Saturday, July 20, 2013

What a Picture is Worth

This would not have happened a decade ago.

When the editors at Rolling Stone magazine decided to put a photo of Boston bomber suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in a Bob Dylan-style pose on its cover they knew the shrapnel of criticism that would come their way and they didn’t blink.

As Boston area businesses including Walgreens, CVS, Roche Bros., and Cumberland Farms pulled the magazine from its shelves, Rolling Stone maintains that it covers “falls within the traditions of journalism.”

In a note appearing on the online version of Janet Reitman's cover story, titled "Jahar's World," the editors also expressed sympathy for the victims of the bombing, before going on to cite "Rolling Stone's long-standing commitment to serious and thoughtful coverage of the most important political and cultural issues of our day."

Readers, particularly from the Boston area, slammed the magazine on its Facebook page, charging that the cover treatment turns the accused killer into a "rock star."

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino wrote to Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner accusing the magazine of offering Tsarnaev "celebrity treatment" and calling the cover "ill-conceived, at best," in that it supports the "terrible message that destruction gains fame for killers and their 'causes.'"

Surely, the editors at Rolling Stone had to see this backlash coming. So the logical question becomes why?

Because they knew it would sell.

Rolling Stone has been in existence since the 1960’s and while it is primarily a music magazine, it also has forged a reputation for hard-hitting pieces on national affairs, politics and popular culture.

This cover story, appearing on the heels of one of the most horrific terrorist attacks ever experienced in the city of Boston screams, “You want to know this man!”

Ten years ago there would not have even been a discussion in the editorial room about putting a terrorist on the cover. But in 2013 not only was it discussed, it was approved and published.

On the surface this seems shocking but when one stops and reflects on the fact that the US homicide rate is still among the highest in the industrialized world and that 1.2 million abortions are performed annually then the reasoning behind the cover becomes clearer – we are a society of murderers.

One needs to look no further than our entertainment to see this gruesome fact on display. Our movies, TV shows and music all glorify violence and murder. We are hooked on gangster rap, intrigued by the inner workings of the mafia world and glued to cop shows that prop its villians up on a platform to be admired.

Rolling Stone understands that we are no longer horrified by the Tsarnaevs of the world, we are infatuated by them and what makes them tick as the title of the article suggests, "The Bomber: How a popular, promising student was failed by his family, fell into radical Islam and became a monster."

As Christians, this should not surprise us. Jesus told us in Matthew 24 that the days when men would love lawlessness would surely come. And here they are.

The Apostle Paul reminds us in Romans 1:28-32 that those who practice unrighteousness not only perform the acts themselves but also approve of those who practice them.

While Tsarnaev graces the cover of Rolling Stone, we need to have the gospel of grace on our lips and “always be ready” as the Apostle Peter urges us to “give a defense to everyone who asks us a reason for the hope that is in us.”

As Christians, we serve the One that promises men a future and a hope. We worship the One that gave His life as a ransom for many. And we love the One who first loved us.

I would rather read about this man then the one on the cover of Rolling Stone.

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