Thursday, July 18, 2013

This Is All I Will Say About Rolling Stone

Rolling Stone magazine put the face of the Boston Marathon bomber on its cover this month. The tension is high, the heated discourse is still underway, and of course fire burns hottest at the center so here in Boston it's a divisive issue. On one side of the divide, outrage.  On the other side, here comes the splainy-face, finger-wagging crowd that likes to pretend intellectual superiority. These are "don't be a crybaby" naysayers rushing to mock and denigrate anyone who said "Hey, maybe don't put this kid on the cover of your magazine for the sake of all that is decent." Yes, everyone understands that magazines need to sell in order to stay afloat. We all get that, and it's still the dumbest argument ever, Mr. Splainyface. Here's the thing, naysayers: being on the cover of Rolling Stone once meant you were a cultural icon on the level of Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, the Beatles. Even Al Gore, for his environmental work. It's kind of a big deal to get the cover, to lots of artists and other dreamers. 

"What does a person have to do to make the cover of Rolling Stone?"

The loudest of the naysayer arguments is "But they put Charles Manson on the cover, it's the same thing." No, the Charles Manson cover was not the same at all. First of all, that was 43 years ago. Can we stipulate to some social progress over the past fifty years?  You want to be back in 1970? I don't. In 1970 my boss would be able to call me honey, slap my ass and tell me to fetch him a sandwich. Your central argument is either total ignorance, or else you're deliberately acting obtuse. The motive in the Manson murders was to start a cultural race war. Manson instructed the girls and Tex to write in blood on the walls in such a way that the investigators would think black people did it.

Why Manson Was Different

Even without the morality shift towards today's less shitty social contract than the one that existed in the 1970s, the Manson cover was still completely different. Rolling Stone is primarily an entertainment publication. It would have been weird if Rolling Stone had not covered the story from an entertainment point of view.

For one thing, Manson was a would-be musician, and certain psychologists have written think pieces suggesting that his being passed over by the music industry set him on a collision course with "the establishment." Add to that the Beatles' "Helter Skelter," a song that Charles Manson wove into his twisted world view as a message that set him on these bloody crusades. "Helter Skelter" was extremely central to the Manson case, later becoming the title of the most famous book about the case (written by lawyer Vincent Bugliosi) and later made into a movie. Then you factor in the tragic victim-hood in actress Sharon Tate, slaughtered along with her unborn baby, the child of her famous filmmaker husband Roman Polanski. So yes, of course the Manson murders devastated the worldwide entertainment community. And finally, and perhaps most noteworthy, unlike the bomber, that Manson cover photo was not deliberately sexualized like this cover. Here, Rolling Stone didn't use a mug shot. They found an attractive, doe-eyed photo of a confused kid looking like he's just beat out Bruno Mars for the top single this week. Like he has fans, like a rock star.

Madmen as Rock Stars

History is cut with a large, crazy stripe of idolizing madness. Volumes have been written by people a thousand times smarter than me about the dangers of elevating madmen to iconic fame. Manson had fans, and does still, as do many a crazed killer from Jesse James to Machiavelli. Now, maybe Rolling Stone putting the Boston bomber on the cover was deliberate. A statement about radical nationalism, showing that just about any young person can be radicalized like this boy was; or maybe he does have fans. Either way, this is another chapter in that discourse, that's all. Let people talk about it. Let people feel their feelings about it. No amount of your uber-cool eyerolling about the relative relevance of Rolling Stone is going to contribute to the situation, so save the superiority for your blog.

At the end of the day, try to realize that being on the cover of Rolling Stone signifies that you're a rock star. And now, say the most outraged, we bow our heads and wait for the next bored, young rebel who does not even understand the cause, to plan and execute his attempt to go out in a blaze of glory. The question is still "What does a person have to do to make the cover of Rolling Stone," but the new answer is terrifying.∎

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

I Am So Sorry, Trayvon

That monster saw a black boy walking in his neighborhood, followed, taunted, confronted and shot that boy for no goddamn reason. George Zimmerman should be in jail.

My heart, my soul, my mind all ache for Trayvon, his friends, his family and everyone in America whose expectations were dashed last weekend. George Zimmerman is a predator who hunted and killed a boy just because he thought he could get away with it, and now the law has shocked us all by approving his actions. Justice died that day.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Currently Reading

Forged: Writing in the Name of God
it was amazing
tagged: currently-reading