Rolling Stone sent shockwaves through the internet when the magazine released a teaser of its latest cover yesterday. Nope, it’s not another scantily clad pop star on the cover but the face of Dzhokhar (Jahar) Tsarnaev, the suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing tragedy, posing in a photo that was taken before the tragedy.
The article is an investigative piece into Jahar’s life and the events leading up to the attack, but the cover image is the poster for social outrage. It began circulating on social media networks, causing emotional reactions across the board, mostly saying the cover depicts Jahar as a popular figure or a rock star.
Jahar and his older brother Tamerlan were caught on surveillance camera at the Boston Marathon during an investigation of the bombing at the finish line, which killed three people and injured dozens more. The men were chased through the night by police, during which Tamerlan was shot and killed, leaving his brother Jahar to continue running from authorities and eventually hide out in a covered boat in a residential back yard. Jahar was caught and and is currently awaiting his court date at Devens Prison on charges of using a weapon of mass destruction.
Among the outraged Americans was Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, who took the time to write a letter of disappointment to the publication. The short and succinct letter, which has gone viral on social media, says:
Dear Mr. Wenner,
Your August 3 cover rewards a terrorist with celebrity treatment. It is ill-conceived, at best, and re-affirms a terrible message that destruction gains fame for killers and their "causes". There may be valuable journalism behind your sensational treatment, though we can't know because almost all you released is the cover.
To respond to you in anger is to feed into your obvious marketing strategy. So, I write to you instead to put the focus where you could have: on the brave and strong survivors and on the thousands of people — their family and friends, volunteers, first responders, doctors, nurses, and donors — who have come to their side. Among those we lost, those who survived, and those who help carry them forward, there are artists and musicians and dancers and writers. They have dreams and plans. They struggle and strive. The survivors of the Boston attacks deserve Rolling Stone cover stories, though I no longer feel that Rolling Stone deserves them.
Thomas. M. Menino
Mayor of Boston
The cover of Rolling Stone has been a place of glory for some of the most respected rock stars and pop culture idols — The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, etc. — since the magazine’s inception in 1967.
Dzhokhar’s cover has provoked outrage not just from readers but also from several music stars, who all recognize the cover as a coveted and somewhat sacred place, judging from the scores of historically relevant faces that have graced it. Dropkick Murphys is one band that have voiced their outrage on Twitter, which comes as no surprise as Rolling Stone has reported that they have donated over $300K to more than 60 victims of the Boston Marathon bombing.
Brad Paisley also voiced his disgust at the cover:
In fact, someone was so angry at publisher Jann Wenner that the Rolling Stone Wikipedia page was edited to say that the magazine was a Taliban publication that reports on bombings. Wiki editors quickly fixed the edits, but not before we snagged a pic.
Following the lead from the tidal wave of outrage, several retailers have decided not to sell the issue. CVS made the announcement on its Facebook page, announcing that they have decided not to carry the issue. Walgreens has made the same decision, announcing their boycott in a tweet.
The editors of Rolling Stone quickly reacted to the outrage brought on by both the cover and the article, saying:
Our hearts go out to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, and our thoughts are always with them and their families. The cover story we are publishing this week falls within the traditions of journalism and Rolling Stone’s long-standing commitment to serious and thoughtful coverage of the most important political and cultural issues of our day. The fact that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is young, and in the same age group as many of our readers, makes it all the more important for us to examine the complexities of this issue and gain a more complete understanding of how a tragedy like this happens.
What do you think about Rolling Stone’s new cover? Comment below.