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Time's 'horrific' cover: Honesty or sensationalism?
The news magazine's "shocking" cover of a mutilated Afghan woman seeks to show Americans the possible effects of withdrawal. Too much?
 
The cover of "Time."
The cover of "Time."
Time Magazine

Time's latest cover may shock you — and that's exactly the point. The haunting image shows an 18-year-old Afghan woman — her name is Aisha — whose nose and ears were cut off by the Taliban after she tried to escape her abusive in-laws. The accompanying article, "What happens if we leave Afghanistan," details the gruesome dangers women will face if the fundamentalist Islamic movement regains control of the country. "I'm acutely aware that this image will be seen by children," writes Time's managing editor Richard Stengel, but I would rather people know the reality "as they make up their minds about what the U.S. and its allies should do in Afghanistan." Did Stengel make a responsible choice?

Shocking — but necessary: This "is the definition and purpose of good journalism," says Meenal Vamburkar in Mediaite. Like it or not, "the things that are hard to look at are often the things that are most necessary to look at." And nowhere does that apply more than in Afghanistan. Bravo to the editors of Time for bravely "telling a difficult story" about this "seemingly endless war."
"Time's Rick Stengel explains reasoning behind bold cover image"

Don't believe the hype: Stories like this from Afghanistan "are obscene, not at all uncommon, and need to be told," says Irin Carmon in Jezebel. And Time's cover image does just that. Time's headline, however, is "a little misleading." In fact, "Aisha's abuse and mutilation took place last year," with U.S. troops in the country. And while the story highlights the plight of many Afghan women, it doesn't actually "make the case that American military presence is the only solution to their problems."
"A visual introduction to an Afghan woman's mutilation"

Way to miss the point: Time may think "it has a very important point to make about the war in Afghanistan," says Tom Scocca in Slate. Unfortunately, its argument that "there is no problem that can't be solved by guns and bombs and the will to fight" is dangerously naive. Atrocities like the ones endured by Aisha are still happening. But "we have been fighting the cancer" of the Taliban "for nine years now, and we have not gotten rid of it." A magazine cover isn't going to change our success rate.
"Time magazine's mistakes failure of Afghan war for purpose of Afghan war"

 

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