So, something that isn’t exactly in the headlines now, but was a big issue and sold like hotcakes is the issue of Rolling Stone magazine which had the Boston bomber, Dzhokar Tsarnaev, on the cover. And wouldn’t you know it, it sold like crazy. Everyone wanted to know who, as the cover put it, “a Popular, Promising Student Was Failed by His Family, Fell Into Radical Islam and Became a Monster” was. Everyone wanted every little detail about this man’s life. And sure enough, the magazine goes into great detail about this man. They go through all of his dirty laundry, bring it out into the open for all of us to see. After all, this is important news, right? Right?
There was a great quote by Marilyn Manson from an essay he wrote called “Whose Fault Is It?” that puts all of this into perspective –
The name Marilyn Manson has never celebrated the sad fact that America puts killers on the cover of Time magazine, giving them as much notoriety as our favorite movie stars. From Jesse James to Charles Manson, the media, since their inception, have turned criminals into folk heroes. They just created two new ones when they plastered those dipshits Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris’ pictures on the front of every newspaper. Don’t be surprised if every kid who gets pushed around has two new idols.
Brilliantly put. This is something that our culture has been doing since the dawn of time. When Timothy McVeigh bombed Oklahoma City, he got his picture on Time magazine as well. When the Newtown shooter killed over a dozen people, British tabloids went to town dredging up his personal life, with the nice twist of showing how video games made him into a mad killer. Naturally. The Aurora, Colorado shooter, the Tuscan, Arizona shooter, Anders Behring Breivik, there is a laundry-list of murderers who have been given celebrity status as a result of their crimes. It isn’t the victims being mourned on the cover of Rolling Stone. It isn’t the people who ran in, dead-tired from the marathon, to try and help whoever they could. No, it’s one of the bombers who mutilated dozens and killed three.
And wouldn’t you know it, but this man already had a following. On Twitter, dozens of women who would all make a textbook case for Sigmund Freud have started a movement called “Free Jahar.” They aren’t smart enough to spell out his full name, so they made it a little easier. Already, not even a year before he is dead, this man has a legion of women who think that he was set up, that the whole bombing was a hoax, or worst of all – don’t care if he is guilty or not. They want his evil dick inside of them. That’s it. When Klebold and Harris were turned into celebrities, they too had a legion of girls who wanted their evil dicks inside of them as well. Charles Manson married one of his groupies while in jail. This is just one of the results that we see from the modern media making these monsters into celebrities. By making everyone talk about them all the time, and the news constantly covering their action in inexcusable detail following an event, this is a problem that my career path as made worse.
There is another great quote from the late Roger Ebert, from his review of the film “Elephant.” I think it bears mentioning as well –
Let me tell you a story. The day after Columbine, I was interviewed for the Tom Brokaw news program. The reporter had been assigned a theory and was seeking soundbites to support it. “Wouldn’t you say,” she asked, ‘that killings like this are influenced by violent movies?” No, I said, I wouldn’t say that. “But what about ‘The Basketball Diaries’?” she asked. “Doesn’t that have a scene of a boy walking into a school with a machinegun?”
The obscure 1995 Leonardo DiCaprio movie did indeed have a brief fantasy scene of that nature, I said, but the movie failed at the box office and it’s unlikely the Columbine killers saw it.
The reporter looked disappointed, so I offered her my theory. “Events like this,” I said, “if they are influenced by anything, are influenced by news programs like your own. When an unbalanced kid walks into a school and starts shooting, it becomes a major media event. Cable news drops ordinary programming and goes around the clock with it. The story is assigned a logo and a theme song; these two kids were packaged as the Trench Coat Mafia. The message is clear to other disturbed kids: If I shoot up my school, I can be famous. The TV will talk about nothing else but me. Experts will try to figure out what I was thinking. Kids and teachers at school will see they shouldn’t have messed with me. I’ll go out in a blaze of glory.”
In short, I said, events like Columbine are influenced far less by violent movies than by CNN, “The NBC Nightly News” and other news media, who glorify the killers in the guise of “explaining” them.
The reporter thanked me and turned off the camera. Of course the interview was never used. They found plenty of talking heads to condemn violent movies, and everybody was happy.
A lot of people will probably defend Rolling Stone by saying something to the effect of they are “explaining who they are.” The idea being that, by osmosis, we are all going to suddenly be able to spot a potential bomber or serial killer by reading these articles.
The truth, however, is that that isn’t what is being done. What is happening here is that we have murderers become celebrities and people who are emotionally disturbed and looking for people who will listen to them will see this and understand that if they want to do this kind of horrible thing, they will soon have an audience. This is the kind of person that we are fueling. The Columbine shooters were looking for help. They wanted someone to listen. When nobody would, they took an avenue that they knew would get them the attention they wanted. And wouldn’t you know it, they were right. They got all the attention that the 24-hour news cycle could give them.
When are we, as a culture, going to realize how sick and corrosive our need to know everything about killers is? When are we going to grow up enough to admit that this is wrong and we need to change? When are we going to stop exploiting suffering to turn a quick buck? When are we going to actually take some responsibility, instead of passing useless gun legislation or getting the NSA to spy on us so we can feel safe while not looking at the problem?
When will humanity grow the fuck up?
Until next time, a quote,
“If you could say anything to the people of Columbine right now, what would you say?” -Michael Moore
“I wouldn’t say a single word to them. I would listen to what they had to say, and that’s what no one did.” -Marilyn Manson, Bowling for Columbine