FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Face of Terror

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

 

More articles by:

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

July 23, 2018
Pam Martens
Koch Industries Is Staffing Up with Voter Data Scientists to Tip the November Election to the Extreme Right
Binoy Kampmark
Ecuador’s Agenda: Squeezing and Surrendering Assange
Vijay Prashad
America’s Reporter: the Hersh Method
Colin Jenkins
Exposing the American Okie-Doke
Patrick Cockburn
What Boris Johnson Doesn’t Know About British History
Jack Random
Asylum Seekers in the 21st Century
Howard Lisnoff
How We Got Sold on Endless Wars
Ed Meek
Trump Has Taught Us Some Valuable Lessons About Executive Power
Myles Hoenig
Trump, the Mr. Magoo of American Diplomacy
Winslow Myers
The Mind Reels
Thomas Mountain
Ethiopia’s Peaceful Revolution
Weekend Edition
July 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Atwood
Peace or Armageddon: Take Your Pick
Paul Street
No Liberal Rallies Yet for the Children of Yemen
Nick Pemberton
The Bipartisan War on Central and South American Women
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Are You Putin Me On?
Andrew Levine
Sovereignty: What Is It Good For? 
Brian Cloughley
The Trump/NATO Debacle and the Profit Motive
David Rosen
Trump’s Supreme Pick Escalates America’s War on Sex 
Melvin Goodman
Montenegro and the “Manchurian Candidate”
Salvador Rangel
“These Are Not Our Kids”: The Racial Capitalism of Caging Children at the Border
Matthew Stevenson
Going Home Again to Trump’s America
Louis Proyect
Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders and the Dilemmas of the Left
Patrick Cockburn
Iraqi Protests: “Bad Government, Bad Roads, Bad Weather, Bad People”
Robert Fantina
Has It Really Come to This?
Russell Mokhiber
Kristin Lawless on the Corporate Takeover of the American Kitchen
John W. Whitehead
It’s All Fake: Reality TV That Masquerades as American Politics
Patrick Bobilin
In Your Period Piece, I Would be the Help
Ramzy Baroud
The Massacre of Inn Din: How Rohingya Are Lynched and Held Responsible
Robert Fisk
How Weapons Made in Bosnia Fueled Syria’s Bleak Civil War
Gary Leupp
Trump’s Helsinki Press Conference and Public Disgrace
Josh Hoxie
Our Missing $10 Trillion
Martha Rosenberg
Pharma “Screening” Is a Ploy to Seize More Patients
Basav Sen
Brett Kavanaugh Would be a Disaster for the Climate
David Lau
The Origins of Local AFT 4400: a Profile of Julie Olsen Edwards
Rohullah Naderi
The Elusive Pursuit of Peace by Afghanistan
Binoy Kampmark
Shaking Establishments: The Ocasio-Cortez Effect
John Laforge
18 Protesters Cut Into German Air Base to Protest US Nuclear Weapons Deployment
Christopher Brauchli
Trump and the Swedish Question
Chia-Chia Wang
Local Police Shouldn’t Collaborate With ICE
Paul Lyons
YouTube’s Content ID – A Case Study
Jill Richardson
Soon You Won’t be Able to Use Food Stamps at Farmers’ Markets, But That’s Not the Half of It
Kevin MacKay
Climate Change is Proving Worse Than We Imagined, So Why Aren’t We Confronting its Root Cause?
Thomas Knapp
Elections: More than Half of Americans Believe Fairy Tales are Real
Ralph Nader
Warner Slack—Doctor for the People Forever
Lee Ballinger
Soccer, Baseball and Immigration
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail