Since I wrote this up over at First Draft I thought I'd throw my two cents in on my own blog:
There's been a lot of online discussion of the faux controversy about the Rolling Stone magazine cover of the Boston Bomber. Athenae, over at First Draft, takes an interesting journalistic view of it which is that if it is unsettling, that's a good thing. After all, journalists are here to show you the world as it is, even if that is discomfiting. True enough--but is the photo discomfiting? If so, for whom? Under what circumstances? I am doubtful that it is. Here are my thoughts on the subject.
I have mixed feelings about the photo and the controversy. I think the controversy, like all right wing hissyfits, is absurd and ginned up. That being said I don't think the photo as displayed on the cover is at all an invitation to a discussion or "meant to make us feel uncomfortable" or consider anything--from terrorism to public high schools--in a new light. Its soporific and sexy, anodyne and unsurprising. A basically glamor magazine with the odd bit of reportage chose to put on the cover a sexy picture--like they always do--because sex sells and putting something ugly on the cover doesn't sell. They specifically avoided juxtaposing pictures of carnage with Tsarnaev because cluttered and visually ugly or complex pictures are not in their stylebook and might turn some readers away. To me its like putting a rape victim on the cover *only if she's beautiful.* That's not an invitation to "discuss" something that makes us uncomfortable. That is merely acceding to the US public's demand that everything be fed to us, *even or especially difficult political or social issues* in a sexy, easy to digest way. To me the photo and the text bracket the event in a completely uninteresting and unthoughtful way. Like putting a tray of marshmellows down in front of a children's "scary" ride to induce the children to climb on and knowing full well that the ride itself, though slightly uncomfortable, will return the children to the same place they started from.