It is an odd feeling to say I am weighing in on the Rolling Stone controversy about having Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on its cover, since I find it hard to see how it is controversial. One friend of someone who lost both legs wrote on Facebook:
“Your use of a provocative, borderline sympathetic image and headline of someone who has caused so much pain to our country is appalling, insensitive, and disgusting,”
It is interesting that it is labelled “borderline sympathetic,” because it implies that any image of a person who has committed an evil act that doesn’t depict them as a monster is patently offensive. I think what is really going on is that 1) people don’t want to be reminded of what happened and 2) if we see Tsarnaev as a normal kid who did something horrible, then we have to face our own ambivalence and see that while he did something horrible, like any human being he has positive aspects too. It is much easier to label Tsarnaev as an evil monster with no redeeming qualities. He certainly should face punishment for what he did, but that doesn’t mean we cannot see him as a complete human being.
Rolling Stone has likely helped reduce the risk of terrorism if people actually try to discover what caused this kid to become so radicalized and do something so evil. We would do well to remember Hannah Arendt’s idea about the “banality of evil. On another level, one simply wonders if people have forgotten about the idea of a free press.