Friday, July 19, 2013

the rolling stone cover

"Lurking in these conversations is the implication that publishing an attractive picture somehow diminishes the magnitude of what Tsarnaev stands accused of doing. It does no such thing.  Far more disturbing is the fact that against all biases of what evil 'should' look like, an attractive, modest, apparently well-liked person committed this terrible crime."

- Matt Spots, S.J. in The Jesuit Post
I agree with this. What is inherently disturbing is that the alleged terrorist looks like a normal kid. And this is what is most disturbing about domestic terrorism by Americans. It's hard to make an us-vs.-them distinction as easily as it is about people who look malicious, threatening and different (daresay "other", for p.m. fans out there).

Context is largely the reason why the cover image story is making waves. We expect to see glamorous, sexy rock stars on the cover of Rolling Stone, to be desired and idolized, and the image suggests the same treatment. And if the image is indeed being used to make a point about the face of evil, the caption doesn't do a great job calling that out to the casual newsstand customer, despite describing the alleged bomber as a "monster". If Rolling Stone does desire to make a point about the new face of domestic terrorism, it's unfortunately too subtle compared to what we're used to them delivering.

It would be a whole different story, perhaps even a non-story, if the image were on the cover of The Economist, with the caption "Dzhokhar Tsarnaev: the new face of domestic terrorism".