07/23/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Politics of Fear

I love the New Yorker. I love their covers. I actually always try and guess the title before I read it in the Table of Contents, but they are usually too clever for me and I generally get them wrong. There was one, a couple of years ago, the image was a man and woman, naked, and fearful, heading out over the Brooklyn Bridge, a dark and menacing sky on the horizon with the stern hand of God pointing the way. The title: "Unaffordable Eden." Funny. And then there was one, just a couple of months ago, the Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a bathroom stall, sitting on the toilet, reading the newspaper with a sandaled foot sliding under the stall to touch his shoe. Ahmadinejad is looking at that sandaled foot with an expression of absolute disgust. Barry Blitt was the illustrator, and the title? "Narrow Stance." Brilliant.

I didn't get a chance to guess the title for the cover of the current issue. The Huffington Post ruined that bit of fun for me. "Tasteless and Offensive" was the headline on the front page through Sunday evening and in to Monday, quoting the Obama camp's reaction. And no doubt, if I was to turn on the TV this evening, the cable shows would be all over it. Shocked, appalled, apalling! Indeed I was, propelled by all the outrage on the web, shocked and appalled myself. A militant Michelle with the 'fro. A photo of Osama Bin Laden hanging in that place of honour above the mantelpiece, and, (awful) in the fireplace, an American flag surrounded by flames. My initial reaction was, "what the !#$!#?!! With friends like these, man..."

But I've calmed down. It is satire. Of course it is. The title of the cover is "The Politics of Fear." It is all about the mud that will be slung at the Obamas between now and November, and here there is no exaggeration. We already know about the "Obama is a Muslim" craze, and Michelle Obama as the "Angry Black Woman" thang. I been asked directly whether Barack Obama is part of a "sleeper cell," and am already receiving emails from my one connection to the crazies on the right. Horrible ones, Racists ones, denigrating both Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle. "A Picture Tells a Thousand Words," just one of them, with a photo of a gorilla on one side and a photo of Michelle Obama on the other. Awful, and not meant as satire.

So yes. I've calmed down. This is political satire, pure and simple. And if you can have a bit of a sense of humour about it, it's actually kind of funny.

So why the outrage? At this writing there are over 4,600 comments for The New Yorker cover story on the Huffington Post must of which decry the cover as hateful, obscene, elitist (of course!), a gift to the right-wing and there are many which denounce the intelligence of Americans across the country as unable to tell the difference between satire and reality. (Really?! And you wonder why the Democrats have a hard time winning rural votes? If you told me I was stupid I'd have a hard time voting for you too. )

In truth, I think we are all terrified, plain and simple, that somehow the right-wing smear campaign will succeed in defeating our candidate. We are the ones who have become ... not stupid, but scared-stupid, and irrational, cowering in the corner, wimping out, afraid to take a stand, afraid to confront, and believing that if we don't talk about it, if we ignore, it's going to go away.

Well, as I'm sure Humphrey Bogart said to some dame in a movie once, "I've got news for you sister." It's not going to go away. With or without a cover of a magazine, whether or not Obama visits a mosque, or supports a filibuster of FISA, the right-wing crazies have plenty of material to fuel their fire of hate against Barack Obama.

So. A suggestion: instead of (or in addition to) beating your chests and shouting and screaming and canceling your subscriptions, get out there, in your communities. Get involved in the Barack Obama campaign. Get out the message of hope and change and inclusion and the great possibilities we have for the future. Counter the attacks. Take a stand.

Only this way will we truly trounce the politics of fear at the ballot box in November.

(If you are in NYC, a good place to start is, and of course, nationwide you can find activities / volunteers near you at