National Review is (occasionally) against xenophobia

Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

National Review wants you to think it disapproves of xenophobia:

Hmmm. Xenophobic attempts to stoke fears about foreign influence on U.S. elections … why does that sound familiar? Oh, right, now I remember:

That's a 1997 National Review cover. Many Asian-Americans were not amused:

Asian-Americans are in an uproar over the cover of a leading conservative weekly that depicts President Clinton and the First Lady bucktoothed, with narrow-slit eyes, wearing stereotypical Chinese clothing.

"We find the cover extremely offensive and racist," said Daphne Kwok, executive director of the Organization of Chinese Americans, one of many groups that have flooded the National Review's New York office with protest letters since the magazine hit newsstands last week.

"It's reminiscent of the caricature made of the Chinese in the 1800s. The derogatory cartoons then were exactly the same," Kwok said of the magazine's cover illustration, which also has Vice President Gore wearing reddish Buddist robes money popping out of a donation tin.

But National Review editor John O'Sullivan insisted there was nothing wrong with the cover:

"They are not going to get an apology," O'Sullivan said. "These groups clearly have to make an issue out of it in order to keep going. I have talked to Asian-Americans who are not offended."

Here's how San Francisco Chronicle columnist Jeff Yang describes the cover:

Going back to the National Review "Manchurian Candidates" cover now, what you see is that there's more going on in the images of the Clintons and Gore than the typical flamboyant exaggeration used in cartooning. In addition to Bill's bulbous nose and Gore's pursed, almost sneering lips (both typical of their respective caricatures), you see...hmm...narrowed eyes...oversized, bucked teeth...a Fu Manchu moustache -- hey, just about every racist synecdoche in the anti-Asian propaganda library!

And, Yang notes, that wasn't a one-time thing for National Review. Remember this cover from last year, inexplicably depicting Sonia Sotomayor as the Buddha?

National Review editors later explained the thinking behind that cover: "Sotomayor has squinty eyes." Oh. OK.

Anyway: National Review is totally against xenophobia. Sometimes.

National Review
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