Most of us were shocked into disbelief that Rolling Stone Magazine chose the sole surviving Boston Bomber for its recent cover. Typical of left-leaning publications, the iconic publication of rock and roll life defended its choice by suggesting we need to understand the nuances of a killer like Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. We need to understand how he arrived at such a place; especially when he looks so exotic and dreamy!
While I’m all for understanding the motivations of my enemies (yes, I believe in the concept of enemies), I find this approach not a little hypocritical. If the editorial staff of Rolling Stone really believed this, really wanted to help us understand the people who do bad things (to the extent that they consider anything objectively bad), things lately would have looked a lot different.
For instance, George Zimmerman might have been a good choice for the cover of Rolling Stone. Think about it. He’s a study in cultural and genetic diversity. He has Hispanic and African heritage. Why not put an artsy photo of Mr. Zimmerman on the cover? I mean, other than the fact that he doesn’t have such an edgy, Jim Morrison, devil-may-care look, and doesn’t have good hair.
Well, for one thing, because a large segment of the population wants his head on a stick. For another, he’s not part of a demographically protected group like Islamic terrorists. He’s ‘white,’ that is not black. And finally, whatever one feels about the verdict, it’s not the right time for him to be highlighted. Too soon, as it were.
Who else? Well a quick tour through recent history might suggest that Timothy McVeigh would be a good choice. He had that far-right, Aryan look about him, didn’t he? And did anyone really try to understand the poor guy? He had issues. If we want to understand all of those right-wing terror groups that the media hoped were responsible for the Boston Marathon attack, it would make sense to highlight one of the people you hope to have as an enemy someday. Wouldn’t it?
And I’ve certainly read comments about what a snappy dresser Ahmadinejad is, as he leads that great bastion of freedom, Iran. (Certainly a place it would be helpful to ‘understand.’) He could rock the cover of Rolling Stone! And fly right back home to oppress women, dissenters and homosexuals. Talk about your multi-tasking modern guy!
Of course, we could go back in history and find all sorts of people who, in their youth, might have made good cover photos. Stalin with his mustache and playful smile or Deputy Fuhrer Rudolph Hess with his deep, dark eyes and angular jaw both come to mind. Both of them in dire need of understanding. I mean, you don’t kill millions without having some deep inner pain that needs to come to the surface and be digested by the ignorant masses who hate your guts for killing their families! I mean, how narrow-minded is that sort of attitude?
Here’s the point for the editors of Rolling stone and its assorted apologists. The readers of that magazine live in an era in which image is taken as reality. It influences their readers’ thoughts, style, taste and opinions. The magazine may reasonably be looking into the making of a terrorist; a good story concept. But when the cover makes the terrorist look more like a rock star than a man partly responsible for multiple deaths and life-threatening injuries, then people are offended. Most notably, those who lost loved ones or limbs; and who are unlikely to make the cover themselves.
People don’t want the murderers of their loved ones, or their own assailants, presented in a way that gives them status and star-power. And while I realize that the trial hasn’t even begun, a neutral presentation of the whole event would have been much better received. Rolling Stone could even have done a cover on the heroic figures who responded, and the people they comforted and saved. That would have been a good story!
But honoring the dishonorable was a tragic miscalculation. And only serves to highlight the way that the American media complex is often out of touch with both the people of the country and the very concepts of good and evil, cowardice and valor.
It’s ironic that we tend to dismantle our heroes in America, raking through their lives and unloading their closets to find flaws and scandals. But I suppose it’s a logical outgrowth of that behavior that we replace them with anti-heroes, whose virtues we seek to find hidden beneath the pools of blood they shed.
A tragic turn indeed.