Infamy at one time was loathsome to acquire.
Ludwig Tieck the Romantic Period German poet wrote: “He is not dead who departs from life with high and noble fame; but he is dead, even while living, whose brow is branded with infamy.”
Even so, we should be reminded of 18th century William Hazlitt’s words: “There is a heroism in crime as well as in virtue. Vice and infamy have their altars and their religion.”
The perpetuation of those alters for the sake of ill gained revenue is as dangerous as any act of terrorism. The Rolling Stone’s (marketing) choice of placing the image of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on its cover has unleashed a firestorm of commentary and some truly ugly vitriol and justifiable sadness. EVERY time terrible violence is committed and the media (any outlet) ‘covers’ it ad nauseum we give credibility to the action of violence, to destruction, to pain and suffering. If we want to live in a world devoid of such then we MUST err toward compassion, decency, love, and beauty. We need to fix the issues ON A GLOBAL BASIS which perpetuate mistrust, dissatisfaction, isolation, intolerance, hatred. Admittedly political agendas (and profit margins) do nothing to promote harmony but it would be lovely if all that we celebrate on a personal level manifest as something larger – a rightful claim for our world to be free of ‘bullies’ regardless of their monikers and geographic location. My girlfriend Mia, who recently moved to Boston, posted the following on her Facebook page this morning:
“Those who escape monsters must be careful not to become one.”
After Mia’s comment I sought out the original story, without purchasing the magazine so as not to endorse the Rolling Stone’s use of such a flattering image of ‘Jahar’. My truth, after its reading; we still only know symptoms, that some of the Cambridge based friends included in the piece acted with remarkable naiveté in attempting to destroy evidence and now have their lives turned upside down as a result, and finally, shattered dreams bare heavy burdens and distort reality. I would offer that most of us have endured our own share of disappointment, anxiety and betrayal. Yet the coping mechanisms of reflection, physical exertion, and prayer or meditation which we take for granted are not warped under the influence of a more dominant (physically and emotionally) force such as Jahar’s brother whose own fractured life seems to have set this horrible scenario moving in the first place. Tajmerlán’s distorted view of his faith and disenfranchisement came on the heels of his parents’ failure to achieve the stability which America once so freely offered it immigrant citizens. Certainly the story has journalistic merit but a different image (even from another article in the same issue) would have removed the aggrandizement of the act of terrorism. Alas, that would have been in violation of every marketing principle ever written; it is the conflict of ethics and revenue which fosters my (momentary) return to my freshman journalism class at the State University College of New York at Buffalo.
We have, at once, come so far from the manual (yes, not even electric!) typewriter which our professor insisted we use and lost so much since 1979. It is not that humanity has not always committed heinous crimes – we have. We have always been equal parts good and evil (yīnyáng, darkness and light) yet it seems to me that in our interest of presenting the full story we run the risk of inadvertently idealizing that which is abhorrent to our goodness – more domestic examples of terrorism such as Charles Manson, Adam Lanza, Timothy McVeigh, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris come to mind (as does 22 States having Stand Your Ground laws which allow other terrors to be realized). But it is the way these stories are told, the sheer volume of information and disinformation, lines blurred by the decisions of editors and publishers which impact what we see, how we might come to think and how we will act. Somehow in giving these (almost always) men their names and faces in our various media outlets continuous ‘play’ we perpetuate their crimes for others surely will continue emulate their actions. It is in a world dominated by but a handful of media conglomerates where the basic ethical principles of journalism find filter and Photoshop to ensure profit where we face our greatest enemy.