When Rolling Stone ran a sexy photo of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar “Jahar” Tsarnaev on its cover, it sparked backlash and boycotts. Countless magazine vendors, including 7-Eleven shops, refused to sell a product that seemed to make terrorism look hot.
This publicity wave may ultimately boost Rolling Stone‘s bottom line. Any news is good news when it comes to marketing, right? And it’s also obscuring a more important question than whether it’s OK to run flattering photos of terrorists: What exactly constitutes terrorism?
Too often, the term terrorism is preferred when the perpetrators are Muslim.
When the Newtown and Aurora shootings turned out to be the work of local, disturbed, young men who didn’t happen to be Muslims, they weren’t deemed terrorists. But the local, disturbed, young men almost certainly responsible for Boston’s carnage were Muslim. That qualified them as you-know-whats.
The Tsarnaev brothers instantly became an example of the links between terrorism and Islam. The ensuing media blitz of the cruel attack that killed three and injured more than 260 people stoked that stereotype.
Meanwhile, what about that deadly explosion at a West, Texas, fertilizer plant? It occurred just two days after the April 15 Boston Marathon attack, and got far less news coverage. The primary suspects for the blast that killed 15, injured 200, damaged or destroyed 360 homes, and flattened a public school are corporate negligence and under-regulation.
It’s a complicated story, but West Fertilizer, which belongs to Texan magnate Donald Adair, stored vast amounts of dangerous chemicals at a plant in the heart of a small community. It broke the law by failing to disclose this hazard. When the government did notice the company’s lack of a “security plan” and other signs of negligence, it imposed minor fines. Clearly, Adair required more than a few slaps on the wrist to stop endangering workers and residents in West Texas.
And what about that factory fire in Bangladesh? The owner of Rana Plaza, the building where 1,129 garment workers perished, is in jail.
But what about the people who ran the sweatshops that were torched? What about the US companies that sell the clothing manufactured there with exploited and cheap labor? What about the customers who snap up bargains when they go shopping — just about everyone in America? Who is responsible?
We could try looking in the mirror. Or take a trip to Bentonville.
Most of the companies selling the clothes that were made in the factories that burned down have promised to do something. The US government and European Union are taking some steps. But details, follow-up, and inspection remain someone else’s department.
And whether you’re talking about the disasters that befell those garment workers in a Dhaka suburb or the people of West, Texas, one thing’s for sure: The mainstream media definitely didn’t label any of the capitalists responsible as terrorists.
A week or so ago, I was talking to someone I know about the seemingly glaring hypocrisy of going after Rolling Stone for showing the Boston bomber, yet giving most other major news organizations a free pass for “glamorizing” such things as school shootings.
I now realize, that Rolling Stone was trying to communicate that the 2 brothers in question, were to the outside onlooker, just everyday american kids. I have not read the article in Rolling Stone in its entirety yet, but as far as I can see, its just saying, this surprised people close to the brothers as much as it did the rest of us. No one seen it coming.
If I focus on the Boston bombers first, this turn of events, is not really unusual. Anytime these type of situations happen, even those closest often do not see it coming. But every time, I always wonder, if its a genuine case of surprise . . . . . . . . . . . or a case of, seeing what one wants to see?
We all in our minds, whether we know it or not, develop internal images about people (even those closest to us!), how they must live, ect. I know I do, because I often times find myself surprised, to learn other aspects about people that you would never have guessed (my smarter best friend, has used hard (and I would label, dangerous) drugs?! My good looking old friend, has problems with talking to girls?!). These are just 2 recent personal examples, but I would bet it has happened to us all at one time or another.
But back to my previous train of thought . . . .
Rolling Stone threw a nice photo of the Boston Bomber on the cover, NOT to glorify or in any way condone the act, but more so, to send the message that this was a seemingly “normal” person (I hate the word, but it fits best here). This could be your classmate, neighbor, it could be YOU.
But, like the public does best lately in the age of social media and 30 second attention spans, they react before knowing all the facts. Rather then reading and getting the WHOLE story, they pick an angle and run with it until they find something else to be “offended” by (Memes and Misinformation).
I realized recently, that such events as Sandy Hook, Columbine, Newtown ect, are really terrorist acts. We may call them “shootings”, but really, what is the difference between Newtown and Boston? If terrorism is based on the number of people killed, then im pretty sure every school (and other mass) shooting in recent and past history, fits the definition.
Now if we consider these terrorist acts, and judge the media by there saturation coverage of such acts, then are they not more responsible for “glamorizing” terrorism then Rolling Stone is?
I can name several past gun “terrorists”, just off the top of my head.
– Eric Harris
– Dylan Klebold
I can relay to you, in a fair bit of detail, there crimes. And even to a degree, there pasts. Just off the top of my head.
I will admit for full disclosure, I have researched all 3 of the above in a bit of detail for a past piece, but we all have a detail or 2 about these people tucked away somewhere.
But one thing I can not do off the top of my head, is name one victim of any of there crimes. And I don’t think it would be bold to say that only people who lived in Littleton or Newtown at the time, would be able to name at least one victim of the respective shootings. Some of you might even ask yourselves, where is Littleton? Its a Denver suburb, home to Columbine High School.
This alone, illustrates the damage caused by the saturating media coverage of these events. The victims are not the ones remembered years down the road, the assailants are. The fact that most of us even KNOW any of the above names off the top of our head, speaks volumes.
It is no wonder that Eric and Dylan have been referenced as “role models” in hundreds of published (and unpublished) later attempts at violence (including Virginia Tech). And I have no doubt that it will be no different for Lanza, in coming years.
So I again, find it interesting that the public are so angry about the Rolling Stone cover, yet are not angry at the activities of almost every other news organization, which have been doing the same thing, only on a MUCH bigger scale. Though the face did sell magazines, there was also a reason for the image placement. A message.
What was the reason for over-covering, any chosen school gun violence situation? To make a point? To inform to the best of there abilities? No, to keep you tuned in.
Ratings mean big money.
Moving on, the “Corporate Terrorism” reference of the article is interesting. It is not the first time I have heard the term coined, as Micheal Moore referenced it in his book “Downsize This!”.
Micheal’s use of the term, was to showcase the effects of companies “downsizing” in communities all over the US. The intro of the book had a photo of the bombed Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City, and a photo of a long abandoned auto factory in Detroit. Both looked pretty much in the same condition. And his question was “Whats the difference?”.
Though that question is not exactly clear cut on first glance, it is when you look at it with a little more depth.
When the places that have the vast majority of the jobs within these community’s close there doors, the local negative affects (aka fatalities) are not as immediate as a bomb blast, but they eventually play out. Suicides, domestic violence and addiction are just 3 of the consequences of “downsizing”. It is in understanding this, that you will gain clarity into his question that is “What is the difference?”.
The argument of the above article on the other hand, is more with the immediate destruction caused by corporate entities. A good example used, is the explosion in West, Texas. The affects due to the negligence in this incident, were immediate.
Both uses of the term “Corporate Terrorism” I would argue, are good and accurate.
But it is interesting, how our use of the term “terrorism”, is so seemingly restrictive. The article portrays it as a possible issue of racial and religious background of the perpetrators. Which is entirely possible, and probable.
Is it possible, that we just have not thought of expanding our use of the term?
And if we did expand our usage of the term to include such incidents as School shootings and disasters of corporate negligence, would the way we treat such events change?