Emdashes—Modern Times Between the Lines

The Basics:
About Emdashes | Email us

Before it moved to The New Yorker:
Ask the Librarians

Best of Emdashes: Hit Parade
A Web Comic: The Wavy Rule


Sempé Fi (On Covers): Multiple Dearth

Filed under: Sempé Fi   Tagged: , , ,


Pollux writes:

Eight bawling babies squirm across the cover of the March 23, 2009 issue of The New Yorker. By some unfortunate genetic defect, the octuplets have all been born with the features and demeanor of Rush Limbaugh. The same tragic defect has affected these babies’ ability to close their mouths and stop bawling. Blitt’s babies cannot be mollified, cannot be placated, even when given their favorite cigar (a Ramon Allones Gigante Double Corona).

From a pile of humidors and dirty diapers, a barrage of noise emerges. It is unceasing, brutal, and unnerving. Barry Blitt’s “OctoRush” is a collection of infants that could very well represent the eight sides or shades of Limbaugh. Here we have a chance to explore the heretofore hidden aspects of Limbaugh’s personality, a chance to excavate at an octahedron lying in the desert sand.

Excitedly, we dig at the seven hidden sides only to discover… that all of the sides are exactly the same, that they all represent a “colossal wreck, boundless and bare,” to quote Shelley.

Limbaugh is nothing but pure noise, like The Phantom Tollbooth’s Awful Dynne, a mindless megaphone whose core philosophy seems to be centered on the idea that constant repetition equals fact and that wishing that the failure of President Obama can be the patriotic hope of a “real American.” There is no complexity to this 21st-century Father Coughlin.

But I’ll stop myself here. The less I say about the man who calls himself “The Fourth Branch of Government” and “America’s Truth Detector” the better, for he feeds off controversy and publicity, like a mushroom growing and flourishing in the shadows, and seems to be the de facto leader of the Republicans, whether Republicans like it or not (if they don’t like it, they largely keep it to themselves, for fear of a very real form of punishment from “The Mandarin of Talk Radio”).

Limbaugh’s “entertainment” manufactures clouds of poison from which emerges nothing but barren rhetoric. This rhetoric builds and grows nothing, and offers no hope or sense of optimism, all of which are needed in these hard times. As Kurt Andersen remarked in a recent article in Time, “hyperbolic rants and rigid talking points, in either Limbaughian or Olbermannian flavors, now seem worse than useless, artifacts of a bumptious barroom age.”

Blitt’s eight babies of course refer to that other figure in the media, dubbed the “Octomom,” as if she were a nemesis of Spiderman or the Blue Beetle. Whether you agree with Nadya Suleman’s decision to have eight more babies (in addition to the six other young children she already had) or not, it is clear that the media has created a villain for our condemnation. The Octomom represents the same noise, the same hysterical cry of negativity that drowns out any hope for constructive and worthwhile dialogue. It is a story that has subsisted on endless coverage as well as the willingness of Ms. Suleman herself to maneuver her way towards the lucrative goal of flash-in-the-pan notoriety.

In fact, Barry Blitt has masterfully captured the essence of Limbaugh, the Octomom story, and the cacophony that both have produced. Blitt seems to be used by The New Yorker as a sort of illustrator-hitman, and sometimes he hits his target cleanly and clearly (and sometimes not).

Here, Blitt has expertly captured the open mouth and gray hair of Limbaugh while seamlessly grafting these features onto the Spring Line of Designer Baby Clothes. Artistically speaking, Blitt has accomplished what can be difficult to do: he has combined the fragility and immaturity of a two-year old with all the grizzled and bloated pomposity of a fifty-year old. You can almost hear the bawl of eight badly-behaved babies emanate from The New Yorker cover. We can only hope that it is a bellow that one day we can learn to completely ignore.

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, it may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Thanks for waiting.)

2008 Webby Awards Official Honoree