Someone linked this to me earlier: Bomber as Rock Star? Rolling Stone Cover Outrage
Honestly, I’ve had very little opinion about the whole thing. I understand why the victims and so many others are upset; they’re the one’s who have been irrevocably hurt and changed, and yet this bastard is the one to get a glamorous looking cover on a major magazine? What the fuck, universe? Where’s the justice? If I were them, I’d be livid. But I’m not. I have the luxury of sitting from a perspective where no one I know was hurt and I’ve suffered no consequence one way or the other because of what happened. I have the privilege of looking down on this controversy from on high, where I can see the validity of anger as well as Rolling Stone’s rational for what it’s done.
In Rolling Stone’s August issue, it used a photo of the Dzhokhar Tsarnaev that he himself took and posted online. The picture makes him look handsome. He has rock star-like hair. As far as anyone can tell, Rolling Stones did nothing to him to make him appear any more or less dreamy then he did at the time of this selfie. When looking at this cover, people see a handsome young man. It’s only when you read more closely that you find out this handsome young man happened to do something absolutely terrible.
Rolling Stone isn’t the first publication to print this picture. Plenty of newspapers have, and I imagine that a few tabloids included it within their pages as well, albeit not on the front page. Sure, Rolling Stone is primarily an entertainment magazine, but it’s not like it’s completely abnormal for them to write about current events or people famous for more than music. They talked to a starred general; they’ve interviewed presidents and politicians; they did an interview with fucking Charles Manson. Sure, maybe they don’t do this every day, but it’s not as though they’ve taken a grand leap away from their history and tradition as a publication. If we’re going to rain down fire and brimstone on Rolling Stone, then I’d rather people put our money where our mouth is and show the same outrage at every media outlet that’s had someone we’d characterize as a villain take up prime face-realty rather than that person’s victims. Time has had Hitler, the Columbine shooters, and Bin Laden as cover boys, and no one raised half as big a stink about it as I’ve seen raised over this (well, maybe Hitler. I’d have to ask my grandpa).
But then again, none of those people were quite so attractive. This is not the photo of some angry, bullied, goth-obsessed individual out to set fire to the world. This isn’t some punk just arrested after running from the law. This isn’t a grizzled old man, dissatisfied with the world he lives in. This is a normal looking guy. This is – dare I say it again – an ATTRACTIVE guy. From what I gather about the article’s content, it seems that Rolling Stone is approaching it from the angle of how could such a very normal, American-seeming man become the terrorist we know him to be? In which case, the picture they used is more than fitting. And in a world where women line up to marry the Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s of the world in prison, determined to prove their innocence(remember Scott Peterson, anyone?), I personally think this is a dialog that deserves some attention beyond Nancy Grace shouting to her sheeple, “What’s wrong with these women?”
Let’s break it down. Throughout history, human beings have practiced the belief that evil people wear their vileness like a skin. We can see it in bad complexions and hooked noses, warts and scars, in social awkwardness and fits of temper. This picture? It shows none of that. And that is the most damning thing for Rolling Stone. Its’ cover has, intentionally or not, presented us with the very real and terrifying scenario where we cannot see evil coming. Evil isn’t some time-ravaged man hiding in caves and preaching hate for everyone to hear. Evil was some baby-faced college kid with a large circle of friends. Evil was some unsuspecting person’s best friend. Evil could be your child. How dare Rolling Stone use its’ fame and reputation to hammer this home? How dare they trivialize his deeds by shoving in our faces how innocuous, how NORMAL, this monster was? We don’t want to think about the person Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was before the bombings, beyond the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ of his ultimate betrayal. We just want to hate him. And you know, I’m not going to blame anyone for that. I’m certainly not going to blame any of the hundreds if not thousands of people who’ve been hurt by what he and his brother did. It’s not my place to tell anyone how to mourn their loved ones, how to grieve the life they thought they’d get to live before it was interrupted by fire and pain and dismemberment. But I will say that this hate limits us.
Rolling Stone may be guilty of bad taste, but so is every other publication in the world. It was bad taste to some people to show pictures of the aftermath of Katrina. Some say it was bad taste to record 9/11 and replay it on the news. I won’t argue that. I won’t apologize for it either. Journalism is rife with the confrontation of uncomfortable situations, with obscuring truth and exposing lies, in showing that one thing can be multifaceted and that many things can boil down one painful human experience. Journalism, factual or tabloid, is in some shape or form always recording history. Everyone’s history. It’s filled with the truths of everyone who lived it and experienced it and all the perspectives they saw it from. Sometimes those perspectives are painful or infuriating or rife with cognitive dissonance. But hopefully they can help us understand one another.
So my opinion? I don’t think Rolling Stone has done anything wrong (yet. There’s always time for bigger mistakes). They’re just doing their frequently uncomfortable job, showing an unpopular and in some ways hurtful perspective, one where Dzhokhar Tsarnaev could’ve been anyone and anything other than what he is, a perspective where the people who knew him didn’t and couldn’t suspect him. A truth that evil deeds can come from anyone, no matter their appearance.