I think, as usual, Americans are over-sensitive, and over-reacting to the media. I’ve been watching a lot of West Wing lately, and have determined that media, no matter how profit-driven or egotistical, is one of the greatest things about America. The media is allowed, and encouraged, to uncover, expose, tear apart and report on anything they’d like. If the media gets a hold of a scandal, they’ll do the right thing – write about it. This is the reason I wanted to go into journalism in high school. (Ultimately, I was talked out of it by a guidance counselor who said there’s not much money, a lot of hours, and a lot of grinding to maybe never get where you want to be.)
That said, I have absolutely no problem with Rolling Stone putting Dzhokar Tsarnaev on their cover. And writing about him. Who he was, what parts he hid, when he started to change (if he did), and what family and friends knew and/or ignored. Ultimately, I find this stuff fascinating. As much as I get angry with people in general (mostly for being lazy, stupid and incapable), I have never desired to blow anyone up. So it intrigues me what pushes someone to do such a thing. And during the stages of planning and carrying out, how do they act? Are there signs? Are there things we can learn? And above all, I find it fascinating that it’s generally young men. Are there take aways for parents of young boys? Are there things to be aware of? The hard part is, these changes seem to happen just as these boys are moving into college, and away from home. For awhile I thought maybe it was the freedom that allowed them to do these things. But the more I read, it sounds like it’s not necessarily the freedom. But maybe an age range where mental disorders are triggered, despite the social circumstance. For example, what about the person who never left home? I believe the kid who shot that congresswoman, didn’t he live at home? And in this case, Tsarnev had been on his own far longer than most young people, so why did he suddenly turn a corner during his college years?
There is so much to learn about the human brain. Rather than being scared of it, embrace it, approach it, understand it, be sensitive to it, be aware of it. Mental diseases aren’t going anywhere. And, much like body shaming, the more you shame mental diseases, the more people are ashamed of them and try to hide them or hide from them.
I feel like the public has earned the right to understand. I feel like once a person commits one of these acts, they owe the state their mind. And the results that come from discussions with doctors should be public knowledge. Scientists should be able to do brain scans, pull microbiome from the gut, and observe those who commit these acts. If, ultimately, they’re found not guilty by reason of insanity, part of that discernment should be more public awareness and data on these diseases.
Does this mean it excuses Tsarnev or Loughner or Holmes. But I can’t help trying to read everything I can to understand more. It is so strange to me that others are so blind with outrage that they don’t want to understand. Anger isn’t going to stop this from happening. Only knowledge, understanding and prevention will. And even in that case, there will never be a world free of seemingly meaningless violence.
Beyond that, I think it’s important for people in general to realize the way someone looks doesn’t depict who they are. I follow local murder, rape, domestic violence court cases when I can. And I’m always appalled that people look at someone and say, “No way he did that. He looks so nice. He’s so good looking!” We need to help each other see that a person isn’t defined by what they look like. This reaches far beyond violence (into things like choosing a partner, hiring people, determining ability, etc.). But for the moment, focusing just on violent crimes, I think it’s important to address. You look at Tsarnev, and he’s good looking up until he becomes violent. Hell, even now people probably think he is. Same thing for Scott Peterson, Ted Bundy, and Charles Manson. Sometimes putting a face with a crime is important. People need to find a way to close the disconnect with stereotypes (which are simply shortcuts the brain takes). Our stereotype says good looking people are nice, more capable, more motivated, more trustworthy. This isn’t the case. And for that reason, I don’t have a problem with Rolling Stone, or any other media outlet, putting a face with these offenders. Especially when society in general looks at them and says, “Look at him. No way he did that. The government must be behind this.”
Edited 7/19: I didn’t realize the whole article was posted online. I assumed RS would keep the article to only those who bought the magazine. Hell yes! Anyway, read the article here, then form an opinion. Don’t base your reaction on a picture alone. Use your brain to decide whether you think the magazine is glamorizing mass-murder or terrorism.