Put me down in favor of the current Rolling Stone cover, featuring the surviving Marathon bomber, Dzohkhar “Jahar” Tsarnaev, looking like the second coming of Jim Morrison or, better, Che Guevara — an icon no doubt heading for a tee-shirt near you. Moralists on the right tend to get a wedgie whenever something like this happens, so it might be well to keep a few things in mind:
First, it’s just a magazine cover, and a superannuated magazine at that, one whose reason for existence effectively ceased when the Beatles broke up. In a tough market for print, the cover image of a dreamy if murderous Chechen who never should have been admitted to this country is designed to appeal to teens who have no idea who Tsarnaev is, and to the inevitable women (very probably cat owners) who get all weak in the knees at the sight of a mass murderer. It’s only rock and roll, and two weeks from now it will be replaced by something else. Sic transit malum mundi.
Second, it’s true (as the late Andrew Breitbart used to say) that politics lies downwind of pop culture — but whose fault is that? The Right abdicated mainstream journalism, publishing, and Hollywood en masse years ago, preferring to send its children to college to major in something practical, like vulture capitalism. But the joke’s been on us ever since. As some idiot wrote in Rules for Radical Conservatives:
. . . think of us as the voice that used to introduce the old TV show, The Outer Limits. You remember, you old folks, the one that intoned: “here is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. We can roll the image, make it flutter. We can change the focus to a soft blur or sharpen it to crystal clarity. For the next hour, sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear. We repeat: there is nothing wrong with your television set.”
Well, that’s our theory about the culture. When the Great Alinsky pointed the way to power back in the 1960s, we quickly learned the Will to Power as well. We knew that in order to seize America and make her a better, kinder, fairer country, we would have to be ruthless. So we infiltrated your institutions — the law, the universities, Hollywood, the press – and turned them all against you.
Third, rather than getting all Pecksniffian about the cover, conservatives should instead embrace it for showing what it in fact does: that evil doesn’t always arrive red in tooth and claw, but sometimes with adorable curly hair and a cherubic visage, the boy on the Grecian urn next door. Recall how the good souls of Cambridge were shocked at the identities of the killers, refusing to believe that such nice lads could be capable of such a thing: Why, they even wore their baseball caps backwards, just like real Americans:
Eric Machado, a high school classmate of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s, said he recognized his old friend immediately in the surveillance images.
“The hat was signature; it was turned backwards on his head,” Machado said. “No one wants to believe their classmate from high school is, quote unquote, a terrorist.”
But a quote unquote terrorist he indeed turned out to be, like so many of his Chechen compatriots who have bedeviled the Russians with an appalling series of atrocities over the past few decades, including the Moscow theater attack and the Beslan school massacre; among their other charming folk customs, they have zero compunction about torturing and killing children. In response, the Russians have adopted a policy of bespredel (which means “no limits”), scored-earth, anything-goes total warfare:
When [Boris] came home from Chechnya, he resigned from his unit. He says he’s happy to be in a regular job. And he’s trying to forget the war. But there are some things he can’t forget.
“I remember a Chechen female sniper. She didn’t have any chance of making it to the authorities. We just tore her apart with two armored personnel carriers, having tied her ankles with steel cables. There was a lot of blood, but the boys needed it. After this, a lot of the boys calmed down. Justice was done, and that was the most important thing for them.
“We would also throw fighters off the helicopters before landing. The trick was to pick the right altitude. We didn’t want them to die right away. We wanted them to suffer before they died. Maybe it’s cruel, but in a war, that’s almost the only way to dull the fear and sorrow of losing your friends.”
The same article quotes another Russian soldier:
“Without bespredel, we’ll get nowhere in Chechnya,” a 21-year-old conscript explained. “We have to be cruel to them. Otherwise, we’ll achieve nothing.”
In other words, it’s a duel to the death; blowback comes from every direction these days. But forcing readers to face the apparent conundrum (apparent only in the bluer states; the red states take a more rational, experience-based attitude toward good and evil) is a good thing. Indeed, read the piece by Janet Reitman, which is a first-rate example of magazine journalism. (Aside from the typically American error of calling the Tsarnaev brothers “Russian emigrés,” that is; ask any ethnic Russian whether he thinks Chechens are Russians.) Having had the dubious virtue of “tolerance” beaten into them at an early age, and utterly innocent of any historical knowledge or even curiosity, the sheep along the banks of the Charles were helpless to recognize the young wolves from the Caucasus in their midst:
Cambridge kids, the group agrees, have a fairly nonchalant attitude about things that might make other people a little uptight. A few years ago, for instance, one of their mutual friends decided to convert to Islam, which some, like Cara, thought was really cool, and others, like Jackson, met with a shrug. “But that’s the kind of high school we went to,” Jackson says. “It’s the type of thing where someone could say, ‘I converted to Islam,’ and you’re like, ‘OK, cool.’” And in fact, a number of kids they knew did convert, he adds. “It was kind of like a thing for a while.”
That “kind of like a thing for a while” eventually took lives and blew off limbs, in the name of an ancient feud. “When you attack one Muslim, you attack all Muslims,” Jahar wrote on the inside of the boat before his capture, even though no one had attacked him. But Boston and Cambridge, fetishizing “diversity” at the expense of empiricism, made a handy battlefield just the same.
Back in the 1960s, the Bill Ayers Left vowed to “bring the war home.” Half a century later, in a way they never could have expected, they did. And now, thanks to another avatar from the Sixties, that war has a face.