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July 16, 2013

Rolling Stone Boston Bomber Cover. Hmm, We Liked It.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Rolling Stone cover

I think the cover works, consistent with the premise: “a riveting and heartbreaking account of how a charming kid with a bright future became a monster.”

Rather than write off these people as evil and “other,” what distinguishes us as a civilized society is the attempt to understand who and why. (It’s what I was trying to get at with that suicide bomber pic the other day.) I mean, why did someone as personable as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev go over to the dark side? Is it such an act of humanity just to realize it’s not a one word answer, especially if that word is “Islam”? Is there no relevance to the implosion of the Tsarnaev family, that crazy hostile mother and the residual weight of Jahar’s relationship with his terror of a brother? (Before dispensing with the cover as completely gratuitous, by the way, it’s worth noting it does legitimately exploit the sympathy Jahar engendering on the lam based on speculation he might have been under his brother’s power.)

Now, does that justify framing the kid as a heartthrob — especially on Boston newsstands? Of course not. But in the media sphere, the devices are pretty staked out by now. As such, exaggerating and elevating the kid’s likeability might be justifiable if it leads citizens beyond the knee-jerk opposite — framing these young men as simply monsters — to look and think more deeply.

In fact, I think the next candidate for the treatment (September, perhaps, as the next president of the Seminole Country Chamber of Commerce?) should be George Zimmerman. If a general haze surrounding the man’s personality had even a little to do with the verdict in Florida this week, then let the closer inspection hang him.

UPDATE: Here’s the link to the story preceded by an editor’s intro addressed, apparently, to the criticism of the cover.

(illustration: Sean McCabe)

  • jonst

    just out of curiosity..I guess I have to read the article to find evidence of a “bright future”. Because that is not what was presented about 2 months ago. His future…or, at least his academic future, was presented as bleak, if not terminal.

    As to a “dark side”…I would have thought that if society, civilized, or otherwise, has had an abundant opportunity to learn–and relearn, and relearn–one lesson, it is; that people cross over to the ‘dark side’ with great, and surprising, regularity . Happens every day in fact.

  • jonst

    just out of curiosity..I guess I have to read the article to find evidence of a “bright future”. Because that is not what was presented about 2 months ago. His future…or, at least his academic future, was presented as bleak, if not terminal.

    As to a “dark side”…I would have thought that if society, civilized, or otherwise, has had an abundant opportunity to learn–and relearn, and relearn–one lesson, it is; that people cross over to the ‘dark side’ with great, and surprising, regularity . Happens every day in fact.

  • BamaGuy1024

    It is a mystery to me, and confuses and scares me in a way – the assumptions one can make on superficial looks. I cannot understand it. How some people who seem to have so much, physical good looks and health, reasonable intelligence – I look at him and just wonder why, how he could have done such a terrible thing. I look at Charles Manson and that is something different, I can imagine him doing what he did

  • BamaGuy1024

    It is a mystery to me, and confuses and scares me in a way – the assumptions one can make on superficial looks. I cannot understand it. How some people who seem to have so much, physical good looks and health, reasonable intelligence – I look at him and just wonder why, how he could have done such a terrible thing. I look at Charles Manson and that is something different, I can imagine him doing what he did

  • bks3bks

    Prediction: His trial, if he has one, will receive .0000000001% of the coverage of Zimmerman.

    –bks

  • bks3bks

    Prediction: His trial, if he has one, will receive .0000000001% of the coverage of Zimmerman.

    –bks

  • http://www.futurebird.com Susan Donovan

    This cover makes me really uncomfortable. That might not be bad, but I don’t want to like him. Not after what he and his older brother did to my friends.

  • http://www.futurebird.com Susan Donovan

    This cover makes me really uncomfortable. That might not be bad, but I don’t want to like him. Not after what he and his older brother did to my friends.

  • AlanSChin

    Is it all surprising that good looks, reasonably high intelligence, etc. have little or nothing to do with moral compass? Discussion over this is another kind of profiling, the opposite of how Trayvon Martin ended up dead. There were a lot of really good looking, smart, well adjusted young men in the SS, in the Stasi, in the kamikaze corps of pilots, in Lt. Calley’s unit, you name it. In fact, that is the fine line between elite military forces that recruit and attract the “best and brightest” young men and when those forces become war criminals. Terrorists are no different. Same type of guy, different team. You need young men for sustained, premeditated violence. What cause they serve and why makes the difference as to whether they have a moral compass or not, not the fact that they are young and capable.

  • AlanSChin

    Is it all surprising that good looks, reasonably high intelligence, etc. have little or nothing to do with moral compass? Discussion over this is another kind of profiling, the opposite of how Trayvon Martin ended up dead. There were a lot of really good looking, smart, well adjusted young men in the SS, in the Stasi, in the kamikaze corps of pilots, in Lt. Calley’s unit, you name it. In fact, that is the fine line between elite military forces that recruit and attract the “best and brightest” young men and when those forces become war criminals. Terrorists are no different. Same type of guy, different team. You need young men for sustained, premeditated violence. What cause they serve and why makes the difference as to whether they have a moral compass or not, not the fact that they are young and capable.

  • black_dog_barking

    Willie Nelson is still touring? On a bus? My brother did a couple of bus tours as a sound man for Willie. Thirty years ago.

  • black_dog_barking

    Willie Nelson is still touring? On a bus? My brother did a couple of bus tours as a sound man for Willie. Thirty years ago.

  • Gasho

    I understand that this cover is meant to illustrate the story of someone who seems ok turning into a bad guy and the mystery of that process… but on the newsstands, it’s going to be seen by some small portion of society – some unstable kids, with the same potential for going bad, and they are going to see it as evidence: THIS is how you become a rock star.

    For that reason, I think it’s irresponsible. If there were some small visual suggestion of the pain that was caused–blood, tears, crying– it might be different. Oh, and the large word “bomber” doesn’t do it. With our country’s fetish with bombs and glorification of soldiers and airmen who drop bombs, “bomber” reads more like a action hero’s title than the label of a mad man. You have to read all the way to the end of the small print to find “monster”… but we all know that 95% of the message comes from first glance.

  • Gasho

    I understand that this cover is meant to illustrate the story of someone who seems ok turning into a bad guy and the mystery of that process… but on the newsstands, it’s going to be seen by some small portion of society – some unstable kids, with the same potential for going bad, and they are going to see it as evidence: THIS is how you become a rock star.

    For that reason, I think it’s irresponsible. If there were some small visual suggestion of the pain that was caused–blood, tears, crying– it might be different. Oh, and the large word “bomber” doesn’t do it. With our country’s fetish with bombs and glorification of soldiers and airmen who drop bombs, “bomber” reads more like a action hero’s title than the label of a mad man. You have to read all the way to the end of the small print to find “monster”… but we all know that 95% of the message comes from first glance.

  • LanceThruster

    The Mighty Wurlitzer must have its reasons.

  • LanceThruster

    The Mighty Wurlitzer must have its reasons.

  • Stanco55

    “Rather than write off these people as evil and “other,” what distinguishes us
    as a civilized society is the attempt to understand who and why. ”

    That statement about civilization reminds me of the one Trump made concerning The Central Park Five when he declared that he didn’t “want to understand them,” he just wanted them executed.

    Of course, they were all innocent of the crime, and he has yet to apologize.

  • Stanco55

    “Rather than write off these people as evil and “other,” what distinguishes us
    as a civilized society is the attempt to understand who and why. ”

    That statement about civilization reminds me of the one Trump made concerning The Central Park Five when he declared that he didn’t “want to understand them,” he just wanted them executed.

    Of course, they were all innocent of the crime, and he has yet to apologize.

  • bks3bks

    Ho Lee Fuk! They were discussing this picture on *Sports Talk Radio* (95.7 The Game, SF Bay Area, 2:50 pm Pacific). Congratulations to _Rolling Stone_ for a truly masterful cover. This is art!

    –bks

  • bks3bks

    Ho Lee Fuk! They were discussing this picture on *Sports Talk Radio* (95.7 The Game, SF Bay Area, 2:50 pm Pacific). Congratulations to _Rolling Stone_ for a truly masterful cover. This is art!

    –bks

  • Cactus

    It still amazes me that people in this country cannot (refuse to?)
    understand why someone in our midst, whom we welcomed and who had all the
    benefits of this glorious country could possibly turn out to be a psychopath.
    History is filled with beautiful monsters of both sexes.

    Gasho makes a valid point — isn’t that desire for ‘fame’ what is
    at bottom, or at least somewhere in the back of their minds, of most or all of
    the spree killiers? ‘They’ll know who I am now.’ Perhaps they should have
    shown his booking photo with the numbers.

    Remember when Time put Hitler on their cover in 1933? They
    even made him ‘man of the year’ in 1938. Although, I guess, you’d have to
    consider the political leanings of the publisher.

    From what I’ve already heard in the way of commentary on this
    cover, there are valid points made on both sides.

    • Gasho

      It certainly started some conversations!

  • Cactus

    It still amazes me that people in this country cannot (refuse to?)
    understand why someone in our midst, whom we welcomed and who had all the
    benefits of this glorious country could possibly turn out to be a psychopath.
    History is filled with beautiful monsters of both sexes.

    Gasho makes a valid point — isn’t that desire for ‘fame’ what is
    at bottom, or at least somewhere in the back of their minds, of most or all of
    the spree killiers? ‘They’ll know who I am now.’ Perhaps they should have
    shown his booking photo with the numbers.

    Remember when Time put Hitler on their cover in 1933? They
    even made him ‘man of the year’ in 1938. Although, I guess, you’d have to
    consider the political leanings of the publisher.

    From what I’ve already heard in the way of commentary on this
    cover, there are valid points made on both sides.

    • Gasho

      It certainly started some conversations!

  • Mcquiggle

    agreed, brilliant design. Authoritarian (religious) belief systems seem to engender a submissive response to media: the outrage appears to flow from an inability to assume critical thinking skills lie behind the eyes of others. The hand-wringing over Joe teen’s potential adulation is a projection of a worldview in which but one idol is to be permitted, and total submission to that one idol is demanded.

  • Mcquiggle

    agreed, brilliant design. Authoritarian (religious) belief systems seem to engender a submissive response to media: the outrage appears to flow from an inability to assume critical thinking skills lie behind the eyes of others. The hand-wringing over Joe teen’s potential adulation is a projection of a worldview in which but one idol is to be permitted, and total submission to that one idol is demanded.

  • paulo

    Thank you once again for inserting clarity into the idiocy that is our national conversation. I can’t understand the outrage over the cover. If you look at the picture and actually read the caption (apparently no one reads anymore?) you get the gist.

    If anything this is is illustrative of the Dorian Gray syndrome that maybe affects us all but certainly those who go to the dark side. No matter that you “became a monster” (you can read the phrase right there on the cover) you can tell yourself, maybe, and certainly the world that you are still this good looking bushy haired kid that you tell Facebook you are,

  • paulo

    Thank you once again for inserting clarity into the idiocy that is our national conversation. I can’t understand the outrage over the cover. If you look at the picture and actually read the caption (apparently no one reads anymore?) you get the gist.

    If anything this is is illustrative of the Dorian Gray syndrome that maybe affects us all but certainly those who go to the dark side. No matter that you “became a monster” (you can read the phrase right there on the cover) you can tell yourself, maybe, and certainly the world that you are still this good looking bushy haired kid that you tell Facebook you are,

  • bks3bks

    “Why Rolling Stone boycott backfired, as Tsarnaev cover flies off shelves

    The lesson in retailers’ boycott of Rolling Stone’s August issue –
    featuring Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev – is that publicity
    of almost any kind pays, say media analysts. The magazine saw its
    newsstand sales surge. …”

    http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Society/2013/0801/Why-Rolling-Stone-boycott-backfired-as-Tsarnaev-cover-flies-off-shelves

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