First of all, it’s not as if Rolling Stone brought Tsarnaev into a studio and had a photo shoot with him. That photo was taken by Tsarnaev – or someone close to him – when he was alive. This idea that he looks like a rockstar has nothing to do with Rolling Stone; Tsarnaev made himself look the way he is. He chose the clothes and he chose that blasé facial expression. The reason that the picture is so compelling and necessary to display is because he looks like any other youngster.
I suggest to you that this may be the first worthwhile magazine Rolling Stone has ever published. And I will explain why, but let’s first look at two examples of controversial images that were shown on covers of popular publications. I only provide two examples here because my generation is too lazy and impatient to read more than 600 to 1000 words at a time. So let’s get this over with quickly, seeing as I only have a few minutes to engage the millennial reader before they get distracted by an email or a text message linking to a cute video of a puppy.
If not today, then definitely at one point in time these covers were likely sitting on your, your parents’, or your grandparents’ bookshelves:
1) Any Biography of Hitler or Recount of the Nazi Regime. What we see on the cover is a Nazi symbol. Jews and those effected by World War II find that symbol to be very offensive. But many of those same people keep this classic on their bookshelf… Why? Because they understand the importance of history – the importance of how their elders struggled to survive – how people can overcome the ultimate of odds and still thrive. To many Jews, the Nazi symbol does not reveal the weakening of the Jewish race. In fact, it tells us the exact opposite; it’s a reminder of the Jewish strength. We evaded and overcame that symbol of hate. If someone sprayed graffiti of a Nazi symbol on the front of a Jewish restaurant, that’s another story – that’s a hate crime. But if that symbol is on the front of a history book about the Nazi regime, that’s not only acceptable, it’s necessary. We must remember our history, the symbols that came along with us, and those that were left behind.
2) Time Magazine’s Bin Laden Cover on October 1, 2001. Less than a month after the World Trade Center attacks, the despicable and unkempt face of Bin Laden was posted on Time Magazine’s cover. A two-front war started because of this man; the first war was in Afghanistan, and the second in Iraq because of Saddam Hussein’s “ties to Al Qaeda”–but we won’t get into that fallacy, even though it was necessary to take Hussein’s reign away. For Americans, Bin Laden’s face was a symbol of hate and, mind you, he was a more powerful form of evil than a Tsarnaev. But no eyes were rolled nor shoulders turned at Time Magazine for displaying this cover.
Clearly if I’m trying to show a parallel among the aforementioned covers and that of the controversial Rolling Stone cover, then I have to acknowledge the argument that the latter is a pop-culture/music magazine and perhaps has no place depicting a terrorist on its cover.
It’s true. At first glance it seems out of place for an in-vogue, rock-band magazine to display anything but a celebrity on its magazine. But think about the people who buy this magazine; take a look at its audience: For the most part, the readers are high schoolers, college kids, and people in their 20s. These people are known as the millennial generation. A generation that desperately needs to read these types of articles.
The Baby Boomers and X Generation view millennials as emotional, irrational, uneducated, spoiled, tech-savvy brats…At least that’s what my parents called me growing up. The Millennial generation barely reads, and primarily concerns itself with gadgets, widgets and quick fixes. If we need an answer, we Google it. If we want to learn about a topic, we watch a summed-up, two-minute video and then act like experts on the matter. And, worst of all, we tend to judge before taking the time to think.
The Millennial generation does not buy Time Magazine or watch The History Channel. They play video games all day and spend very little time outdoors compared to their elders. They read 140 characters worth of Twitter statuses for the day, instead of 140 pages of a Hemingway book. Our race is getting stupider by the day, our attention deficit disorder has skyrocketed, and the immediate, volcanic reactions that we have to current news on social media is a testament to our faltering discipline and intelligence. There are too many opinions and not enough fact-checking. Cover or no cover, this Rolling Stone magazine hasn’t even been released and it’s already being criticized; that’s idiocy.
Think with me now. The Rolling Stone magazine that features Tsarnaev will be a great teaching tool for the Millennials. This generations needs to learn about the new enemy among us. Today, it’s not only the Hitlers of the world we need to worry about. The person we have to watch out for may be that quiet, unassuming kid you played basketball with. The Rolling Stone article is meant to be a doorway into answering the question of what possesses an athletic and seemingly normal person to suddenly crack and cause so much destruction?
Why should we care if it’s a rock magazine choosing to offer this insight? I’m just happy someone wrote it. When the Afghanistan war began in 2001, there were sports stations in the United States reporting it. And when we first bombed Baghdad in 2003, I first saw the news on ESPN. I never heard anybody say, “Hey, You’re ESPN. You’re not allowed to report that! That’s CNN’s job!!!” Regardless of its platform – political, sports, or pop culture – the media’s job is to provide knowledge to people from the avenues they choose to receive it from. When historic events occur in this country, everyone has the right to offer an educated opinion.
I am by no means considered a carpenter, but my wife was proud of me when I put together the bookshelf from Ikea. As I was building it she didn’t say to me, “Hey! You’re a writer, not a carpenter. You can’t build that!…”
I don’t care that Rolling Stone is a rock magazine. It makes no difference. This Tsarnaev article is not some bullshit blog that took 45 minutes to write, like the one you’re reading now. They did profound research for the article, and I’m very proud of them for teaching their young readers the realities of today’s evil.
My fellow Bostonians and social-media psychopaths are failing to see the broader picture. If my father and mother – whose parents were kicked around by Nazis – had not read history books and watched TV programs about Hitler, then how could they understand and grow from their history? How could they know the difference between evil and good? Or a dictator from a great leader? How is my child supposed to know the face of a terrible human, such as Tsarnaev, if we hide it from publication?
Recognizing Hitler and Tsarnaev’s faces is essential to understanding what evil and ugly looks like; sometimes it’s in the form of a terrible mustache and greased hair – other times it’s just your everyday kid.
We are naive to judge the Rolling Stone magazine by its cover. Its purpose is to teach the youth of a problem. A problem that may face us for years to come: American terrorism – be it a bombing, a school shooting or God knows what.
To those of you who are still offended by the Rolling Stone cover, just rip it off and learn from the article. The day this ADHD-infested generation decides to read before judging and to think before speaking will be the start of a historic psychological revolution.