Already the storyline that is emerging about the one surviving Boston Marathon murderer is too sympathetic for my taste. The simple story of a younger brother led astray by his older sibling perhaps makes the monstrous murder more understandable for some. But I’m not buying it. I don’t like the narrative of the poor, young immigrant (his friends call him “Joe”—how all-American) manipulated by his evil older brother (whom he conveniently ran over with an SUV—some victim). This scum allegedly placed a bomb at the feet of an 8-year-old and waltzed away. Let’s be very careful not to paint this murderer (alleged, I know—alleged, alleged, alleged murderer) as a victim.
In fact, why depict him at all? Why don’t the media blot out his face and his name? Let’s deny him and all other mass killers the notoriety they seem to crave. Let’s just call him the Boston murderer or the Boston terrorist. Let’s put a black bar across his eyes in pictures. Why not? The media routinely block out the names of certain crime victims—why not certain criminals? When NBC’s chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel, and his crew were kidnapped in Syria, the media wisely declined to report it, lest their reporting endanger their colleague. Rape victims and children victimized by crime routinely and properly have their identities shielded. I am not talking about censorship, here. I would never tolerate the government telling the free press not to publish a murderer’s name. Instead, I’m talking about judgment, discretion, self-restraint from the media.
Maybe our need to impose order and sanity and reason obscures the darker truth: there is evil in the world. We need to be more comfortable with the sometimes unexplainable nature of evil. And at a more practical level, it may be that the more attention we give to killers like this, the more monsters we create.