Wednesday, July 17, 2013


Sorry, I'm not going to join the chorus of outrage about this Rolling Stone cover:

I'm not going to join a group that includes professional rage generator Michelle Malkin:

The Atlantic's Dashiell Bennett writes:
The layout, which is being described as "shocking" and "offensive," resembles any number of rock star images that have graced the magazine over the years... and that's exactly the problem. Many people feel that the photo the editors chose makes Tsarnaev look like a smoldering teen heartthrob and not the accused murderer and terrorist that he is.
Yeah, maybe -- if you don't read the cover line. Which, if you haven't noticed, is as follows:
How a Popular, Promising Student Was Failed by His Family, Fell into Radical Islam and Became a Monster
Note that the cover calls him "THE BOMBER" -- not "the alleged bomber" or "the guy the New World Order wants you to believe committed the bombings, which were actually the work of private security forces (or didn't actually take place because the whole thing was a drill involving actors who didn't actually lose their legs)." The cover line says he did it. The cover line says he "fell into radical Islam." The cover line says he's "a monster." And he's not called "Jahar" -- the rendering of his name favored by his conspiracy-minded fans.

Does Tsarnaev "look like a smoldering teen heartthrob" in the cover photo? Um, that's not how Rolling Stone makes cover subjects look like heartthrobs -- this is. He's not shirtless. He's not Photoshopped to within an inch of his life to emphasize cheekbones and abs. This is just what he looks like, based on every photo of him I've seen. And if you think he looks attractive, well, what are you asking for? The Matt Drudge School of Photo Selection, whereby you show your disgust for a subject by picking that person's worst possible photo?

And if Rolling Stone did pick the photo in part to appeal to the fans, well, according to The Atlantic's Bennett, they're not pleased:
Ironically, even the small community of "Free Dzhokhar" zealots, who are unabashed fans of Tsarnaev (and his looks) are against the cover too, believing the story and the use of the word "monster" in the headline will unfairly prejudice people against him.
Um, no, that's not ironic -- those fans may be ignorant with regard to Tsarnaev, but at least they can read a twenty-word cover line. It promises an article that holds Tsarnaev responsible for a brutal crime -- as it should. That upsets them. It should satisfy us.


Laurie G. said...

Perhaps part of the point of the cover is to illustrate that you can't judge a book by its cover. A terrorist can be the personable sexy-looking kid next door, meanwhile the beady-eyed grungy loner you steer clear of may be a kind hearted fellow who rescues stray cats.

aimai said...

I'm not really all that interested in the current wave of media coverage by hysteria, but I do think the Dzhokhar cover reflects some problems for the viewer/reader's ability to have their preconceptions challenged. And not because Dzhokhar looks like a cross between a potto and an ephebic night clubber. But because Magazines repress images that don't fit their narrative and elevate images that are sexed up because that suits their narrative and appeals to a lazy readership.

I guess what I mean is I don't care about the dzokhar photo as such, but I wonder whether such a photo could ever have been used to appeal to reader sympathies with Martin's pictures at the same age? The right wing was up in arms over cute baby pictures of Martin which they saw as exculpating him from the crime of being a black thug which they believed was unambiguously revealed in the (perfectly ordinary) pictures of him as a young black teen. In other words: they insisted that what he "really" was was revealed in his "selfie" pictures. And what Dzhokhar "really" was is occluded in his selfie picture. Because that which is innocent can never look evil, and that which is evil ought never to look innocent.

But I guess I am disturbed by the fact that I think that our society is so incredibly racist that no picture of Martin can ever been seen by a majority of white viewers as childish, harmleslly sexual, adorable, big eyed megafauna (which is what Dzokhar's picture is producing) because we've been pre-structured to see all black males over the age of toddler as looking dangerous. Dzokhar's sexuality in this picture is feminized and stripped of danger and it is his sexuality and frailness which come to the fore. That's what the right wing is kicking about. Because they are aware that imagery is powerful and they can't figure out how to demonize this muslim/child image in the same way that Martin was pre-demonized and smeared just for wearing the hoodie.

Philo Vaihinger said...

Is calling him a monster different from GW insisting the 9/11 terrorists were cowards?

Bill Maher got cancelled for pointing out how absurd that was.

Just asking.

Victor said...

Reading, and reading comprehension, aren't exactly even Malkin's pianissimo.

Rugosa said...

Nuance. The Right doesn't do it, remember? The idea that someone can look sweet but harbor murderous thoughts is beyond them. Also, simple matters of fact elude them, such as that young men in their late teens do exhibit both boyish and adult features - smooth skin but facial hair, e.g., and can be posed to look either sweet or menacing depending on their clothes and props.