The Function of Illustration at the Present Time

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There’s trouble afoot on the internet today, namely over at right-wing web blog/apparent Matthew Arnold fanzine Sweetness & Light. It seems they’ve taken none too kindly to a certain magazine’s Controversial cover image — and it’s not the cover image (or the magazine) you’re thinking of!

No, their bone to pick is with the Jester, specifically the cover of its “Tragedy” issue, which memorably features the Titanic crashing into the World Trade Center. Says S&L: “Granted college humor is normally juvenile and often in bad taste. But this is somewhat beyond that.”

Commenters chime in with hilarious noose jokes, while others point out that the cover is obviously a reflection of Columbia’s “socialist” and “pro-Islam” bias.

UPDATE 6:32 PM: We receive an exclusive statement from Jester‘s press attaché: “The staff of the Jester would like to issue our sincerest apologies. We have no idea how this offensive image was not caught by our art staff, layout editors, publisher, editor in chief, printer, or distribution staff. As a token of our true regret, please accept one free humor magazine.”

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  1. jester

    sweetness and light are for pussies.

  2. yeesh

    I know this is really nitpicky, but why link to the comments on the article and not the article itself?


  3. Actually

    I think that photograph is so outlandish as to be just perfectly hilarious enough. I mean, it looks like a third-grader's scribbly drawing of "death and destruction."

    Love it!

  4. uhh

    does no one else think that the picture is a bit distasteful...?

  5. Anonymous  

    You know, I'll be honest, I don't think the cover is that hilarious, but what I really fucking hate is that people think that your attitude toward something must be disrespectful and flippant if you make a joke about it. Look at that headline: "Columbia Univ Humor Mag Jokes About 9/11." That's it. That's all they're pissed about. Not that they made a joke that trivializes the event (they don't), not that they made a joke with the profound statement that 9/11 was unimportant or untragic (they didn't), just that they made a joke about it at all.

    The cover is absurd. The joke isn't about how America sucks and jihad rules. It's not about how socialism is better than capitalism. It's about how 9/11 and the Titanic have nothing to do with each other so they look wacky together. People reading anything more than that into it are dumb.

    The more people actually get angry the more I like the cover, because it's great at showing who is looking for a reason to get offended.

  6. i'm sorry

    but this cover is disgusting. i had a relative who lost his life in the attacks and this picture is just insensitive and shameful.

    • Anonymous  

      An excerpt from http://en.wikinews.org/wiki/The_Onion:_An_interview_with_%27America%27s_Finest_News_Source%27

      DS: Do you ever receive hate mail?

      Chet: Every now and then. We’re generally not bombarded by it.

      DS: What is generally the theme of those letters?

      Sean: Do you know what I think it is? It’s whatever affects that person. So it’s like, “I love it when you make a joke about murder or rape, but if you talk about cancer, well my brother has cancer and that’s not funny to me.” Or someone else can say, “Cancer’s hilarious, but don’t talk about rape because my cousin got raped.” I’m using extreme examples, but whatever it is, if it affects somebody personally they tend to be more sensitive about it. But because we are equal opportunity, we can’t stop doing that. The best is we wrote a story—did you ever see the Police Academy when the officer gets thrown off his motorcycle after he brakes really hard and his head goes up a horse’s ass, and he died? We wrote an Op-Ed about that scene that was, “That’s not funny, my brother died that way.” That was sort of speaking to how people are offended by things that touch them personally somehow.

      Chet: Almost every piece of hate mail starts with the line, “Usually I love The Onion, but this time you’ve gone too far…” We responded to that with, “Normally I love your pornographic website, but this time you’ve gone too far…” Someone will always be offended by something.

  7. anti Jester

    I laughed out loud at the statement from the "Jester's press attaché" though I have yet to laugh at one of its articles. I am now hopeful for the future.

  8. what i am

    angry about is the implicit mocking of the hindenberg tragedy yet everyone forgets about it, since it is just third fiddle.

  9. no joke

    this was a tasteless joke on Jester's part. To say that every joke ought to be regarded as just a joke is to say there are no limits on decency. Well, for most people there are limits, and when such limits are crossed, yes we have a right to complain, regardless of our political orientation.

    • Anonymous  

      No, that's not what I said. I immediately regret trying to make any sort of serious point in a Bwog comment thread, but this is the point I was trying to make:

      It only makes sense to get offended at humor that has targets. No matter what your gut reaction is to something, I believe in your ability to take a minute, understand the joke, and decide whether or not the statement it's making is offensive.

      For instance, it's pretty reasonable to get offended at this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mwz3Bzh72pc, because the profound statements behind the humor are things like "Chinese people can't pronounce Ls and are drunks." Or, if you're conservative, it's pretty reasonable to get offended a lot of, say, David Cross's or Bill Hicks' stand-up, because their targets are mostly conservatives.

      This cover has no target. "But I had relatives that died in 9/11, and it was sad" isn't an argument against it, because the cover doesn't imply that you don't, or that it wasn't.

  10. jaaaaaaaam

    word up, you do have a right to complain. consider it registered. not everyone has the same sense of humor or perceptions of what's decent and what's not. the end.

  11. jewish

    the jester's cover is blatantly anti-Semitic. They are underhandedly blaming Jews for the Titanic sinking by placing the ship next to the Jew-destroyed towers. Insensitive, Jester.

  12. ...

    this is the true beauty of columbia. if you post anything, and i mean anything to campus media. then there will be a swarm of desperate conservatives who will eat it up digging for anything that will help them make their
    "faux-oh-we're-so-oppressed by the liberal hegemony even though we've controlled the government for the last 8 years and wrecked the ship" case.

    serious. columbia campus media is directly jacked into the psyche of the psycho conservative blogger.

  13. to be fair

    their hilarious noose jokes are just about as funny as the cover

    the point that this is undirected humor (not intended to offend anyone in particular) is well taken but it doesn't change the fact that it still uses symbols of a current and still fresh (in some minds) tragedy

    consequently, there shouldn't be much surprise that some people find it distasteful and censure it---that's the way free speech works (and give me a break bwog--the editors of this newspaper and others would be squeamish about certain subject matter depending on the content as well--it just probably depends what your particular personal trigger is)

    as for the cover itself, it strikes me as a pretty unfunny one if it is just some type of dada-ist juxtaposition of random tragedies--i mean the magazine is ostensibly comedic right? It's pretty pathetic that their one liner back to a right wing blog was funnier than their cover.

  14. also

    the jester should be thrilled that somebody actually reads them

  15. damn

    ya'll bammas take everything so seriously i don't see how you can enjoy life or be enjoyable to be around. not just talking about these comments, but every damn topic.

  16. haha  

    jester--you guys make life worth living

  17. so yeah  

    i just spent like 45 seconds freaking out about how i couldn't find bwogger.com until i realized it was actually blogger.com

    bwog owns my life

  18. psh

    honestly most of the comments on here strike me as pretty self-righteous. there's a certain claim to standards and limits but no justification of where those limits should lie, beyond "these are my standards and you have offended them." it's almost convenient to be offended at 9/11 jokes without thinking past the most basic question of whether or not the cover was somehow "wrong" or "right," or funny or not. for a smart group of kids, you're not examining things very deeply.
    would the cover have been as offensive if it had featured, instead of the wtc, the titanic and the hindenberg colliding? what about a gigantic buddha statue, or a tibetan monastery, or an iraqi hospital? pearl harbor, perhaps? would the offensive effect have been diluted by featuring a whole host of tragedies converging and culminating in 9/11? would this be considered more of a homage to those tragedies because it was more inclusive and less directly pointed, less insistent at going for the shock factor?
    no one is looking beyond the most superficial elements of this cover, and i think its creators have, because of that fact, made their point. the viewer has become the joke here. who's offended at the use of the titanic? what right do you have to declare only the most recent- and yes, unprecedentedly devastating- tragedies off limits? has anyone even considered whether the cover was even meant to be "funny," or merely shocking? i can't really imagine anyone actually laughing at this cover, or even finding it, in some real and definable way or for a particular reason, funny. but humor is one of our best and only ways to push limits. i guarantee you someone 25 or 50 years from now will pick up this magazine (if copies still exist) and laugh simply at the audacity of it.
    i think everyone needs to rethink the basis of their indignation before they try to foist their ethical boundaries on others.

    • you do

      you do see the irony/hypocrisy of chastising self righteousness at the start of your comment and then your last line right?

      The Jester is a magazine which is obviously readily viewable to the public and publishes its content knowing that its potential audience is the world. At this point when your audience is everyone, their wide array of reactions and interactions w/the art/media are completely understandable---its the basis of society. You can't put out a piece of art/media/form of expression which is expressly produced for the consumption of the public and then get angry when a segment of your viewership doesn't interpret and receive the piece as you wanted. The second you put it out there you lose ownership and your sensibilities are no longer the ones which govern how its perceived. It's why a perfectly understandable caricature of Obama stereotypes printed by a political ally of him in the New Yorker has backfired--because it was picked up by an audience outside of the one that'll typically read the new yorker and understand the humor.

      Obviously, if you had the hidenberg crashing into say the great chicago fire it wouldn't have been as visceral (though it might have made the same point)--because just like everyone's pointed out the wtc attack is still very relevant and tangible to many people. Of course nobody can have full ownership of the event, but its a two way street---neither can you use it w/reckless abandon and expect no censure from those who are offended by it. Just because you could care less about the actual event and only care about its academic merits, the guy in staten island or the bronx who lost his brother in the building has just as much right to feel offended when he feels somebody is using a tragic event that was close to him as some type of vacuous or academic pawn.

      You're certainly right about the fact that humor can be used to push the limits (and in this case that might be what the cover's about) but its the height of naivety to believe that when you push the limits of something that has visceral political/personal/etc implications that parts of society won't push back. If you really take yourself so seriously as to believe you're an agent for pushing a discourse then be a big boy and be prepared for what the world hands back at you (in this case a bunch of people offended not only on a conservative blog but also some commentators here). Censure does not equal censorship and is a perfectly valid reaction to anything put out in the public.

      And thanks for the ad hom 'douche bag' bit--i'll make sure to take that indignation in stride and adjust my ethical standards so i don't offend you next time i ridicule an absurdly simplistic analogy


      obviously there's nothing wrong w/arguing your point--just like there's nothing wrong w/people disagreeing w/you

      then again i could swear there was some saying about arguing on the internet

      • uhhh

        I think the problem was that you missed the entire point of analogy. #20 was simply saying that even if you don't find the cover funny, that doesn't mean the entirety of the magazine isn't funny. In other words, you can't judge a book by its cover. Catch-22 isn't about "clicking your heels" even though that's what's on the cover.

        Maybe you're one of those younguns who took the SATs after they did away with analogies?

        • don't call

          someone on not understanding an analogy if the analogy was a piss poor one in the first place

          it was in response to my comment that the front cover was unfunny anyway (a purely subjective thing) and that I expect a humor/comedy magazine to have a cover (I mentioned short pieces in my response because the cover of a humor magazine is in effect supposed to be a humorous microcosm of some type of theme or piece in the magazine) which is funny---that's the reason why i talked about the difference between a comedy magazine and a novel (the can't tell a book by its cover [now that's simplistic] doesn't apply here because these aren't the same types of 'books'). A comedy magazine is supposed to have a funny cover (go check out your run of the mill comedy magazines if you don't believe)---the nature of a comedy magazine is that it has short funny pieces (sometimes even comics!) and the front cover of the magazine is precisely the place for such a thing (which is why there was this cryptic collision on the jester). A novel on the other hand isn't dominated by a bunch of little funny pieces--its long thematic prose--a cover for a novel can be blank (the consumer market doesn't demand instant gratification), can have something tangentially related to the story or can have something associated w/the story itself. That was my point--the rules (the common view of them) for a cover of a novel are different from that of a comedy magazine because of the nature of the publication/audience.

          I'm sorry both you and the first person who made that analogy couldn't take the extra second to think about that. Thankfully, it looks like I didn't have to worry about my analogies section more than you had to.

          I have no complaints w/the jester or their staff---i'm assuming they understand that people might have had negative reactions to the cover and are ok w/it (I've only responded to bwog commentators). I didn't find their cover funny (but that's subjective) but i did mention that I thought their response was pretty funny (I'll be waiting on edge for the right wing blog's review of the notoriously jihadist jester's contents). And I wasn't just knocking jester when I mentioned that somebody read them--all press is good press and for a random columbia publication its pretty cool to have been able to tick off a likely oversensitive right wing blog.

          • yo dude

            first off, the douche-bag thing was a joke- alas, you can't hear the tone in which it was meant because it was posted as text on the internet. but imagine it in a smirking and light-hearted way, and calm down just a little.
            the basic thrust of my first post was not that supporters of the cover think people shouldn't get offended at it, or that it's inappropriate that they do- i think they should. otherwise, why would i even mention limits? it was just the tone in which people were doing so, man. everyone is so ready to turn it into some kind of shouting match over what's right and what's funny, and it just made me wonder why no one was taking any time with the thing. and i think you're reading a bit too much into my post to suggest that the 9/11 tragedy doesn't mean anything to me, or to the jester peeps- of course it does. what i was questioning was what it will mean in the future, and what other tragedies mean in relation to it. but you wield its significance like a weapon.
            at the same time, you've sort of started to declare what humor magazines should and should not do, and i don't really see why you've decided you now have the authority on that. maybe you should join the jester, and have your input make a difference.
            it sounds like you, i think justifiably, took issue with MY tone, so perhaps i shouldn't have been so confrontational. but maybe relax a little bit.

      • ...

        What's your point? Jester doesn't seem to have become "angry" (a funny thing for a magazine to do) over the reactions to the cover. They appear to have responded with a mildly funny comeback, and rjt explained himself in this comment thread. I don't see anybody crying about your opinion.

  19. still

    the cover is way less offensive than this gem:


  20. hmmm

    if you think limits to humor are arbitrary, I challenge you to walk into the Apollo on amateur night, and tell a few jokes from Eddie Murphy's routine. You'll suddenly realize there are limits to what kinds of humor some people don't enjoy and find offensive, even though it's on the most subjective levels (which is ironic, because by pure coincidence, humor is by its very nature subjective).

  21. holy shit

    all of you get major lose for posting long comments. here's a hint: NO ONE CARES.

    not even me.

  22. Adam Nobler  

    To be completely fair, the Jester has not yet released the long running list of rejected tragic cover ideas.

  23. the thrust

    of my point is my dick in your mouth. Wait, that's not really a point...but who cares.

  24. CliffDC

    Ivy League school …what, I think the poison type has gotten in your eyes. May you be ruthlessly attacked on your way back to you house of safety, your attack on NY and American is shameless I will help start a fund to ship you to a nation of Islam of your choice try your cartoon career there

  25. i can't

    really recall a jester cover that was actually funny. they're always more artistic than humorous.
    shit, now we'll have a debate on whether this should be considered "artistic"

  26. offended

    i am deeply offended by this magazine cover. it is insensitive to people like myself, who lost relatives or loved ones on 4/15

  27. honestly

    if you look at the link, http://www.columbia.edu/cu/jester/tragedy/index.htm
    the two pages after the cover contain the following choice quotes: "Job Posting: Assistant Analyst for a firm that will rock your fucking nuts" and "WAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLEEEEEE."

    Somehow, I don't think these guys are really sitting around trying to offend jews/new yorkers/anti-islamists/conservatives/whoever.

    I think they write a magazine about things they find absurd.

  28. To Everyone

    Keep comments short.

    Nobody will read your bullshit if the paragraph is over 2 lines.

  29. Yeah

    If someone has something significant enough to say that they want to write a long comment, who cares? No one's forcing you to read the long ones. Some people actually do read them, for whatever reason.
    I usually don't, but I never feel all that bothered by the fact that they're there...

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