Rolling Stone Draws Ire and Controversy for Boston Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Cover


It’s been a long time since a Rolling Stone magazine cover has made waves, but the latest issue, which features Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar “Jahar” Tsarnaev on the cover, has succeeded in pissing lots of people off.

The cover story by Janet Reitman takes a deep look at Jahar’s life and attempts to string together the pieces of the puzzle behind what could have possibly motivated such a young man to commit such a heinous act.

The full story, highlights a few new important details about his disintegrating family and the increased role Islam played in his and his older brother, Tamerlan’s life.

But people have taken issue with the cover, which features Jahar looking wistfully at the camera, looking like the edgy, dangerous sixth member of British boy band One Direction.

A firestorm of criticism has been fired at the magazine for the glamorized treatment of Jahar, with Twitter users adopting the hashtag #boycottrollingstone to take aim at the publication.

The magazine’s initial response pointed out that the magazine in the past published a similar cover story in the ’70s of serial killer Charles Manson. But with drug stores threatening to ban the issue from sale on its newsstands and Boston Mayor Tom Menino firing off a letter to Rolling Stone publish Jann Wenner, the editors of the magazine were forced to issue a more sympathetic statement, which has been pinned at the top of the online version of the story.

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. –THE EDITORS

While the outrage behind the cover story is understandable, the photo is NOT an original one that Rolling Stone commissioned. It’s a photo of Jahar that has already been run in several media outlets like The New York Times, which featured the photo on its front page.

So yeah. While people might not LIKE the idea of a terrorist on the cover their favorite magazine, it’s not outside of the magazine’s political/journalism history. And it’s not like Osama Bin Laden covers weren’t published after 9/11.

That being said, Rolling Stone would be wise to offer a similarly grand gesture to the survivors and heroes of the Boston Marathon bombing.


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