Pictures Lie Louder Than Words

The two faces of "Boston Bomber" Dzhokhar Tsarnaev: Rolling Stone (July 2013); New York Post (April 23, 2015; image from a holding cell surveillance video, July 2013). 

Seeing is believing—or so we're frequently told. 

But seeing can also be deceiving, because we often only "believe" those things that match our existing views of the world. 

That's why Rolling Stone's dreamy cover photo of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the popular kid who got manipulated by his evil brother, was so widely reviled. Whereas the image of Tsarnaev flipping the bird to a security camera (released this week during his sentencing trial) revealed what everyone really knew: the 19-year-old was a remorseless monster. 

Neither photo represents a true picture of the convicted murderer. But it's the second image that will stick with jurors, and the public, because it fits the story we want to believe. It helps us make sense of a totally incomprehensible act. It may even be the image that puts him to death. 

Because just as seeing is believing, you can't "unsee" what you want to believe.