Rolling Stone relays radicalization

Journalism

This April, the city of Boston was the target of day-long series of terrorist attacks that left five people dead and hundreds injured. In a move that was bound to spark controversy, Rolling Stone magazine put one of the alleged perpetrators of the attacks — Dzhokhar Tsarnaev — on the front cover of a recent issue.

Ultimately, Rolling Stone was right to publish this cover as the image the magazine chose gets to the heart of the issue at hand — a seemingly normal young American who ended up carrying out horrible acts of violence.

In the direct aftermath of any tragedy, our thoughts should be with the victims and their families, and anything less would not be properly empathetic.

However, this reaction should not come with a simultaneous demonization of the alleged perpetrators.

Doing so dehumanizes them and clouds our judgment when we eventually come around to dealing with the underlying problems that may have encouraged their actions. Moreover, in our society, guilt is not assumed but has to be established in a court of law.

Rolling Stone has a long history of political journalism and social commentary. Political figures and individuals noted for their criminality have been on its cover before, so this particular cover shouldn’t be too shocking.

The crux of Rolling Stone’s story on Dzhokhar was that he was a normal young adult who was slowly radicalized into someone willing to carry out acts of terrorism. The picture chosen for the cover is the perfect symbol of this reality. Perhaps this is partly what draws the ire of the cover’s detractors. Dzhokhar does not fit the terrorist stereotype — instead, he looks like the boy next door.

Victims and perpetrators should both be remembered as their experiences are important and informative. It is disquieting to think about victims and their families having to see the face of the person who allegedly caused their misfortune. That said, this cover has put an uncomfortable truth front and centre and will hopefully provoke a valuable debate about the root causes of violence.

— Journal Editorial Board

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