Image of Terror

Guest Post by: Caitlin Lewis, Marquette ’14, Advertising & Graphic Design

On Monday, April 15th, 2013, the Boston Marathon was shook with two bombs at the finish line, killing three people and wounding more than 260. In the days to follow, a police officer was left for dead and a frantic manhunt forced a major metropolis and its surrounding suburbs to shut down. The entire nation’s eyes were on Boston. Fears of another terrorist attacked consumed the minds of an already fragile nation after September 11. A bloody trail to a boat in the backyard of a Boston resident’s home finally led the FBI to the bombing suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, on the evening of Friday, April 19th. Tsarnaev currently faces charges that could lead to the death penalty.

BomberOn July 19th, Rolling Stone Magazine’s most controversial issue to date hit the stands. The cover featured a photograph taken from Tsarnaev’s Facebook page which depicts him as innocent. This consequently sparked a public outrage. The cover’s headline reads, “The Bomber: How a popular, promising student was failed by his family, fell into a radical Islam and became a monster.” Some suggest that this gives him a celebrity status and is glamorizing his actions. Others lash back and claim that it gives other unstable people incentive to do some other depraved action – to be on the cover of such a popular Rolling Stone. Chains including CVS, Walgreens, 7-Eleven and Stop & Shop were among retailers who announced that they would not carry the Rolling Stone issue in their stores. Despite this, sales of the issue still doubled the magazine’s average sales in 2012.

The magazine defended its choice to put the photo on the cover, stating that it, “…falls within the traditions of journalism and Rolling Stone’s long-standing commitment to serious and thoughtful coverage of the most important political and cultural issues of our day.” Some people also defended the magazine’s decision, saying that it draws attention to the story of a young man who seemed an unlikely terrorist.

Enraged by the Rolling Stone cover, Massachusetts State Police photographer, Sean Murphy, leaked pictures of the bloody Boston Marathon suspect against his superiors’ orders. In his eyes, there was no way he could not do it. In an interview with CNN, Murphy states, “The image of that guy in the boat was the true image of terror, not the one that was fluffed and buffed for the cover of Rolling Stone.” As consequence, Murphy was put on brief suspension and transferred to a remote overnight patrol job. He has recently retired and claims that he has no regrets for leaking the images.

It is confusing that a magazine that is known for using pop-stars, would suddenly have a terrorist on the cover. Rolling Stone’s decision to put such an innocent looking photo of the terrorist sends the wrong message. It is an insult to anyone serving in a uniform and for the matter, it is insulting to families who have lost loved ones in the line of duty. Many people call the issue a “slap in the face” to Boston. In a sense, it is. Why should a villain be so deserving of having his face on the cover of a pop culture magazine? It seems the industry will do anything to boost sales these days. However, I do not think that Murphy leaking the graphic images of Tsarnaev was necessary. He did it as a local Bostonian in rage.  The images none-the-less were welcomed by the public and Murphy was praised. The photos ignited patriotism across the nation. Murphy got his wish, almost every person is now able to see what “the true image of terror” looks like.


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