Satire on the campaign trail

There's a tempest in a presidential-campaign teapot brewing over The New Yorker's cover this week, which "depicts Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) in a turban, fist-bumping his gun-slinging wife," according to Politico:

The New Yorker says it's satire. It certainly will be candy for cable news.

The Obama campaign quickly condemned the rendering. Spokesman Bill Burton said in a statement: “The New Yorker may think, as one of their staff explained to us, that their cover is a satirical lampoon of the caricature Senator Obama's right-wing critics have tried to create. But most readers will see it as tasteless and offensive. And we agree."

So the dispute here is if this is satire. What is satire? According to my Webster's New World Dictionary:

sat*ire: (sa' tīr') n. 1 a) a literary work in which vices, follies, stupidities, abuses, etc. are held up to ridicule or contempt b) such literary works collectively, or the art of writing them 2 the use of ridicule, sarcasm, irony, etc. to expose, attack, or deride vices, follies, etc.

So, if you think that the art meets the standard set in 1a and 2, then this is satire. (Although the word is being used wrong here at least according to the definition, since satire applies to a literary work, not art. But I think satire easily extends to expression beyond the written word.)

I think the complete over-the-topness of the image makes it clear that this is ridicule and sarcasm that is being used to attack the stupidities and abuses of the false claims being made about Obama. And given The New Yorker's mostly very liberal audience, I think most people who get the magazine will be in on the joke. Know your customer, right? Of course, this is going to be splashed across the news channels, so it's going to get far wider exposure.