May 19, 2015

by Christopher Fulkerson
CF's Composition Desk

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the remaining perpetrator of the Boston Marathon bombing, has been sentenced to death.

Four people died and 17 people "lost at least one leg" in that crime.   The very expression makes me shudder.    Even the report is messed up.   I didn’t fail to notice that the reportage read “three people died, and one police officer, to a total of four people.”   Goddamn!

While the crime compares with many in places like Israel it is important to remember that the Boston Marathon was not only not in a place in any way disputed, any real or plausible or de facto war zone, it was a quite civil, festive occasion.   And it was devoid of significance to the concerns of the perpetrators – there was no way the victims could have guessed their event would have been significant to persons with concerns such as those of the Tsarnaev brothers.   None of the victims could have reasonably predicted that they ought not to go to the marathon, since it might be an offense to Muslim radicals.    To have believed their lives were in danger they would have been believed to have been suffering from delirium.

The DOJ announcement that it was not a religious crime is understandable.   But that particular announcement would perhaps not have seemed necessary if Rolling Stone magazine had not put the perp’s face on its cover.  

Granted, the DOJ is thinking about the aspect of the perp’s being Muslim.   For the DOJ the attempt by Rolling Stone to popularize the perpetrator by putting his face prominently on one of its very many issues was only a PR problem, a part of the history of the case.   It was, I suppose populists might say, not the most important issue of Rolling Stone.   It seems not to have been a problem for the jury, who reached a decision after a plausible eleven hours, but for many juries, there would have been little chance they could reach an objective decision if the individual in question had been allowed to make an appeal of such magnitude, overarching all political process.   

In its announcement, the DOJ is obviously, and reasonably, anticipating the reaction of radical Muslims who might be in sympathy with Mr. Tsarnaev.   But there was another complication in the process that is comparable to religion – the religion of popularity.   Populism is itself often simply a synthetic religion.   And that’s how it feels to its admirers.   Being “On the Cover of the Rolling Stone” is itself iconic as a proof of popularity.    It is a veritable guarantee that an individual will be accepted.

Rolling Stone is a major forum for the manufacturing of “guitar gods” and other icons created out of nothing more than marketing and advertising for the advancement of popularity, for the lucre of all involved, without regard to the standards, including the reasonable assumptions, of a society naturally regulated by law and by plausible and wholesome social contract.   Popular music of the sort Rolling Stone supports has always functioned as a major medium of direct criminal activity, and sustained negative social posturing that maintains a culture of criminality in everyday life, from drugs and hoary thinking, to “civil disobedience of the senseless kind” and bad grammar, to plain coarse public behavior – we all experience this every day, with the bad public behavior we witness and even suffer that its perps use their popular music to gain support for – and make one of its offensive weapons.   The culture that Rolling Stone supports is one of the foundations of the present piracy we are facing everywhere nowadays, and I witness in the transit industry, whose pirates are modeled on Napster and similar companies - the CEO of Uber was CEO of a music piracy company during the Napster era - again, criminality in which popular music is the medium, even the market.

Weaning ourselves of these deleterious art forms is one of the greatest challenges of our entire civilization.   Children don’t know better, adults have to intervene.   I am on record as not considering Rolling Stone magazine a wholesome contributor to our society.    For its editors to participate as they did complicated the judicial process unconscionably.   It was one more evidence that in our country, popularity and money outweigh political process and justice.   In this case, it looks as though justice is being served.    But now there’s an appeals process, right?

Is that going to be real justice, or is it going to be Rolling Stone justice?   One of the worst perps in American history was made by definition famous and popular, while even his lawyers did not dispute he was guilty of killing people.

But not even the assessment of the problem is over yet.   Here’s another aspect of the case, that means its effect is still at large, even if its perpetrator seems not to be: the Boston Marathon is now having to advertise nationally to get people to come to it.    Wholesome, public exercise, not even oriented overmuch toward competition, but just to finishing, has been hit by deployed weapons.   Wholesomeness is less popular than it once was.    What greater proof could there be of the unwholesomeness of Rolling Stone, and the whole media machine and culture it promotes?    Popular music is now a demonstrable weapon against actual, personal, physical exercise.    The editors of the most popular of popular music magazines have come out in support of fully deployed weapons against civilians – who were doing nothing more political or religious than exercising.  Must we choose between music and health?

Had Rolling Stone kept its opinions out, it would not be possible to point out the direct deleterious effect of its shoddy culture on everybody.

Yes, yes, there are many rock-n-rollers whose individual lives do not reflect the worst of the populist thrill and all the bad habits that have become pastimes and claimed not a few lives.   Some of them are no doubt health buffs and offer good example within their purview.   But it cannot be denied that popular music approaches mobsterism.

I believe that there should be very strong laws in place to disallow clear instances of populist appeals such as the one Rolling Stone made on behalf of Mr. Tsarnaev.    It is obvious that juries, especially the amateur juries we are so (mistakenly) proud of, are very easily influenced by the media around them.   I believe that once a person has been indicted, there should be a moratorium on certain legal rights and certain kinds of public appeal, as being incompatible with legal process and judicial appeal.


Interested persons may wish to read:

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Given Death Penalty in Boston Marathon Bombing

By Katharine Q. Seelye  New York Times May 15, 2015

First posted here 5/20/2015.