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Glamorizing Monsters

by Clinton Fein on July 19, 2013

in Celebrities,Clinton Fein,culture,Media,News,Op-Ed,Opinion

Scream, yell, boycott, fist-pound, denounce, threaten, rinse repeat.

The outrage is nothing if predictable.

This week’s is brought to you courtesy of Rolling Stone with their smoky hot, sepia-tinged, Jim Morrison inspired cover of Boston bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

We have that propensity to engage this conversation every time a crime captures the public imagination.

The conversation about what’s appropriate and what’s not is explored with screams of outrage, threats of boycotts and earnest talking heads on talk shows discussing the merits, interspersed with the offending images themselves.

Mayors write letters. People accuse the publications or media outlets of capitalizing on the tragedy of the victims.

Self-righteous finger-pointing has turned into a formulaic art form. Along with the requisite editorial apologies.

When the images are the victims, there is a special disgust reserved, which seems to be forgotten when angry denouncements are made over using images of the perpetrators.

The images themselves become indelible, seared into the consciousness as part of the story.

Crime scene images of Nicole Brown Simpson’s slashed throat, Jon Benet Ramsey’s little arm with a ring on the finger and twine used to tie her hands still on the arm, the falling man on 911, autopsy photos of Michael Jackson or coffin photos of Whitney Houston.

And we get sucked in every time. As we suck, lick, guzzle, gorge, feast, inhale and consume every last tiny morsel with the delicateness of pigs on acid.

Sure, the media gets it wrong more often than not. When Time put OJ Simpson on their cover, they thought it would be tasteful to darken him to look blacker than he is in case the racist undertones weren’t boiling enough without them stoking the fires.

Time also saw fit to put a racist, bigoted self-serving lunatic on their cover, presumably because a steaming pile of excrement might have been considered obscene.

And context is relevant. Rolling Stone is renowned for its rock star treatment of, well, rock stars.

Yes, it has the likes of Matt Taibbi writing for it, one of the more prolific journalists covering Wall Street better than any other financial journalist I can think of. And yes, it covers important stories that transcend music really well.

But at the end of the day, we expect Amy Winehouse on the cover. Or Cory Monteith.

Some kid, disenfranchised or confused wondering what the hell to do with his life — or how to best end it — looks at a Rolling Stone cover with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev staring dreamily on the cover and thinks that if he does something even more violent than bomb Boston, he too will make the cover, and forever be remembered for his blaze of glory exit act.

Unaware that it wasn’t really about that, but probably more likely that Jann Wenner, Rolling Stone’s publisher, found Dzhokhar Tsarnaev fuckable enough to sell his magazine.

And about us, titillated enough to buy it. Hook, line and sinker.

Clinton Fein is an internationally acclaimed author, artist, and First Amendment activist, best-known for his 1997 First Amendment Supreme Court victory against United States Attorney General Janet Reno. Fein has also gained international recognition for his site, and for his work as a political artist. Fein is on the Board of Directors of the First Amendment Project, “a nonprofit advocacy organization dedicated to protecting and promoting freedom of information, expression, and petition.” Fein’s political and privacy activism have been widely covered around the world. His work also led him to be nominated for a 2001 PEN/Newman’s Own First Amendment Award.

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sdfrenchie July 19, 2013 at 12:15 pm

The protesting of that Rolling Stone cover is ridiculous. The caption under the headline is the descriptor: "How a Popular, Promising Student was Failed by His Family, Fell into Radical Islam and Became a Monster".

The caption tells me the article will be about just what it says. The photo is what he looked like before being known as "The Bomber", when he was a 'popular, promising student'. Why should a story about his promising past show him as the monster he turned out to be?

Although I did not buy the magazine and read the article, the front cover tells me enough to believe Rolling Stone had no intention of glorifying the man's final actions that led to his arrest. People might think it's wrong to even write an article about a person who was deranged enough to want to harm and/or kill other humans, but for those of us who want to understand what might cause a 'popular, promising student' to become that way, it makes fascinating reading.

How many people, to this day, know that Charles Manson went from one horrible foster home to another, was abused at most or all of them both physically and sexually, until he was strong enough to escape but so mentally destroyed that any semblance of self-confidence was totally missing from his rattled brain. He found kids on the street who wanted to be his friends and, apparently and like Tsarnaev, having adoring friends rebuilt his ego. What happened beyond that is entirely different for both men but the failures of the past for Manson continued to eat away at his brain until he became a murderous monster who wound up being carried in a cage through prison wards with a swastika tattoo on his forehead, laughing and applauding himself for his dirty deeds.

Tsarnaev's brother, it's been said in previous mention, went over to Caucasia, allegedly mingled with activists and came back to America with ideas he felt he should share with his younger brother. From what I understand, and this is not to pass judgment, men who claim to be of the Islam faith but go outside that faith and become violent, can be quite forceful, especially with family members. There were some mentions of the parents making "hateful" statements that might have caused the older brother to want to take revenge on somebody, if not the Russians.

I find it hard to believe that the younger Tsarnaev found it easy to give up his standing with his American friends and the studies he did so well in. His older brother can never be interviewed to get any bit of truth about whether he pressured his brother to go along with his demonic plot or if the younger man went willingly due to strong admiration for his older brother. And because of his crime Dzhokhar Tsarnaev may never get to tell his side, or even if he did, because of strong opinion, he probably wouldn't be believed.

Disclaimer: This post isn't about my approval of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his crime. It is a statement in support of Rolling Stone Magazine's article and the photo they chose to portray the criminal before he became a criminal.

pauln2901 July 19, 2013 at 4:57 pm

The Rolling Stone cover is a disgrace. There's only one reason RS did it, and that was to create a controversy and increase sales. It's backfired massively! Their Facebook is full of negative comments and cancelled subscriptions. I wouldn't be surprised if they disappeared in Boston, they certainly won't be forgiven quickly.
There's even some of their advertisers pulling out. Really stupid, unthinking move.

bawston365 July 19, 2013 at 12:40 pm

At the same time, I don't really think this sort of thing belongs in Rolling Stone in the first place. Isn't the entire point of the magazine to feature great achievements in the music industry?!

garthkitty July 19, 2013 at 8:46 pm

<div class="idc-message" id="idc-comment-msg-div-683420381"><a title="Click to Close Message" class="idc-close" href="javascript: IDC.ui.close_message(683420381)"><span>Close Message</span> Comment posted. <p class="idc-nomargin"><a class="idc-share-facebook" style="text-decoration: none;" href="; target="_new"><span class="idc-share-inner"><span>Share on Facebook</span></span> or <a href="javascript: IDC.ui.close_message(683420381)">Close MessageNo. They have always had a strong opinion of current events and have reported on them with great intelligence and left sidedness. I have been a reader for forty years and there is always quite a bit of national and foreign news. All hot topics. I think this much less diabolical then the Colter cover. The voice of evil and all that is bad is free to walk and talk. That is a travesty….

BJLincoln July 19, 2013 at 2:44 pm

Nailed it!

James_M_Martin July 19, 2013 at 11:31 pm

You guys are just TOO clever! Thanks for reminding those who cannot seem to get it in their heads that County Korzybski was right when he insisted that "the map is not the territory."

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