Relying on the face might be human nature—even babies prefer to look at attractive people. But, of course, judging someone based on the geometry of his features is, from a moral and legal standpoint, no better than judging him based on the color of his skin. Actually, both biases reflect the parochial and irrational nature of empathy—if Tsarnaev were black, would he evoke the same response from the mothers [Hanna Rosin described here]? When someone talks about the warm feelings she has for Tsarnaev because of his sweet face, we should treat this with the same wary understanding that we would give to someone who admits to caring more about those who have the same color skin. It’s an empathetic response, and a natural one, but hardly one to be proud of.Bloom says nothing about the baby-faced picture of Trayvon Martin that the media tended to use. Sweet faces manipulate us emotionally even when they are black. And an individual's face isn't quite the same as his skin color, because the mind is revealed through the face (albeit incompletely and often deceptively). Bloom displays the media's favorite photo of Jared Loughner and declares that we don't feel much empathy toward that face. But the problem with that face is not inborn ugliness. It's craziness in the expression. We are properly repelled by that.
It is the true sociopath — I would suggest — whose does evil things but keeps a normal-looking face. We need to challenge ourselves to recognize the sociopaths in our midst. And let's not try to overcome our aversion to faces like Loughner's or Adam Lanza's. These people have terrible problems that we ignore at great risk.
ADDED: The post title corrects a typo that appears in The New Yorker ("bothers" for "brothers").