FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Face of Terror

by BRUCE JACKSON

There is a furor going on about the cover of Rolling Stone’s August issue. No, it isn’t over a rock star flashing her boobs or his package at schoolchildren; is isn’t even about an over-the-top image of blood and gore. It is a self-portrait of accused Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in which he looks like a curly-haired kid with romantic aspirations.

No one has complained about the long and excellent article on Tsarnaev inside the magazine by contributing editor Janet Reitman,  Jahar’s World. But because of that photo in which Tsarnaev looks like anyone else, rather than like a mad bomber, CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, 7-11, KMart, and who-all knows how many other stores in Massachusetts and across the country, are pulling the issue from their stands. TV pundits are bloviating, happy for something to get them off the Zimmerman/Martin atrocity for a while. Second-rank rock stars are issuing statements saying, ‘If that’s sort thing Rolling Stone is going to put on its cover I will no longer pray every night to get my face on the cover of Rolling Stone.

The text over the photo tells you exactly what the Reitman’s article is about: “THE BOMBER: How a Popular, Promising Student Was Failed by His Family, Fell into Radical Islam and Became a Monster.”.

Had Rolling Stone posted an image of Tsarnaev looking bruised and battered, as he did in the first images after his arrest (e.g. this one  of him on the ground, handcuffed and bleeding), there wouldn’t have been a o-ROLLING-STONE-TSARNAEV-570peep from anyone. Had they posted an image of him looking sly, sinister and evil, there wouldn’t have been a peep from anyone.

The  rage is over the fact that, in this picture, he looks like anyone else. Monsters aren’t supposed to look like anyone else. In the movies, they hardly ever look like anyone else. On TV they hardly ever look like anyone else. In Doré’s illustrations to the Divine  Comedy they hardly ever look like anyone else. So why should they look like anyone else on the cover of Rolling Stone?

Because they do, that’s why.

In 1979, Diane Christian and I made a film about men waiting to be executed in Texas. At screenings the next few years, the single comment we got more than any other was this: “But they look like anybody else.”

“What did you want,” we’d answer, “that we make them look like murderers?”

“Well,” we’d often hear in response, “aren’t they?”

“And what,” we’d say, “is a murderer supposed to look like?” No one ever had a good answer for that. So we’d say, “Well, we showed you.”

And that’s what Rolling Stone did. Not the face of a fiend, not a face you’d pick out in the crowd, not the face of someone you’d look at and think, “There’s a guy who’d blow people’s legs off at the knees and kill children to make a political point.”

No: it is a face like any other, and that is part of the real terror of it all. That is the point Rolling Stone was making with that cover image. That’s what the fury is about: not that Rolling Stone got it wrong, but that Rolling Stone  got it right.

Bruce Jackson’s most recent books are Inside the Wire: Photographs from Texas and Arkansas Prison (University of Texas Press, 2013) and In This Timeless Time Living and Dying on Death Row in America (with Diane Christian, University of North Carolina Press, 2012). He is SUNY Distinguished Professor and James Agee Professor of American Culture at University at Buffalo

 

Bruce Jackson’s most recent books are Inside the Wire: Photographs from Texas and Arkansas Prison (University of Texas Press, 2013) and In This Timeless Time Living and Dying on Death Row in America (with Diane Christian, University of North Carolina Press, 2012). He is SUNY Distinguished Professor and James Agee Professor of American Culture at University at Buffalo

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

December 05, 2016
Bill Martin
Stalingrad at Standing Rock?
Mark A. Lause
Recounting a Presidential Election: the Backstory
Mel Goodman
Mad Dog Mattis and Trump’s “Seven Days in May”
Matthew Hannah
Standing Rock and the Ideology of Oppressors: Conversations with a Morton County Commissioner
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
#NoDAPL Scores Major Victory: No Final Permit For Pipeline
Fran Shor
The End of the Indispensable Nation
Michael Yates
Vietnam: the War That Won’t Go Away
Michael Uhl
Notes on a Trip to Cuba
Robert Hunziker
Huge Antarctica Glacier in Serious Trouble
John Steppling
Screen Life
David Macaray
Trump vs. America’s Labor Unions
Yoav Litvin
Break Free and Lead, or Resign: a Letter to Bernie Sanders
Norman Pollack
Taiwan: A Pustule on International Politics
Kevin Martin
Nuclear Weapons Modernization: a New Nuclear Arms Race? Who Voted for it? Who Will Benefit from It?
David Mattson
3% is not Enough: Towards Restoring Grizzly Bears
Howard Lisnoff
The Person Who Deciphered the Order to Shoot at Kent State
Dave Archambault II
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Statement on Dakota Access Pipeline Decision
Nick Pemberton
Make America Late Again
Weekend Edition
December 02, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
The Coming War on China
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The CIA’s Plots to Kill Castro
Paul Street
The Iron Heel at Home: Force Matters
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Timberg’s Tale: Washington Post Reporter Spreads Blacklist of Independent Journalist Sites
Andrew Levine
Must We Now Rethink the Hillary Question? Absolutely, Not
Joshua Frank
CounterPunch as Russian Propagandists: the Washington Post’s Shallow Smear
David Rosen
The Return of HUAC?
Rob Urie
Race and Class in Trump’s America
Patrick Cockburn
Why Everything You’ve Read About Syria and Iraq Could be Wrong
Caroline Hurley
Anatomy of a Nationalist
Ayesha Khan
A Muslim Woman’s Reflections on Trump’s Misogyny
Michael Hudson – Steve Keen
Rebel Economists on the Historical Path to a Global Recovery
Russell Mokhiber
Sanders Single Payer and Death by Democrat
Roger Harris
The Triumph of Trump and the Specter of Fascism
Steve Horn
Donald Trump’s Swamp: Meet Ten Potential Energy and Climate Cabinet Picks and the Pickers
Ralph Nader
Trump and His Betraying Makeover
Louis Proyect
Deepening Contradictions: Identity Politics and Steelworkers
Stephen Kimber
The Media’s Abysmal Coverage of Castro’s Death
Dan Bacher
WSPA: The West’s Most Powerful Corporate Lobbying Group
Nile Bowie
Will Trump backpedal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
Ron Ridenour
Fidel’s Death Brings Forth Great and Sad Memories
Missy Comley Beattie
By Invitation Only
Fred Gardner
Sword of Damocles: Pot Partisans Fear Trump’s DOJ
Renee Parsons
Obama and Propornot
Dean Baker
Cash and Carrier: Trump and Pence Put on a Show
Jack Rasmus
Taming Trump: From Faux Left to Faux Right Populism
Ron Jacobs
Selling Racism—A Lesson From Pretoria
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail