Goodenough Gismo

  • Gismo39
    This is the classic children's book, Goodenough Gismo, by Richmond I. Kelsey, published in 1948. Nearly unavailable in libraries and the collector's market, it is posted here with love as an "orphan work" so that it may be seen and appreciated -- and perhaps even republished, as it deserves to be. After you read this book, it won't surprise you to learn that Richmond Irwin Kelsey (1905-1987) was an accomplished artist, or that as Dick Kelsey, he was one of the great Disney art directors, breaking your heart with "Pinocchio," "Dumbo," and "Bambi."

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It's just a satirical depiction of the most rabid fantasies the conspiracy wing of the right has about the Obamas.

Sigh. You know that most of those rumors started, or at least have been stoked, with/by Hillary supporters, right? And some of the "rumors" have been fueled more by his long-term associations with certain characters. When did Hillary become part of The Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy?

But what the Hell. When in doubt, or even if not in doubt (After all WE didn't do this cartoon, THE FUCKING ASSHOLES ON THE LEFT DID IT!), blame a Rightie. We're all a bunch of Nazis anyway....


Member of right-wing conspiracy or not, Hillary knows how to use it. And it's not righties in general, it's a particular slice of frightened and xenophobic people who literally see him as a Muslim and her as a black militant. You've seen those e-mails. Note the acknowledgement in my post of "the serious suspicions so brazenly exaggerated in the cartoon."


The problem I have with the cover, Amba, is that the message it is really sending is the one Outis notes above. On the one hand, by showcasing them so prominently, they give them and undeserved prominence and credibility. Do they really believe that the "particular slice" of people you describe are sufficiently large to impact the election, sufficiently large that we should give them any more credibility than we give to the "Hillary killed Vince Foster" conspiracy theorists?

By making the editorial decision to address this so prominently, they are saying that it IS an important issue that could impact the election. And the unspoken message is because conservatives might be bigoted and ignorant enough to spread such rumors and believe them. A further subtext is that all those who criticize Sen. Obama are doing so out of xenophobia.

This is the same tactic as when Sen. Obama and other Democrats demand that their patriotism not be attacked. When one inquires who, specifically, questioned their patriotism and when, they are rarely able to point to any solid examples. But by loudly denouncing such tactics, Sen. Obama and the Democrats are in fact attacking Republicans as a whole for engaging in such tactics. It's a very clever method of attack, and hard to defend against, and folks like the New Yorker are adept at it.


I think the artist should be up for a bonus! The purpose of magazine covers is to sell magazines. By attracting attention. Which this cover has done better than any New Yorker cover in years.

As for whether it helps, hurt, or has no effect on Obama's candidacy? The editor may have an opinion on which he would rather. But the publisher has to care more about the attention to the magazine -- and be loving every minute.


wj, I had that thought too.

Pat: interesting! That the cover is propaganda not representing the Obamas as traitors, but their critics as nativist yahoos. Very interesting twist.


To elaborate, wj: attention is all that everyone pants and pines for today. Attention is survival -- the sunlight all the little trees in the overcrowded forest are struggling for, the big trees soaking most of it up. If you can get attention, doesn't matter how, you've scored life points. Your genes and/or memes will make it into the next generation.


And the best way to get attention (to switch metaphors, sorry) is to shout "FIRE!" in a crowded, noisy theater -- to shock, transgress, frighten, or titillate, or preferably all of the above.

Charlie (Colorado)

I'm just waiting for HuffPo and/or Daily Kos to start referring to New Yorker as a "right wing magazine".

RW Rogers

You've seen those e-mails.

As a matter of fact, I haven't. And I'm not interested in seeing one of them, either, thank you very much.

As to the cover: I would not be surprised to learn that it has cause the New Yorker to receive more press & blog attention in the past 24 hours than it has in the past year, so it looks like it has worked out well for them.



If you are whoring for my affections...

it worked.

James Stanhope

Pat HMV said: "By making the editorial decision to address this so prominently, they [the New Yorker editors] are saying that it IS an important issue that could impact the election."
[Pat goes on to say that the cover implicitly denounces right-wing bigotry.]

Pat's reading of the New Yorker cover, as a focus on and implicit denunciation of right-wing bigotry, is one way of interpreting the cover, and that's how I myself initially interpreted it.

But, on second thought, the cover makes me a little uneasy in that, with such a hiliarious cartoon based on right-wing misrepresentations of the Obamas, the New Yorker cover can have the impact of making right-wing bigotry seem nonthreatening by making it appear laughable. That troubles me, because, in the U.S., only Caucasians can find white racism laughable and nonthreatening. People of color in America cannot find white racism laughable because for them, white racism is a very real, unending threat. It is my suspicion that the editors who approved the New Yorker cover were subconsiously targeting Caucasian audiences by presenting right-wing misrepresentations of the Obamas as a source of entertainment rather than a cause for concern. I wish the editors at the New Yorker had thought of that before approving this cover

James Stanhope

Corrections to my first comment:

Final paragraph, 5th line from the end: "subconsiously" should read "subconsciously."

Also, the final word of the paragraph, "cover," should be followed by a period (punctuation).

Sorry for these errors.


Meade: you're easy!


James Stanhope: Yet another twist! This cartoon is a fascinating political Rorschach blot.

michael Reynolds

I agree with Pat HMV.

The New Yorker is not People magazine or Newsweek. Its readership is centered in Greenwich Village (no diss on your 'hood, Annie) and the upper West Side and extends through San Francisco, Seattle, Ann Arbor and Chapel Hill (no diss on my former 'hood, either.) It was aimed at New Yorker readers who I suspect saw it as a spoof of right-wing yahoos.


It wouldn't be hard to get under the lefts nose on the cover the National Review, wouldn't it? Something that plays into their "McCain=Bush" fears or an ossified Supreme Court making gun ownership mandatory? ("If you're not in the militia, you're not a citizen," in a Starship Troopers spin on the 2nd Amendment)

And if they complain? "We's just funnin'", could be a similar defense to the New Yorkers...


"Conservative court rules blackface is 'moral equivalent' of black for EEOC requirements."

Another Jolson-like job interviewer waits in the outer office...yes, they'd laugh that National Review cover off as 'humor' wouldn't they?


I've read the New Yorker. It's raw, rude and-- i guess i'm just a bit of a prude for it.

The cover fits it, tho'. Personally, i could care less.



...subconsciously targeting Caucasian audiences,,,

Good point. Target a racial group sensitive to being perceived as being bitter unsophisticated bigoted right-wing yahoos clinging to their guns and religion.

Anyone here who considers himself to be "Caucasian" or someone "not of color?" How do you feel about being targeted by the New Yorker?


Left-wing college-educated Caucasians do not perceive themselves as being targeted by that cartoon. They are the ones doing the laughing.


I see. So it's a left-wing misrepresentation of a right-wing misrepresentation of just another politician who is misrepresenting himself.

Donna B.

And the winner is... Meade!

Every interpretation dicussed can be somewhat supported and that is what makes the cartoon brilliant.


Yes, exactly. Here, a cartoonist opines that it would be a good cartoon only if Blitt had put the whole thing in a thought balloon emanating from an ignorant yahoo's head. This cartoonist's stodgy (or moral) conception of a good cartoon is one that doesn't mess with the viewer's head, but makes it very clear what the cartoonist intended. Good grief! Ambiguity, amorality and multiple meanings have far more power.

James Stanhope

Meade said (on 7/14 at 11:53 p.m.): "... TARGET a racial group sensitive to being perceived as ... [etc.]" [capitalization added].

I should have explained my use of the word "target" -- I was using "target" not in the military sense of zeroing in for an attack, but rather in the retailers' or advertisers' sense of a making a sales pitch tailored to the psychology of a predefined segment of consumers.

In my original post, when I said that the New Yorker editors were subconsciously "targeting" Caucasian audiences, I meant that in implicitly portraying white racism as a source of entertainment, the editors were, subconsciously or not, making a sales pitch tailored to the sensibilities of the mostly-Caucasian audience which probably forms the market for the New Yorker. I'm a Republican in Atlanta, and I know from experience in Georgia that only Caucasians could find white racism entertaining. If I bought into left-wing arguments about privilege, I would say that the New Yorker cartoon appeals, subconsciously or not, to a "privileged" sense of humor. As it is, I'll just say that the cartoon appeals to an unwittingly parochial sense of humor. The New Yorker editors should have shown better judgment.


Here, a cartoonist opines that it would be a good cartoon only if Blitt had put the whole thing in a thought balloon emanating from an ignorant yahoo's head

This comes from the same place as the guy who told me, when I was doing material in my act about my ex-boyfriend, that I should preface each joke by saying, "Now, I'm not saying that all men are like this."

I replied that Henny Youngman didn't get famous for saying "Take my I'm not saying ALL wives are like this."

And that guy soon became my ex-boyfriend.


I think the cover is well done and a very provocative parody that obviously accomplishes the mission of getting people talking about the misinformation leveled at the Obamas. On the other hand, I'm not at all shocked by the reaction from the Obama camp. I just listened to a radio show that condemned Obama for "not having a sense of humor" about himself the way John McCain laughs at jokes about his age. But John McCain IS old, and he's wise to adopt a self-mocking stance. The Obamas are NOT Islamic fundamentalists or terrorists! Does anyone seriously expect or want the Obamas to joke about burning flags, murdering American citizens, idolizing Bin Laden, etc? I don't blame them for being outraged by the cover but at the same time I'm sure they "get the joke" and are thrilled to be living in a country where such expressions can hit the newsstands without fatwas being issued. I support both the New Yorker for printing the cover AND the reaction from the Obama people.

James Stanhope

Melinda said: "... in my act about my ex-boyfriend ... [etc.]."

Melinda, I have some questions:

In your act about your ex-boyfriend, were you even talking about a real, historical, flesh-and-blood human being? And if so, did you name him by his real name and accurately describe his appearance in detail? And if so, was your ex-boyfriend running for public office in the area where you were performing your act?

The reason I ask is that caricatures of anonymous/pseudonymous stock figures of comedy are usually, I think, mostly harmless, depending on the caricature.

Caricatures of well-known named individuals are not always so harmless. That's why Henny Youngman's "wife" in his routine "Take my wife ..." was never named in his act with her real name, if she ever actually existed in real life. Henny Youngman's "wife" was understood by his audience to be a generic character of stand-up comedy, as are generic "ex-boyfriends," ex-girlfriends, ex-spouses, etc., even if the caricatures of these "ex-intimates" are derived from real-life experiences.

Barack and Michelle Obama are not generic characters of satire. Barack Obama is a very specific, nationally-known, flesh-and-blood human being who is running for an important office. He is also known to encounter at least a certain amount of racial hatred from certain segments of white voters. That's why racist caricatures of the Obamas have to be published with a certain amount of caution, even if publication is supposedly intended as "ironic" humor meant to ridicule bigots.

The trouble with the New Yorker's "ironic" use of racist caricatures of named, well-known, real-life people is that the supposedly "ironic" use of racist caricatures of well-known people is effective more because it assuages the latent guilt of the New Yorker's mostly-white liberal readers and less because it reinforces their opposition to racism.

That's why, I think, some white readers of the New Yorker are so adamant in their defense of the caricatures, regardless of the imagery's impact on the usual targets of white racism, because the supposedly "ironic" use of the caricatures boosts such readers' sense of moral superiority to openly-racist whites (see Amba's comment above that "left-wing college-educated Caucasians are doing the laughing"). That's why it's called "privileged" humor -- it's meant to sell to people (white liberals) who are already privileged in the U.S., regardless of its impact on non-whites.

"Privileged" humor is perfectly fine until it "ironically" uses racist caricatures of named, specific, real-life people. Then such "privileged" humor has to be handled very carefully.

As another note, "ironic" use of racist caricatures is ironic also in the sense that it doesn't reinforce opposition to racism as much as it assuages white liberal guilt. That's why some black leftists call the New Yorker cartoon an example of "hipster racism," in which racist imagery is used "ironically" more to boost the self-esteem of white readers than to actually benefit the usual targets of white racism.

I myself am not completely convinced that the New Yorker editors were even unconsciously racist in approving these caricatures. But since my previous comment on this thread, I have come to the conclusion that the New Yorker cover is an example of "privileged" humor in that it's mostly meant to boost the self-esteem of already-privileged, mostly-white readers, regardless of the cartoon's impact on the usual targets of white racism. That, to my mind, shows poor judgment by the New Yorker editors.

Sorry for this long post, but I wanted to make sure folks on this thread understood what I meant by "privileged" humor.

RW Rogers

In yet another case of life imitating art (and Barack Obama feeling compelled to "revise and extend" his prior remarks), it looks like Obama's latest position is reminiscent of Meade's tongue-in-cheek response.


A tongue in every cheek,
A chicken in every pot calling the kettle African-American!


I'd vote for you, Meade!!!!


Thanks, karen! With that many exclamation marks, I'm thinking you're good for at least two votes.

Now if I can just get spud to jump on the bandwagon, I'll be on my way to wrapping up the Organic Yogurt Bloc.


I think the furor stems from the fact that because this election is so profoundly important to so many, the irony of the cartoon (the underlying subject matter of which has, after all, already been endlessly discussed)is tired and it now feels like nothing more than fodder for right wing bloviators. Somebody I know at the New Yorker tells me that the people there are lamenting that the cartoon itself wasn't entirely successful; that it might have done its intended job--fresh, fun irony--more artfully.


As I find frequently happens, Leonard Pitts, Jr. nails it perfectly:


Did you friend at the New Yorker actually use the word "artful," as in, skillful in accomplishing a purpose, especially by the use of cunning or craft; artificial?

That is funny!


The New Yorker used to be the world's longest running in-joke. It was the magazine by and for people who were too fly to take anything seriously -- even the magazine. It still occasionally wants to act that way, but it has been taking itself way too seriously during the Bush years to play that way anymore.

I thought the cover was a hoot, by the way. Like the best satire, it shows a patient understanding of the thing it is setting up as a joke-butt.

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