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SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL: HE WAS FAILED, HE FELL, IT'S NOT HIS FAULT

The new Rolling Stone cover featuring Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as an adorable bomber of the month rock star has enraged people to the extent that some stores are pulling the magazine from their racks. The Rolling Stone story may provide some interesting reporting on Tsarnaev, but the cover blurb shows where the magazine's heart lies:

How a popular, promising student was failed by his family, fell into radical Islam, and became a monster

Editorially, RS is justifying the cover by saying, "Well, we called him a monster," but — he's a qualified monster. He's young and cute, just like — you! — and it just wasn't his fault. His family failed him and well, he just fell into jihadism. Like tripping over a curb. Could happen to anybody.

Recent Facebook outrage condemns Ann Coulter for saying, regarding the Zimmerman case, "Perhaps, someday, blacks will win the right to be treated like volitional human beings. But not yet." People are twisting this into a racist comment when it is the reverse: She is saying that every human being must be considered able to make moral choices, but the media in particular would like to disqualify certain groups as morally responsible beings, whether racial, religious, or criminal groups.

The Rolling Stone's cover blurb and photo are of a piece with the Tsarnaev groupies who think he's innocent, because he's so cute. They've probably created more groupies with this cover. The magazine has the added standard-issue leftist motivation of thinking the United States is guilty, even as embodied in the persons of those who were killed and maimed by the Tsarnaevs. This attitude is so ingrained in the media today that we don't notice it.

Compare, for instance, the recently televised 1956 version of the movie Ransom with Glenn Ford to the 1996 remake with Mel Gibson (which you can watch on YouTube, at least for now). One of the inevitable alterations, besides increased violence, was that not only was Gibson's character a rich businessman, he was suspected of shady dealings, unlike in the earlier movie. In the earlier movie, Ford's character was seen as a coldly calculating businessman, but that was only because he learned from the police that paying the ransom would not change the statistical probability of getting his son back alive. Forty years later, while we wouldn't want to lose sympathy for the kidnapped child, we can't be allowed to see a rich man as an unqualified good guy. Who is, you might ask. But in stories of crime, the crime is usually the dividing and defining point.

Nevertheless we must have sympathy for perceived underdogs, and the Tsarnaevs must be underdogs because they are criminals, ergo they were forced to become criminals by our corrupt society. This is the subliminal Rolling Stone equation. Rich people deserve what they get. So not all Americans are rich, but they can take time off for a marathon, right? So Americans deserve what they get, maybe even the little kid watching the marathon. Criminals can't help it and perhaps are just dispensing rough justice. Even Islamic terrorists. This typical media thinking is also jihadist logic, though they take into consideration the infidel aspect of America, not just economics.

The Tsarnaev brothers couldn't help it, and especially the cuter, younger, still living one couldn't, even though he was legally an adult, he had a pretty decent life here in the U.S., he had friends and did all right in school. The grammatical conjugation is he was failed, he fell, it's not his fault.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had a world full of choices. Surely even in American schools he'd had some brief exposure to notions of right and wrong, in Western, Judeo-Christian, American Constitutional terms, even if his teachers were cynical or ironic or dismissive of them. He chose to act on what he learned from his older brother and from his mosque. They taught him well. He did not fail them.