It seems Rolling Stone magazine’s decision to lionize Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has unnerved many a fan. Yet the question remains was the magazine wrong for running the inciting cover and ostensibly offending tastes?
First of if we are to have a legitimate discussion of media practices we ought to ask what the role of media is. Is it to offend, provoke, entertain, inform, titillate, cater to preferred tastes or to challenge those tastes? Or how about the idea that the idea of the press is for it to explore whatever themes it dare chooses albeit as long as it refrains from slandering or perjuring individuals? Which is to say if the mainstream press can saturate us with images of entertainment icons why shouldn’t a magazine be allowed to run images of an individual who for better or worse has shaped our understanding of society? Or is that hitting too close to the bone?
Reads the magazine cover: “THE BOMBER. How a popular, promising student was failed by his family, fell into radical Islam and became a monster.”
Interestingly Rolling Stone chooses not to use the bomber’s name, rather relying on his image which for those in the don’t know department has elicited a lot of hot panting reaction from many young women. Yes whether one wants to admit or not, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is quite the looker, even though he is as dangerous as fuck and as many would perhaps rightly argue, evil as fuck.
Which brings us to the next question. Why would a national revered journal like Rolling Stone dare lionize a man said to have caused death, injury and insult to our collective sensibilities?
Is it because Rolling Stone legitimately believes that its readers want to know about the man’s plight? Is it because the magazine’s editors are betting that we wont mind? Or is this just the magazine’s way of challenging us out of submission and raising the question, if a celebrity with woeful stories of their own can make a cover why not a beauteous young man who chose to kill and maime individuals?
Then perhaps we ought to ask if a magazine chooses to use a terrorist’s image and running a feature on them, are they necessarily choosing to adulate and congratulate the terrorist? Isn’t that just a knee jerk reaction of what some of us wish for the press to do and choose to be? Why after all shouldn’t a magazine choose to run an image of who ever it chooses if it seeks to legitimately explore a point of view or a narrative? Or is the press only allowed to explore palatable narratives or ones that make it obvious who is the good guy and who is the bad guy? But then again why the fascination of championing who many would regard as the good guy, why not a discussion of who many of us would see as the bad guy too? Or are only virtuous heroic souls suppose to occupy front covers?
Told a variety of commentators on the web:
I think it’s wrong to make celebrities out of these people. Why give the guy the cover of Rolling Stone? TIME gave Charles Manson the cover and all the magazines carried pictures of the Columbine shooters on the covers, too. Don’t make martyrs out of these people.
I am ending my subscription. This is bullshit.
been a subscriber since 1982 – cancelling tonight. I am beyond words….
I am completely disgusted with this cover. Whose idiotic idea was it to glamorize a mass murderer?
Very un-American. F—k you Rolling Stone. I thought it was supposed to be an honor to be on your cover?”
Very un-American? Isn’t the idea of being American to challenge and explore ideas even if that makes us sometimes uncomfortable? Or is that some myth this author has embedded in his idealistic mind? Maybe being American is all about consistently congratulating ourselves for how good we have it and how good we really are? But are we really all that good? And do most of us living in America really have it so good to begin with? Isn’t that what the media wants us to believe?
Let’s even ask another difficult question, maybe just maybe Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his brother chose to bomb the Boston Marathon in reaction to how bad they see things in America. Of course there are other ways of expressing one’s disapproval of public affairs but maybe that too also offends us, that violent individuals can now end being idolized. And perhaps it ought to.
Told the editors of rolling stone: “The cover story we are publishing this week falls within the traditions of journalism and Rolling Stone’s long-standing commitment to serious and thoughtful coverage of the most important political and cultural issues of our day. The fact that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is young, and in the same age group as many of our readers, makes it all the more important for us to examine the complexities of this issue and gain a more complete understanding of how a tragedy like this happens.”
Hmm, can you imagine, a villain who is not a hunch back toothless monster who maliciously preys on innocent souls but a boy next door deeply unhappy with his lot and life in America?
Reflected the huffington post who couldn’t resist being morally outraged:
By putting Dzokhar Tsarnaev on your cover, you are revealing a profound disconnect with the culture you claim to represent, and failing the millions of Americans who have grown up under your influence by reducing yourselves to attention-seeking vultures.
Attention seeking vultures? Isn’t that what the huffington post is all about already? Are we to really believe that they are above what they are accusing of another well read journal of being?
And what do they mean when they say ‘you are revealing a profound disconnect with the culture…?‘
Could we dare argue it’s the other way round?
Have a look kids. Have a look at what really passes for news in America and ask yourself is this really the profound connection we ought to be enabling and seeking?
Yes Rolling Stone magazine’s decision to run a terrorist on its cover may have been in bad taste but what’s equally in bad taste is the majority of US media’s relentless drive to write about inane hollow themes that fail to legitimately inspire, provoke and inform our culture at large. Then again maybe the role of media has nothing to do with that and I am just some bygone idealist who still believes in the idea of informative, provocative and sometimes uncomfortable journalism.
Then again I recently read on every national headline cover that some obsequious woman by the name of Kim Kardashian gave birth to a child recently, not that I don’t occasionally mind reading about light hearted useless topics from time to time, but not all the time….