worried about some abstract “most people” not getting it, I’m worried about US. Just because you think you get it, and you’ve read the New Yorker on a regular basis, doesn’t mean that everyone does. Given the state of the media today, you don’t have to be an idiot not to get that it’s a joke. Are you absolutely sure that you do?Because here’s the thing: there’s a part of it that really isn’t a joke. If you think it doesn’t buy into the same sort of bullshit that it claims to be attacking, then you’re just not paying attention to how this shit works. Hell, it’s telling that everyone seems to be assuming that Obama should be the one offended by this. Obama himself wasn’t offended by the cover – why should he be? It plays into his campaign strategy and lets him get a talking point out. The comic is racist because it makes use of deep racial prejudices without deeply critiquing them. Which is to say, comics are surprisingly insidious in their ability to reaffirm beliefs: if this conversation is any indication, not even the “intellectual college elite” is willing to question its own stereotypes. Big surprise to all concerned. Anyway, do you understand what I’m saying? The satire is great. The racist stereotypes are not. Both are present here. I’m still glad they printed it, and it’s not just the fault of the New Yorker that things are this way. But it’s also fucking offensive. It only works at all because it’s really fucking offensive. And frankly, your assumption that I or anyone else who was offended by this is either white or a liberal is based purely on your own stereotypes. Wesleyan isn’t THAT homogeneous.-The original “offendee”

  10. Anonymous

    @ anons 9:13 and 9:32,

    Absolutely right.

    @ maxliving,

    Look, man. Please try to understand my position before attacking a straw man. Satire is all well and good, and is going to be offensive if it’s effective. I think it’s great that people print this sort of stuff, in general. I advocate neither censorship nor a lack of a sense of humor, since both of those things directly impede our intellectual growth. It’s great that we’re even having this discussion.

    But putting it on the cover is not JUST satire. The cover reaches an entirely different audience from the people who will actually read the article.

    Listen, I live in New York City, and my friends are extremely intelligent people. Whey I say “massive numbers of people” I’m talking about the fact that only one of the people I’ve talked to personally about this understood that the cover was satirical right off the bat without looking at the article.

    I’m not worried about some abstract “most people” not getting it, I’m worried about US. Just because you think you get it, and you’ve read the New Yorker on a regular basis, doesn’t mean that everyone does. Given the state of the media today, you don’t have to be an idiot not to get that it’s a joke. Are you absolutely sure that you do?

    Because here’s the thing: there’s a part of it that really isn’t a joke. If you think it doesn’t buy into the same sort of bullshit that it claims to be attacking, then you’re just not paying attention to how this shit works. Hell, it’s telling that everyone seems to be assuming that Obama should be the one offended by this. Obama himself wasn’t offended by the cover – why should he be? It plays into his campaign strategy and lets him get a talking point out. The comic is racist because it makes use of deep racial prejudices without deeply critiquing them. Which is to say, comics are surprisingly insidious in their ability to reaffirm beliefs: if this conversation is any indication, not even the “intellectual college elite” is willing to question its own stereotypes. Big surprise to all concerned.

    Anyway, do you understand what I’m saying? The satire is great. The racist stereotypes are not. Both are present here. I’m still glad they printed it, and it’s not just the fault of the New Yorker that things are this way. But it’s also fucking offensive. It only works at all because it’s really fucking offensive.

    And frankly, your assumption that I or anyone else who was offended by this is either white or a liberal is based purely on your own stereotypes. Wesleyan isn’t THAT homogeneous.

    -The original “offendee”

  11. Anonymous

    To further clarify 9:32’s comment, the New Yorker appeals to a very small, overwhelmingly liberal portion of American society. I’m a big fan of the magazine and am a native New Yorker, but I doubt anybody I went to high school with reads/cares about it. The “in” crowd that’s targeted by the magazine and expected to appreciate its humor is nothing compared to most of the people going “wtf” about this cover.

  12. Anonymous

    To further clarify 9:32’s comment, the New Yorker appeals to a very small, overwhelmingly liberal portion of American society. I’m a big fan of the magazine and am a native New Yorker, but I doubt anybody I went to high school with reads/cares about it. The “in” crowd that’s targeted by the magazine and expected to appreciate its humor is nothing compared to most of the people going “wtf” about this cover.

  13. Anonymous

    seriously? if you think the reason people are upset about this is because they don’t understand satire then you are a pretentious prick. the only reason you’re not upset is because all of your friends are liberals from the east coast. most of the country doesn’t read the new yorker and a lot of it doesn’t even know what it is–and pointing that out isn’t elitist to poor little middle america, it’s simply stating a fact. get your heads out of your asses and recognize the world doesn’t revolve around new york (or new york humor).

  14. Anonymous

    seriously? if you think the reason people are upset about this is because they don’t understand satire then you are a pretentious prick. the only reason you’re not upset is because all of your friends are liberals from the east coast. most of the country doesn’t read the new yorker and a lot of it doesn’t even know what it is–and pointing that out isn’t elitist to poor little middle america, it’s simply stating a fact. get your heads out of your asses and recognize the world doesn’t revolve around new york (or new york humor).

  15. Anonymous

    oh, but i still appreciate your satire. nicely done, btw, even if i don’t agree.–above poster

  16. Anonymous

    oh, but i still appreciate your satire. nicely done, btw, even if i don’t agree.

    –above poster

  17. Anonymous

    even “intelligent,” critical thinkers struggle with deep-seated, unconscious stereotypes. unfortunately, the way the new yorker chose to ridicule those stereotypes actually risked activating them further. it’s not that people are so “simple,” but that stereotypes work so insidiously.

  18. Anonymous

    even “intelligent,” critical thinkers struggle with deep-seated, unconscious stereotypes.

    unfortunately, the way the new yorker chose to ridicule those stereotypes actually risked activating them further.

    it’s not that people are so “simple,” but that stereotypes work so insidiously.

  19. Anonymous

    It’s ridiculous to think that this could hurt Obama or in any way “propagate racist misunderstanding.” There are three types of people here: those that can recognize the cover as satire and laugh, those that don’t understand satire and get offended, and all the ignorant racists whose opinion the drawing is satirizing in the first place.The first two groups, as is the cover’s intent, agree on how absurd these stereotypes are, while the third group, frankly, doesn’t really matter. Nobody sees this cover and thinks, “Hm, well I didn’t think Obama was a terrorist, but now I just don’t know.” That’s so stupid.No, everyone clearly agrees that Obama is not a terrorist, and to make that accusation, or even suggest it, would be absolutely absurd. And that’s the point, it’s fucking satire.

  20. Anonymous

    It’s ridiculous to think that this could hurt Obama or in any way “propagate racist misunderstanding.” There are three types of people here: those that can recognize the cover as satire and laugh, those that don’t understand satire and get offended, and all the ignorant racists whose opinion the drawing is satirizing in the first place.

    The first two groups, as is the cover’s intent, agree on how absurd these stereotypes are, while the third group, frankly, doesn’t really matter. Nobody sees this cover and thinks, “Hm, well I didn’t think Obama was a terrorist, but now I just don’t know.” That’s so stupid.

    No, everyone clearly agrees that Obama is not a terrorist, and to make that accusation, or even suggest it, would be absolutely absurd. And that’s the point, it’s fucking satire.

  21. Estrella

    I don’t think Obama was actually offended (context is everything, would everyone be offended if SNL did a skit like this?)but rather that it was a tactical move. He can’t afford any more attempts to paint him as an elitist, out-of-touch intellectual-type, so if John Q. American found it offensive, so does the Obama campaign. He’s been known to poke fun at these stereotypes himself, like last month when he said the following in a speech:”I also want to mention that I know some have been receiving provocative emails that have been circulated throughout the Jewish communities across the country and a few of you may have gotten them. They’re filled with tall-tales and dire warnings about a certain candidate for President and all I want to say is let me know if you see this guy named Barack Obama because he sounds pretty scary.”

  22. Estrella

    I don’t think Obama was actually offended (context is everything, would everyone be offended if SNL did a skit like this?)but rather that it was a tactical move. He can’t afford any more attempts to paint him as an elitist, out-of-touch intellectual-type, so if John Q. American found it offensive, so does the Obama campaign.

    He’s been known to poke fun at these stereotypes himself, like last month when he said the following in a speech:

    “I also want to mention that I know some have been receiving provocative emails that have been circulated throughout the Jewish communities across the country and a few of you may have gotten them. They’re filled with tall-tales and dire warnings about a certain candidate for President and all I want to say is let me know if you see this guy named Barack Obama because he sounds pretty scary.”

  23. Anonymous

    I’m not sure how I feel about the cover, but I’m glad that the stereotypes are now being discussed…and, as far as I’ve heard, clearly discredited…in the mass media, instead of just circulating in people’s emails

  24. Anonymous

    I’m not sure how I feel about the cover, but I’m glad that the stereotypes are now being discussed…and, as far as I’ve heard, clearly discredited…in the mass media, instead of just circulating in people’s emails

  25. maxliving

    Also, the whole panicking whenever anyone makes the tiniest remark that might hurt the candidate is pathetic and annoying. Face it: the Republican party has more discipline than the Democrats ever will, but getting all pissy whenever something like this happens makes you look even worse. Obama’s campaign could’ve said, “Thank you to the New Yorker for mocking all the slander Obama has endured,” but instead they got all offended.

  26. maxliving

    Also, the whole panicking whenever anyone makes the tiniest remark that might hurt the candidate is pathetic and annoying. Face it: the Republican party has more discipline than the Democrats ever will, but getting all pissy whenever something like this happens makes you look even worse. Obama’s campaign could’ve said, “Thank you to the New Yorker for mocking all the slander Obama has endured,” but instead they got all offended.

  27. maxliving

    Good post Adam, I loves me my perspective.To all those whiners above me: get a grip. Quotes like this one: “It doesn’t matter that the New Yorker is satire: a massive number of people will see the cover and won’t know the publication well enough to be sure that it isn’t serious” are the reason people think of liberals and college students as elitist bastards.

  28. maxliving

    Good post Adam, I loves me my perspective.

    To all those whiners above me: get a grip. Quotes like this one: “It doesn’t matter that the New Yorker is satire: a massive number of people will see the cover and won’t know the publication well enough to be sure that it isn’t serious” are the reason people think of liberals and college students as elitist bastards.

  29. Anonymous

    @anon 3:38,You’re absolutely right that it’s silly to draw attention to it. And it’s even worse that it was an issue in the first place.But the point remains that the publishers made the CHOICE to propagate racial stereotypes, and they deny that they made that choice by hiding behind irony. It pisses me off that people think the world is cut up like that. The presence of irony does not entail a lack of real consequences. As for the “not reading the New Yorker” argument, the whole problem is that it’s on the COVER. Very few people read the New Yorker compared to the vast majority who walk past news stands where it’s being sold. And a cover like that draws plenty of attention on it’s own. While I agree with you that the whole “I’m so offended!” thing is stupid and probably counterproductive, at least the dialogue is being framed against the idea that the Obamas are anti-american. -anon 2:30

  30. Anonymous

    @anon 3:38,

    You’re absolutely right that it’s silly to draw attention to it. And it’s even worse that it was an issue in the first place.

    But the point remains that the publishers made the CHOICE to propagate racial stereotypes, and they deny that they made that choice by hiding behind irony. It pisses me off that people think the world is cut up like that. The presence of irony does not entail a lack of real consequences.

    As for the “not reading the New Yorker” argument, the whole problem is that it’s on the COVER. Very few people read the New Yorker compared to the vast majority who walk past news stands where it’s being sold. And a cover like that draws plenty of attention on it’s own. While I agree with you that the whole “I’m so offended!” thing is stupid and probably counterproductive, at least the dialogue is being framed against the idea that the Obamas are anti-american.

    -anon 2:30

  31. Anonymous

    The New Yorker has been putting out magazines with satirical illustrations on the cover for 80+ years. The satire should be obvious. Anyone who doesn’t understand that clearly DOES NOT READ THE NEW YORKER.Many are making the argument that “Lots of people (even smart people) won’t understand the satire. Therefore, the cover will only expose more of these people to unfair Obama stereotypes”. Well, maybe that’s true. But how many more people who would have NEVER seen the cover are now exposed to it because of all of this media outrage? Lots. Many of these people, I’m sure, had no idea that these stereotypes even existed.By getting offended and drawing attention the matter, the media has only made these misconceptions about Obama more well known. The blogosphere should stop whining–you CANNOT defeat a stereotype by drawing more attention to it.That being said, the New Yorker is not funny, and neither is Adam’s post.

  32. Anonymous

    The New Yorker has been putting out magazines with satirical illustrations on the cover for 80+ years. The satire should be obvious. Anyone who doesn’t understand that clearly DOES NOT READ THE NEW YORKER.

    Many are making the argument that “Lots of people (even smart people) won’t understand the satire. Therefore, the cover will only expose more of these people to unfair Obama stereotypes”. Well, maybe that’s true. But how many more people who would have NEVER seen the cover are now exposed to it because of all of this media outrage? Lots. Many of these people, I’m sure, had no idea that these stereotypes even existed.

    By getting offended and drawing attention the matter, the media has only made these misconceptions about Obama more well known. The blogosphere should stop whining–you CANNOT defeat a stereotype by drawing more attention to it.

    That being said, the New Yorker is not funny, and neither is Adam’s post.

  33. Anthony

    If that cartoon had appeared anywhere but on the cover of the New Yorker– say, on the cover of some local newspaper in a more conservative state– there’d be no question as to its offensive nature.

  34. Anthony

    If that cartoon had appeared anywhere but on the cover of the New Yorker– say, on the cover of some local newspaper in a more conservative state– there’d be no question as to its offensive nature.

  35. Anonymous

    whatever, the cover was fine, and it was fine that obama didn’t like it, that’s how it goes. The New Yorker didn’t do anything wrong.

  36. Anonymous

    whatever, the cover was fine, and it was fine that obama didn’t like it, that’s how it goes. The New Yorker didn’t do anything wrong.

  37. Anonymous

    Dude, there’s a difference between personally offensive and politically offensive, and this is obviously the latter. Furthermore, just because you’re being ironic doesn’t mean that your statement won’t have an unironic effect, which in this case is to propagate racist misunderstanding. It doesn’t matter that the New Yorker is satire: a massive number of people will see the cover and won’t know the publication well enough to be sure that it isn’t serious. I’m not talking about the “uneducated masses,” I’m thinking of reasonably well-informed friends of mine at Wes. For a magazine that’s usually politically savvy, it’s pretty far over the line. Now, that’s not to say that they shouldn’t have printed it – the real fault lies with the ignorance of Americans and the American media, after all, not the New Yorker. But their comments about the choice to go with it make it clear that they don’t know what they’re talking about.

  38. Anonymous

    Dude, there’s a difference between personally offensive and politically offensive, and this is obviously the latter.

    Furthermore, just because you’re being ironic doesn’t mean that your statement won’t have an unironic effect, which in this case is to propagate racist misunderstanding. It doesn’t matter that the New Yorker is satire: a massive number of people will see the cover and won’t know the publication well enough to be sure that it isn’t serious. I’m not talking about the “uneducated masses,” I’m thinking of reasonably well-informed friends of mine at Wes.

    For a magazine that’s usually politically savvy, it’s pretty far over the line. Now, that’s not to say that they shouldn’t have printed it – the real fault lies with the ignorance of Americans and the American media, after all, not the New Yorker. But their comments about the choice to go with it make it clear that they don’t know what they’re talking about.

  39. Anonymous

    but Swift was funny/ there’s a difference between satire and just saying the same thing someone you disagree with is saying.

  40. Anonymous

    but Swift was funny/ there’s a difference between satire and just saying the same thing someone you disagree with is saying.

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