I posted this photo on Instagram a couple years ago as a joke to poke fun at myself:
After seeing the cover of this month’s Rolling Stone Magazine, however, I can’t help but feel like that is exactly where my Journalism degree belongs—hanging above the toilet.
The cover features the Boston bomber suspect sporting what appears to be a freshly trimmed goatee and “I’m trying but I’m not trying,” shaggy hair that every hipster dreams of. The photo, which was one Dzhokhar Tsarnaev posted online himself, has a handsome, Jim Morrison-esque feel and at first glance, one might actually think he’s just another rock star. But he’s not.
It breaks my heart to see so many media outlets foaming at the mouth for an opportunity to glorify monsters. To make infamous legends of people who murder other people by the masses. We rely on the press to inform us of what’s going on in the world—to keep us up-to-date on what we should find important. And this is the crap they’re feeding us.
Some publications, like Slate, are describing the Rolling Stone cover as “brilliant.” One of their writers went so far as to call it “smart, unnerving journalism.” His article continues,
“The cover presents a stark contrast with our usual image of terrorists. It asks, ‘What did we expect to see in Tsarnaev? What did we hope to see?’ The answer, most likely, is a monster, a brutish dolt with outward manifestations of evil. What we get instead, however, is the most alarming sight of all: a boy who looks like someone we might know.”
I find zero solace in this. Anyone with half a brain knows there’s no set criteria for what a killer should look like. Murderers of the past don’t fit some cookie cutter image, and to call the Rolling Stone cover photo smart and unnerving for attempting to redefine our image of terrorists is a total cop out. We’re not idiots and we need to demand that our media quit treating us as such. Rolling Stone ran this article, knowing perfectly well the controversy it would create, because they thought the story would sell. That’s what the majority of modern media has become about.
This needs to be our wake up call. Without a readership, without those of us who tune in every day to stay informed about what’s going on in the world, the media doesn’t exist. We need to take responsibility for what we are being fed by demanding a higher quality of journalism. We are in control of our news and if we continue to allow the media to spew out stories such as this one, they will keep producing them forever.
As the blurb next to the dreamy Tsarnaev photo on the magazine cover indicates, the Rolling Stone article is about how the seemingly normal young man fell into radical Islam and became a monster. Within the story, we learn Tsarnaev liked soccer, girls, and TV shows like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones. “He’s just like you and me,” the article wants us to know/assumes we wouldn’t believe.
Well I don’t care what this guy’s hobbies were prior to injuring 264 innocent people. And I’d like to hope America doesn’t care, either. I’d like to hope that, like me, America cares more about Martin Richard, the 8-year-old boy who was killed by one of the blasts. About Lü Lingzi, the Boston University graduate student who was also killed. About Krystle Campbell, another one of the Boston bombing victims to lose her very young life.
Above all, I care about Journalism, an industry I’ve been nothing short of obsessed with since I was a little girl carrying around a Harriet the Spy Composition pad, always asking, “BUT WHY?”