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Rolling Stone’s Tsarnaev Cover Stirs Anger

Rolling Stone

Rolling Stone

The cover photo on the latest issue of Rolling Stone magazine is a gauzy picture of suspected marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Tsarnaev has tousled hair and soft, young eyes in the image, which accompanies a feature story headlined “The Bomber.” The cover image has drawn outrage from Bostonians.


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  • J__o__h__n

    For a city that slaps Boston Strong on everything, it appears that Boston Weak would be more appropriate if they are going to whine about this.  It is news.  The Ayatollah, Hitler, and OJ have all been on magazine covers.  WBUR and this show had a guest who wrote about feeling sorry for him as a mother based on his photo.

    • Johan Corby

      Well said. We need a little more “stiff upper lip.” Take your punches, clean up, move on with your life. The outrage bring more attention than the cover itself.

  • Terry

    I listened to your interview with Rolling Stone’s managing editor this afternoon on the way home from work.  At the end, he said he felt sadness and sympathy.  That’s his problem.  What about empathy?  If he had been impacted in even the smallest way by what happened that dreadful day, he would be sickened by the decision to place such a “sexy picture”, as your host stated, on the front cover of the August issue.  I don’t care if it had been used before in the NY Times and other publications.  If you wanted to use that photo, put it within your article with an “X” across it.  Don’t deny it’s a marketing ploy!  I hope more stores refuse to sell it and advertisers pull out before it goes to print.  If you were so hell-bent on showing his face on the cover, you could have chosen a photo with him in shackles and not written “The Bomber” but rather place “Sick and Demented” across his body.  You might get more money in your pockets, but your reputation has curdled and makes me so angry.  If I had the money, I’d buy every copy I could and burn them all.  Just as you and your marketing and editing teams have no empathy for those who have been touched and/or will never be the same by this obscene act, I have no empathy for the backlash that is occurring and I hope you will be wise enough to admit your grave error – and, most importantly, NEVER do something like this again.  It’s just plain wrong, inconsiderate and stupid. 

    • J__o__h__n

      Guess what group censors the press, objects to articles without reading them, and burns publications – Islamists. 

  • Matt

    I’ve read the article and I completely understand the use of the photo. But are we really so thin-skinned we can’t look at a photo of this guy and not feel fear or anger? Can you not look at the photo and feel pity of him? Knowing that he f*cked up his life and the lives of hundreds because he went astray in life? Have we lost that compassion as Bostonians? That photo is not what we think of when we think “terrorist” and that is probably why there is so much outrage, but that should make us think not feel anger. What makes someone like that do terrible things and can we find it in ourselves to better understand what led this kid to do something like this so we can prevent more kids from doing something like this?

    That’s what this article was supposed to explain and it does a good job. Anger and hate will not help those of us affected by this tragedy heal. By being outraged by a photo plastered all over the news for the last 3 months because it’s on the cover of a magazine is silly. We never had outcry at Bin Laden being plastered everywhere after 9/11, we didn’t get outraged over Timothy McVeigh’s cover photo in Time. We’re supposed to be Boston Strong, we’re supposed to be a beacon of hope and healing, and when we act like this we are neither. 

    We’re fighting the wrong battles when we do this and we’re losing. 

    • J__o__h__n

      I have absolutely no compassion for this criminal and hope he has a long miserable life in prison.  I don’t see the harm of printing a photo and trying to understand how he became a terrorist. 

      • Matt

         There’s nothing wrong with that. To hate on the photo or RS for using the photo is unnecessary though

  • J__o__h__n

    Boycott Radio Boston for using the Rolling Stone photo!!!!!!!!  This is insensitive and is just a ploy for ratings. 

  • Meg Tripp

    The entire situation has fallen prey to reaction and oversimplification from both ends: Rolling Stone needed to get that the response was partly knee-jerk and partly thoughtful and reasonable (instead of just crying “censorship!”), and if there was a good reason for it, RS needed to get that folks in Boston needed to immediately understand the “why” behind the choice of image, rather than being left to react without context (the story.)

    Clearly the choice to release the cover before the story was a bit of an obvious prod by Jann Wenner, and didn’t really help folks with raw feelings to engage with the story when it did emerge — they couldn’t get past their first reaction of the cognitive dissonance of this figure’s face where rock stars and celebrities normally posed. Yes, Rolling Stone has a history of serious journalism, and other figures (Charles Manson) have made the cover. But this image — a selfie, as the kids say — made many people feel RS was softening the portrayal, not digging into hard news. I think they were going for that reaction, though — it’s just a shame that they made the choice not to explain why until they’d done the cover release stunt. So why poke a city barely three months out from something devastating? Why not create a cover that made them want to learn more, and expand how they saw Tsarnaev’s life and path? Some people will never want anything except for him to go away and die, and that’s how they’re dealing with it. But some could have been engaged, and some could have learned. It was a limiting choice that they made.

    Conversely, the choice to freak out about the cover before reading the story was pretty natural (in part because it was set up to happen like that), but of course some people were going to take that futher (boycotts, etc.) because they can. That’s the thing, though — you can call for a boycott, and businesses can respond as they wish, but the reaction of people in Boston didn’t actually stop the story from happening. It’s accessible to anyone online, it’s accessible anywhere you can get the magazine — and that’s plenty of places in Boston (drugstores are not the lone home of publications.) For actual censorship to happen, the words have to be eliminated and inaccessible to the larger audience. They aren’t.

    • J__o__h__n

      No, actual censorship occurs when the normal distribution of media is interfered with.  Just because you can access it on line does not mean that it was not censored. 

      • Meg Tripp

        There isn’t a single person in this city who can’t access the article.
        There are hundreds of places across neighborhoods where you can get it.

        Boycotting: a certain group will not participate (including private businesses that have no mandate to do or not do anything) vs. censorship: no one is permitted to participate, and public access is halted.

        There is no one who is not permitted to view the article, or who will be denied access to it, online or offline. There are several who wish not to view the article, or provide access, and no one can force them to do so.

        You might not like what people are up to, but the law allows for freedoms in both directions, and *should* allow for freedoms in both directions.

        • J__o__h__n

          I didn’t say the boycott was illegal.  It is being censored. 

          • Meg Tripp

            It’s a red flag word in a red flag discussion, but I guess we’re not prepared to be thoughtful about it in these comments.

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