Kathleen Parker

That yahoos just passing by a newsstand will see those images and have their paranoid suspicions confirmed?

Such is elitism at its most self-destructive. Art Spiegelman, Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist and former New Yorker staffer, put it nicely to the San Francisco Chronicle: "The essence of what they're saying is, 'I get it, but I don't trust the people in Kansas to get it.'"

Sanitizing satire either to buffer the sensitivities of those who consider themselves more highly evolved -- or to withhold kindling from those deemed less sophisticated -- is all of a piece.

Ignorance is the common denominator.

While one strain of ignorance likely springs from misinformation or a lack of educated knowledge, the other is more virulent by virtue of its opposite circumstances.

For his part, Obama may be missing a Sister Souljah opportunity to demonstrate both his smarts and his common sense. His campaign has called The New Yorker cover "tasteless and offensive." John McCain chimed in with "totally inappropriate."

Harrumph, harrumph, harrumph.

Far more important than anyone's feelings -- and Obama surely knows this -- is freedom of expression. Yet those who are objecting to the cover apparently think that only certain ideas should be expressed. And that some portion of conservative America is too stupid to get it.

Marlette, who died prematurely a year ago in a freak accident that robbed the world of his necessary voice, would say that we don't need protection from offensive words and images. Instead, he would insist that we need protection from those who would censor ideas they find objectionable and whose literal minds make common cause with fascist fundamentalists everywhere.

In the final calculation, unsophisticated yahoos, to the extent they really are, pose a lesser threat to the nation than an elitist intelligentsia convinced it knows what's best for the rest.

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
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