July 19, 2013

Bill Nemitz: No rock star status for a monster

By Bill Nemitz bnemitz@pressherald.com

CVS did it. So did Walgreens, Kmart, 7-Eleven, Tedeschi Food Shops and a fast-growing list of other giant retailers that took one look at Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the cover of this week's Rolling Stone and vowed it would get nowhere near their display shelves because ... why?

"You know what amazes me?" asked Chris Bowe, co-owner of Longfellow Books in downtown Portland, as he stood by his magazine rack Thursday morning. A rack that the day before had a dozen issues of the latest Rolling Stone, but by then was down to just four.

"What amazes me, in this world of catastrophic climate change and nuclear weapons, is that an image and words can strike such fear in people," Bowe continued. "And it's born out of a certain type of ignorance that can be very, very dangerous."

Like many people, Bowe first heard about this tempest du jour Wednesday morning on an AM talk radio program. As the airwaves crackled with knee-jerk reactions to 19-year-old Tsarnaev's angelic image on the Rolling Stone cover, Bowe admits, his first impulse was to deep-six the red-hot issue as soon as it came off the delivery truck.

"The way talk radio made it sound, it seemed like they'd dressed him up like Jim Morrison (the late, legendary lead singer for The Doors) and they were glorifying him," Bowe said. "Then when I came in, I was able to look at the cover and look at the bomber on the front and how it talks about (Tsarnaev) being turned into a 'monster.' Then I read the article ..."

Ah yes, the article. An in-depth, 11,000-word profile of a kid-turned-alleged mass killer that should be required reading for anyone who looks back on the carnage at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15 and wonders, "How could something like this happen?"

Take, for example, the point in the story where Tsarnaev hints to a high school friend that the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, were, in his misguided opinion, justified. Notes Rolling Stone writer Janet Reitman, it's what criminal profilers commonly call "leakage."

"On cases where I've interviewed these types of people, the key is looking past their exterior and getting access to that interior, which is very hard," explained Tom Neer, a former agent with the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit who's now a senior associate with the counterterrorism consulting firm The Soufan Group, in an interview with Reitman. "Most people have a public persona as well as a private persona, but for many people, there's a secret side, too. And the secret side is something that they labor hard to protect."

Fascinating stuff. Not to mention useful in a world where a seemingly harmless kid can suddenly turn into, as Rolling Stone says right there on its cover, "a monster."

Bowe, like most who actually have taken the time to read the Rolling Stone article, found it "really interesting and important." At the same time, having grown up in Boston, he fully understands how raw the wound remains on the city's psyche from an attack that occurred only 95 days ago.

"What (Tsarnaev and his now-deceased older brother, Tamerlan) did was absolutely horrible," Bowe said. "But I think, as a country and as citizens, we need to try to figure out why this happened so we can prevent it in the future."

In other words, this is not about, as Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show so famously crooned way back in 1973, "the thrill that'll getcha when you get your picture on the cover of the Rollin' Stone."

(Continued on page 2)

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors

Further Discussion

Here at PressHerald.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)