About that Rolling Stone cover

Here is Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi on the cover controversy:

I can understand why this might upset some people. But the jarringly non-threatening image of Tsarnaev is exactly the point of the whole story. If any of those who are up in arms about this cover had read Janet’s piece, they would see that the lesson of this story is that there are no warning signs for terrorism, that even nice, polite, sweet-looking young kids can end up packing pressure-cookers full of shrapnel and tossing them into crowds of strangers.

Thus the cover picture is not intended to glamorize Tsarnaev. Just the opposite, I believe it’s supposed to frighten. It’s Tsarnaev’s very normalcy and niceness that is the most monstrous and terrifying thing about him. The story Janet wrote about the modern terrorist is that you can’t see him coming. He’s not walking down the street with a scary beard and a red X through his face. He looks just like any other kid.

I’m posting this for a couple of reasons. First, I think he’s absolutely right.

Second, for Matt Taibbi to weigh on this issue brings an eerie synchronicity to something I was arguing just a few hours ago over on Mark Zuckerberg’s data mining site.

To wit: I was arguing that some (emphasis: some) of the outrage — specifically the outrage coming from the right — about the cover stems not from the cover itself but from built-up hostility toward Rolling Stone resulting from Matt Taibbi’s relentless, thorn-in-the-side financial reporting over the last 3 or 4 years. Speaking of which, have you read Taibbi’s article on the credit rating agencies? Well take an antacid and click on over, because it’s a doozy.

Bear with me here. What I’m suggesting is that the Right Wing Wurlitzer has been waiting for an opportunity to delegitimize Rolling Stone for years now. They would have preferred if Taibbi himself could be taken down (possibly Hastings style), but for now they’ll settle for this, because now when the next Taibbi bombshell appears, he can be dismissed with a casual, “Oh right, him. He writes for that liberal rag that glorifies terrorists.”

Back to Matt Taibbi:

One could even go so far as to say that in recent years, when investigative journalism has been so dramatically de-emphasized at the major newspapers and at the big television news networks, Rolling Stone’s role as a source of hard-news reporting has been magnified. In other words, we’re more than ever a hard news outlet in a business where long-form reporting is becoming more scarce.


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One Response to About that Rolling Stone cover

  1. pt dismal says:

    sounds right to me, too. i read a piece on the bombers in the new york review of books a while back, and it pretty much made the same point. however, the nyrb has only recently entered the world of color photos and graphics, so no “sensational” pix that glorify the bombers.

    as sideshow bob himself once said, the caricatures of susan sontag and gore vidal are quite amusing, though.


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