The April 2, 2018 cover of New York magazine depicts President Donald Trump as a pig; his nose has been replaced with a pig’s snout. The accompanying headline reads, “Not Collusion...Not Incompetence...Not Cruelty...It’s the Corruption, Stupid. Why His Self-Dealing is His Biggest Political Liability.” While I have no problem with the headline, I take issue with the image.
Political cartoons and satire are as old as the hills. From Ben Franklin’s Join or Die snake cartoon in 1754, to Dr. Seuss’ anti-Hitler sketches during WWII, to contemporary imagery promoting political agendas, artistic expression has been employed through the ages to sway public opinion. Thus, we now have magazines promoting the image of an American president as a swine sinking in his own muck. The implied contempt is hard to miss and raises ethical questions.
Can political satire ever go too far? Should political imagery that pushes the boundaries of good taste be tolerated? Is it acceptable to ignore an individual’s humanity to further a political agenda?
Upon seeing a photoshopped Donald Trump with a pig’s nose, my initial reaction was disgust. I immediately thought of Mrs. Trump and young Barron Trump, no doubt consistently caught in the crossfire of public opinion. I considered Trump himself. Despite the man’s floundering approval ratings and the #notmypresident backlash, he is the President of the United States, and the Office of President, at the very least, deserves respect. Of course, many disagree and regard the New York magazine cover as completely justified. In their view, a man like Donald Trump, who ridicules the disabled and degrades women, does not deserve respect. Their point is well taken, but why is it difficult for people to acknowledge that certain methods utilized to promote separate political opinions are offensive?
As creative expression protected by the First Amendment, political satire is justifiably tolerated and permitted to cross the line of good taste. This does not mean, however, that editorial expression should cross that line. Without a sense of responsibility, freedom of speech is often predictably offensive and polarizing. New York magazine’s image of President Donald Trump as a swine, for example, harshly divides society into two equally passionate factions: the irate Trumpsters and the satisfied Trump haters.
Can political satire ever go too far? Yes, but there’s something to be said for shock value, which grabs attention, stirs debate. Should political imagery that pushes the boundaries of good taste be tolerated? Yes; the First Amendment precludes argument. Is it acceptable to ignore an individual’s humanity to further a political agenda? This is the weightier question.
All I know is that New York magazine’s cover depicting President Donald Trump as a pig makes me uncomfortable. While I acknowledge the necessity and power in such imagery and editorial cartoons, I realize I don’t have the stomach for it.