Drawing on Our Fears - Black Enterprise
Black Enterprise Magazine September/October 2018 Issue

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July 16, 2008 — Tuesday night on Larry King Live, Sen. Barack Obama once again affirmed that he is a Christian, pledges allegiance to the flag, and was certainly not raised in a Muslim household. The interview was prompted by the July 21 cover of The New Yorker, which depicts Obama and his wife Michelle as unpatriotic, flag-burning, Osama bin Laden-loving, combat boot-wearing, fist-bumping militants.

In a statement, The New Yorker, known for its irreverent–and often provocative–cartoons, states that in that same spirit, the cover art, entitled “The Politics of Fear,” was a satirical mirror meant to reveal the “prejudice, the hateful, and the absurd” attacks on Obama. Instead, the cover has outraged many who say it was done in bad taste. Obama’s opponent, Sen. John McCain, called it offensive. The reaction spawned a media blitz that has the controversial cover as top news on many popular Websites, newspapers, and TV shows.

In defense of its decision to run the cover by Barry Blitt, The New Yorker also notes in its statement that articles in the magazine frame Obama in a serious light, citing one that informs readers about his political rise in Chicago.

“The imagery of the cover has more influence than the actual magazine itself,” says Michael Fauntroy, assistant professor of public policy at George Mason University. “I’m a fan of political satire, and I understand what they were trying to do. Sometimes satire can be so inflammatory that people lose sight of what was originally intended.”

Since Obama’s campaign began two years ago, hundreds of e-mail smears and Websites proclaiming his allegiance to Islam have sprouted. Radio personality Rush Limbaugh has attacked Obama’s wife, Michelle, as a racist. The most inflammatory sites display–out of context–photos of Obama adorned in traditional African dress when visiting the grave of his Kenyan father, a Muslim who was an absentee father.

Nevertheless, Fauntroy doesn’t believe that the cover will harm Obama or do anything to help McCain. “The kind of people who would be influenced by that cover already believes he is a closet Muslim,” Fauntroy says. “If anything, it helps Obama because it shows that they won’t give him a fair shake.”

Fauntroy says he was more concerned about the depiction of the senator’s wife, emphasizing that she is not on the ballot. “That portrayal of her plays into the Fox News Channel’s stereotype of the angry black woman,” he says. “That, symbolically, is dangerous territory.”

Obama’s response to the controversy included downplaying the cartoon. “I’ve seen and heard worse… I do think that in attempting to satirize they probably fueled some misconceptions about me instead,” Obama said on CNN’s Larry King Live Tuesday night.

While on the show, Obama also attempted to distinguish his foreign policy agenda from Republican John McCain and commented on the housing crisis and changes that need to be made with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. “Perpetuating the strategy in Iraq is costing us elsewhere,” said Obama, adding that a recent attack in Iraq that left nine servicemen dead shows that things aren’t

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Marcia Wade Talbert

Marcia is a multimedia content producer focusing on technology at Black Enterprise Magazine. In this capacity she writes and assigns stories to educate readers about social media; digital integration; gadgets, apps, and software for business and professional development; minority tech startups; and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). In 2012, she received two Salute to Excellence Awards from the National Association of Black Journalists and was recognized by Blacks in Technology (BiT) as one of the Top 10 Black achievers in the tech arena for 2011 at SXSW in Austin, Texas. She has spoken about technology on panels for New York Social Media Week, at The 2012 Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Summit, as well as at Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneurs Conference and Women of Power Summit. In 2011, SocialWayne.com chose her as one of 28 People of Color Impacting the Social Web, and through crowdsourcing she was listed as one of BlackWeb2.0's/HP's 50 Most Notable African American Tastemakers in Social Media and Technology for 2010. Since taking on the role of Tech editor in September 2010, she has conceived and produced five cover stories on Technology and/or STEM and countless articles, videos, and slideshows online. Before joining BlackEnterprise.com as an interactive general assignment reporter in 2008, she freelanced with Black Enterprise beginning in 2003 while working as the technical editor at Prepared Foods magazine. There she further honed her writing skills and became an authority on food ingredients, including ingredients used in food fortification and enrichment. Meanwhile, her freelancing with Black Enterprise and BlackEnterprise.com helped her stay current on issues pertaining to the financial and business welfare of African Americans. As a general reporter for Black Enterprise she attended and reported on the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, where she interviewed Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor and assistant to President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Marcia has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture with an emphasis in food science from the University of Minnesota, and a Master of Science degree in journalism from Roosevelt University in Chicago. En route to her secondary degree, she served as the editor-in-chief of the Roosevelt University Torch, a weekly, student-run newspaper. An avid photographer and videographer, Marcia is one of several employees at BLACK ENTERPRISE who interned for the publishing company as a college student. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, a food scientist; her seventeen-month-old daughter; and “The Cat”, but still considers Chicago home.

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