No explanation necessary for Time’s latest cover, which is why, as executive editor Matt Vella notes, it’s all picture, no words–something the publication hasn’t done in a decade.
The illustrated version, created by Brobel Design, a firm that has a number of Time covers under its belt, shows exactly how we got to this point (the one on the cover, at least), with a crawl of red across the White House giving way suddenly to the colorful, bulbous towers of Saint Basil’s Cathedral–the Kremlin’s most recognizable landmark–popping up on top of the White-and-red House.
It’s a grab-bag of allusions to the massive tangle of relationships between Russia and President Trump’s admin officials, from news that President Trump had divulged classified information to visiting Russian official last week to reports that President Trump tried to get then-FBI director James Comey to end the FBI’s investigation into former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn–before firing Comey a few moths later.
The cover story, Inside Russia’s Social Media War on America, is a report by Massimo Calabresi that details Russian attempts to hack social media users. It’s a multi-definitional sense of the term, from malware-laden messages sent to DoD Twitter users that have potentially given Russia access to official accounts, to the use of algorithms for marketing-like techniques to identify and target specific groups and users for propaganda and misinformation campaigns, such as ones that spread weed-like during the 2016 campaign.
It’s a digital-first scare in a digital-first world, and yet it’s the print cover that still seems best able to capture with visceral precision what we feel–and fear.