Oh, dear.

Not only is the Newsweek cover this week a picture of some asparagus in, er, flagrante delicto, what Politico calls “food porn,” but it’s not even an original picture. It turns out that this is a stock photo.

This fills me with questions.

Aw yeah, asparagus. (Image via JimRomenesko.com)

● Who thought this was a good idea? I have a very strong image of some people sitting in a meeting trying to figure out how to sell more magazines.

“Well, sex sells,” the man in charge muttered. “What’s sexy?” He scowled around the room like a thundercloud that had skipped lunch. “Remember, we need to sell magazines.”

“Really detailed foreign coverage,” Randall suggested Randall had always been something of a contrarian.

“Charts!” cried Ezra. “No, graphs!”

A long silence followed.

. . .Asparagus?” someone said, very quietly, from the corner of the room.

● But this turns out to be a reused photo. Which raises even more questions. Namely:

● Who posed for this?

● Are there other stock photos like this, with people tenderly embracing giant canteloupes and perfectly adequate radishes?

● On the scale from Vogue covers to Jugs centerfolds, where does being photographed in compromising positions with asparagus fall? Where do you go from here? Is the next step being photographed in compromising positions with, say, large tubers, or do you go straight to the shrinkwrapped magazine shoots? Or is this the first step up for someone who has been toiling in the salt mines of nude vegetable photography for far too long? “Finally,” the model said, walking home with a spring in her step. “Finally I got to keep my clothes on, and the asparagus was very respectful, unlike those awful pecans I had to handle last week.”

● Why asparagus?

Although, according to the Tiffany’s standards of etiquette, it is technically correct to eat asparagus with your fingers (this stray fact is the only thing I retained from my family’s abortive effort to introduce me to the world of Fine Dining Etiquette), why not, say, a vegetable or fruit whose first association is something other than odd-smelling urine?

● Couldn’t they have found some more photogenic asparagus?

● Are people buying this?

Was there someone out there who would otherwise have walked, indifferent, past the rack of news magazines, but who glimpsed that lady suggestively eating asparagus and suddenly found himself buying six Newsweeks, greedily stacking them on top of his groceries? If so, who is this person? Is he the guy you always see buying oddly shaped vegetables and nothing else? Was it the woman or the asparagus that finally pushed him over the edge?

In fact, this is a larger question that recurs every time a magazine comes out with a particularly sensational cover. Is it really worth it? What creates the controversy: the wrapper, or the contents? Is it the articles on attachment parenting or the conspicuous breast on the cover of Time that pushes us over the edge?

They say not to judge a book by its cover. And perhaps, at the rate ebooks are spreading, that will soon be not only gauche but impossible.

But magazines? How else can you judge them? And by that standard, I give this one a baffled F.