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Rolling Stone’s Tsarnaev Cover Is Simply Uninspired, Not Offensive

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Slade Sohmer


By Slade Sohmer on July 17, 2013


The outrage is palpable.

The Greater Internet is up in arms that Rolling Stone chose to glamorize and glorify Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on its cover to tease its “riveting account of how Jahar became a monster.” How could they? He’s not Jim Morrison, you terror-peddling sympathizers!

tsarnaev rolling stone

• SEE ALSO: Trolling Stone: Tsarnaev Cover Follows Osama bin Laden, Columbine Killers, Adolf Hitler & Many More

Sure, it’s understandably “controversial.” And there is something to the mythology of landing on the cover of Rolling Stone, if either Almost Famous or this classic Dr. Hook song (written by Shel Silverstein) is any indication.

If you want to be outraged, be outraged. Nobody’s stopping you.

The big crime here, however, is not its offensiveness to victims or our cover boy-as-rock star sensibilities. It’s the lack of inspiration. This photo, taken from one of the Younger Tsarnaev’s social media accounts, has been everywhere. It’s been on the front page of the New York Times. It’s been on every news website in the country. It’s been on Facebook and Tumblr and Twitter, and probably Weibo. You’ve seen it and seen it and seen it.

But now that his smug selfie stares at you from the cover of a rock magazine, regardless of the fact that the story itself seems to be good journalism — real journalism telling a story we WANT to hear, we NEED to hear, the ‘teachable moment’ story of how a normal kid ended up trying to commit mass murder in the name of terrorism — we’re outraged?

We haven’t glamorized and glorified the Tsarnaevs enough with incessant coverage for months? We haven’t splashed their photos all over the place every day since that fateful one? All of a sudden this picture we’ve all glared at for months is the worst thing to come from this tragedy that killed three? Rolling Stone is not agreeing with the Brothers Tsarnaevs. They’re not endorsing their crimes. They’re trying to get you to read an important story.

Rolling Stone’s Janet Reitman went deep on this profile, revealing new details that might paint a more helpful picture for us of what a terror suspect might look like. By all accounts, this is something that people are not only interested in, but something by which they’re fascinated. Its the big feature this month. What happens when someone’s the big feature? They get the cover. How do magazines try to get you to read it? They entice with the cover. That’s all that happened here. Next.

• SEE ALSO: The Limits of Viral Mag Covers

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