Thanks to the latest issue of Rolling Stone, Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev now joins the ranks of John Lennon, Meryl Streep and Jon Stewart as an individual who landed on the cover of one of the country’s most prestigious magazines. Unlike the musicians, actors, comedians, writers, politicians and general thinkers to precede him, however, Tsarnaev did nothing to earn his place on the shelves of every supermarket and convenience store in America.
Much of the controversy surrounding the selected photo of the bombing suspect revolves around the nature of the image, as described by Boston.com:
But of all the available images of Tsarnaev, and of all the ways to present them, they seemed to choose the one that most closely resembles a teen idol's publicity photo. Trendy t-shirt! Tousled hair! Brightened eyes cocked in that totes-casual OH HAIIIII pose that the kidz strike for Instagram selfies! It's all there but the acoustic guitar, and though Rolling Stone can't change the way Tsarnaev looks, they can certainly control whether they choose-zoom-crop-edit his photo to maximize presentation of him as a Jonas Brother by way of Jim Morrison.
Protesters say it glamorizes the alleged terrorist. Supporters say it is respectable journalism. Congratulations, Rolling Stone. For the first time in quite awhile, everyone has something to say about your latest issue.
On behalf of the hundreds of people injured on Marathon Monday who will now have to look their attacker in the eye on their way to grab a prescription from the pharmacy, the only word I can come up with to summarize this creative decision is "low." It's a cheap, tasteless way to sell magazines, and there's not much else to it.
The presentation of the story begs the question, what are we supposed to gain from this article? With all due respect to the dozens of sources that the writer interviewed in the two-month process of putting the piece together, I personally feel that I know enough about the surviving bombing suspect. I know he grew up in the city that he attempted to destroy and I know that the people who spent time around him were, for the most part, blindsided by his role in the bombing. I know that his brother was likely the mastermind behind the attacks, and I know that he could have reported him to the police but instead chose to double the destruction.
Most of all, I know that he was human.
Because that's the point of these kinds of pieces, right? Breaking news: the person behind the bombing is human, and he had a childhood, and he had friends, and he photographs well, too.
I know that he was human. I don't need to hear about just how human he was, especially if the conclusion in the headline is that he somehow went from human to monster. He didn't become a monster. He remained a human, but at one point or another filled with a darkness that caused him to act like a monster.
So, Rolling Stone, next time you want to feature a terrorist as your cover story, skip the photo entirely. If you really want to display the inner workings of a killer's mind, stick with darkness.
And if you truly wish to deliver a good story following a tragedy, make yourselves useful and honor the victims. Until then, I'll be shopping at one of the many stores that is boycotting your current issue.
School, major and year: A&S, English and communication, 2014
Hometown: Acton, MA, but my parents recently moved to Beacon Hill, which is way cooler.
What makes the Gavel so BANGin’? Everyone is just the perfect amount of weird. It is one of very few environments in which I don't feel like the weirdest person in the room.
If you could go back in time and give yourself a pep talk the night before you moved into BC as a freshman, what is the most important piece of advice that you would give to your former self? I would offer myself a friendly reminder that everyone comes to college friend-less, and therefore looking for friends. Before coming to BC, I pictured myself eating every meal in solitude because I forgot that I wasn't the only person who would be entering day one without really knowing anybody. That was silly of me.
What is your favorite study spot on campus? Stuart law classrooms.
What is your go-to meal at Late Night? Mozzarella sticks.
What is the #1 most played song on your iTunes? "Gong Li" -- Red Hot Chili Peppers.
What is the best Halloween costume that you have ever worn? I was a Hershey's kiss as a toddler. Aaaaaand I rocked it.
If you could befriend the main characters from any TV show or movie, who would you choose and why? "The Office," because I have always thought that Jim and Pam would appreciate my sense of humor.