Column: Solve, don’t hide, unpopular issues (July 22, 2013)

By Bob Mentzinger

There is an easy remedy for anyone aggrieved by the Rolling Stone cover featuring a semi-glorified image of the accused Boston Marathon bomber.

Don’t buy it.

It should be clear to everyone — especially in these days of constitutional fervor — that the First Amendment allows the publisher of Rolling Stone to disseminate this image. Unpopular speech like this is exactly what it was designed to protect, with exceptions for things like “fighting words,” which this clearly was not.

That’s how you get the U.S. Supreme Court to side with the KKK allowing it to post roadside signs about its participation in the “Adopt-A-Highway” cleanup program (the state later kicked out the group, citing its failure to collect litter.).

It should also be pretty clear that we’re living, for better or worse, in a market-driven society. That’s how you get $4 gas. It hurts, but it’s reality.

There’s a lot of undesirable behavior going around these days we’d like to be protected from. We saw manifestations of all these things just in the past week — random shootings, higher gas prices, racism. We want them to go away. We want them to go away so badly, we wish we could just take these things and throw them out — perhaps to convince ourselves they don’t exist, even though we know otherwise.

And rather than get to the root causes of some of these things, we like to think that just hiding them will make them go away.

I wasn’t offended by the cover. I’ve seen pictures of metal bands on the cover of Rolling Stone and what passes for teen fashions these days that were far more insulting — and far less relevant — than a cover story about how a “nice boy” morphed into an accused terrorist.

But that’s just me. You have the right to be offended by it.

Being offended may even be at the root of why the editors at Rolling Stone did it — so we can have this discussion.

Let’s make a deal: We won’t try and keep each other from seeing things the other may find offensive.

And instead of talking about image, let’s talk about reality.

Why are gas prices are so high? Why does racism exist? Why are so many people killed by handguns?

And why do terrorists kill and maim? The Rolling Stone piece actually provides a solid set of theories for that.

Censorship won’t accomplish anything. It just makes us more ignorant.

Bob Mentzinger is managing editor of The Times Record.


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