Rolling Stone causes ruckus

Bomber as rock star? Cover creates uprage
Associated Press
Jul 18, 2013

Sultry eyes burn into the camera lens from behind tousled curls. A scruff of sexy beard and loose T-shirt are bathed in soft, yellow light.

The close-up of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the cover of Rolling Stone to hit shelves Friday looks more like a young Bob Dylan or Jim Morrison than the 19-year-old who pleaded not guilty a little more than a week ago in the Boston Marathon bombing, his arm in a cast and his face swollen in court.

Has the magazine, with its roundly condemned cover, offered the world its first rock star of an alleged Islamic terrorist?

The same image of Tsarnaev was widely circulated and used by newspapers and magazines before, but in this context it took on new criticism and accusations that Rolling Stone turned the bombing defendant into something more appealing.

"I can't think of another instance in which one has glamorized the image of an alleged terrorist. This is the image of a rock star. This is the image of someone who is admired, of someone who has a fan base, of someone we are critiquing as art," said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a communications professor and the director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

Public outrage was swift, including hard words from the Boston mayor, bombing survivors and the governor of Massachusetts. At least five retailers with strong New England ties — CVS, Tedeschi Food Stores and the grocery chain the Roche Bros. — said they would not sell the issue that features an in-depth look into how a charming, well-liked teen took a dark turn toward radical Islam. Stop & Shop and Walgreens followed suit.

Tsarnaev is not referred to as Tsarnaev in the article. The magazine uses his playful diminutive instead in a headline: "Jahar's World." With cover teasers for other stories on Willie Nelson, Jay-Z and Robin Thicke, it declares for the Tsarnaev story: "The Bomber. How a Popular, Promising Student was Failed by His Family, Fell Into Radical Islam and Became a Monster."

Rolling Stone did not address whether the photo was edited or filtered in any way in a brief statement offering condolences to bombing survivors and the loved ones of the dead.

"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 statement said.

That's little consolation for James "Bim" Costello, 30, of Malden, Mass., who needed pig skin grafts on most of his right arm and right leg after the bombing. His body was pebbled with shrapnel, including nails he pulled out of his stomach himself. Three of his close friends lost legs that day and others suffered serious burns and shrapnel injuries.

"I think whoever wrote the article should have their legs blown off by someone," struggle through treatment "and then see who they would choose to put on the cover. "

The accompanying story, he said, "just seems like a cry for attention" from Rolling Stone.

Lauren Gabler had finished her fourth Boston Marathon and was two blocks from the finish line explosions that April day. At first she thought the Rolling Stone photo, released on the magazine's website and Facebook page, was of a model or a rock star.

"All of a sudden you realize that's the Boston bomber," said Gabler, who lives in the Washington, D.C., area. "The cover almost tricks you into what you're looking at. I haven't read the article yet, and I know it will probably be quite in-depth, but my initial reaction is that the photo that's being used almost makes him look like a good guy."

Rolling Stone said the cover story was part of its "long-standing commitment to serious and thoughtful coverage of the most important political and cultural issues of our day." And the magazine has had plenty of covers featuring people outside the realm of entertainment, from President Obama to Charles Manson.

Putting criminals and alleged criminals on the covers of major magazines is justified if they are major news figures, said Samir Husni, a journalism professor who heads the Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi. It's digitally manipulating a photo that never is, said Husni, reached by phone on vacation in his native Lebanon.

"They'll probably regret it later," he said of Rolling Stone's handling of the cover. "Even if it wasn't doctored it's going to bring those negative reactions."

Hundreds of Facebook and Twitter commenters condemned the magazine. Many cursed. Others expressed sadness and still more vowed never to read or purchase the magazine again.

Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino spoke for them in a letter he dashed off to Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner accusing the magazine of offering Tsarnaev "celebrity treatment" and calling the cover "ill-conceived, at best," in that it supports the "terrible message that destruction gains fame for killers and their 'causes.'"

The letter goes on to call the cover an obvious marketing strategy and concludes: "The survivors of the Boston attacks deserve Rolling Stone cover stories, though I no longer feel that Rolling Stone deserves them."

What does the controversy say about the culture today? It's a culture that has already produced an online fandom for the attractive young bombing suspect, including young girls calling him "hot" and promising to help clear his name. At his hearing last week, a dozen or so girls wore T-shirts and stickers bearing his face.

Jamieson had this to say on that score:

"If you took that picture and you walked into an audience three months before the bombing and you said, 'Here, this is a cover of Rolling Stone,' what would people say? They'd say, 'Ah, a new artist emerges on the national stage and Rolling Stone is doing a cover. What is his name? Well I guess it's Bomber.'"


AP writers Cara Rubinsky, Steve LeBlanc and Bridget Murphy contributed to this report from Boston. David R. Martin contributed from New York.


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Raoul Duke

Terrorism loses it's power when people are no longer afraid.

Darwin's choice

Obama was on the cover also......birds of a feather?


WAY OFF TOPIC. Some people have ADHD so they can't stay on the topic.

Darwin's choice

Why is that off topic? Because a news organization uses sensationalism to sell it's product? Look at any paper or magazine everyday! And, some people are azzhats and comment accordingly!

The New World Czar

A has-been publication taking desperate measures for ratings and revenue. Disgraceful is an understatement, giving this guy "Che-style" celebrity status.


It's a private business. What is the big deal? It's a PICTURE! What ever happened to FREE enterprise? It is ALWAYS something with you people!


Totally agree!!!!!

Floyd P

First Amendment. Get over it.


I'd feel better about the cover picture if Rolling Stone was a news magazine, but it's really not. Covers typically extoll this or that rock star, but a terrorist is NOT a rock star, nor should he remotely be considered comparable!

And what's up with the sub-heads that ask how such a normal kid could become a terrorist? There's an easy and obvious answer, but Rolling Stone (and most of the rest of the media) will likely be too politically correct to tell the unvarnished truth. What made him a terrorist? ISLAM. Duh.

And while this last has nothing to do with the cover, it's almost as annoying. Note the sub-head of this article — courtesy of the Associated Press who you'd THINK would be staffed with pros — and tell me: Since when is "uprage" a word???

Pterocarya frax...

To say it is not a news magazine shows you really haven't read it in a while. Go pick up a few issues and read some of Matt Taibbi's work. Maybe it can help you realize how misguided some of your opinions on politics are.


No thanks. If I wanted to read entertainment news, I'd choose a different publication. And if I wanted to read liberal propaganda, I'd just head on over to the New York Times website. Thanks anyway.

As for my political opinions being "misguided," you're going to have to do a little better than that. I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who thinks glorifying a Muslim terrorist on the cover of the Rolling Stone isn't cool! (And if it IS cool, and if it IS news, then where were the Stone's covers on the attack at Fort Hood? Ah, but the Major isn't anywhere near as "pretty" as THIS little boy, is he...)

The Answer Person

Quit the kvetching since none of you whiners have even read the article. Hitler banned and burned books too.


I think the cover is singularly inappropriate. I DON'T think it should be banned, and I'm not in support of those retailers that are refusing the carry this issue. My response to things I consider inappropriate: I don't buy them.

While I didn't say one way or another in my earlier posting, I thought that your comments indicated it would be best if I made that clear. As far as it goes, I agree with your sentiments largely because you're right. :-)


If that's all it takes is to put a terrorist's pic on a magazine to drive you insane you must be a weak individual. He's not getting paid for it and how would you know lest someone tells it? You a victim of terrorism if this shakes you and I'm not. It's still about baseball, hotdogs, apple pies and Chevrolets.


Can you point out the person or people who have been driven insane? When you make such exaggerations any point you try to make is discounted by your exaggerations. Your opinion is much discounted by that choice.


lolol grumpy-- OH-IO commented " all it takes is to put a terrorist's pic on a magazine to drive you insane" and you get your panties in a bunch. When in fact, your quote to me on another topic was "since you put no limits on what will make you safe, you prefer to live in your locked shelter in the basement". Talk about exaggerations!


Asking to show us who has been driven insane is "getting my panties in a bunch" ? Asking for proof of exaggerations shows insanity in meowmix world? Really? If someone says meowmix is a flaming a88hole you will go along with that? If so then your observations may have been correct.

As far as giving up Constitutional rights to allow you to feel save, that speaks loudly about your intelligence. You can give up your own but not anyone else's rights.


I really don't get what all the outrage is all about too. Who cares?


"Did you kill and injure people with a bomb? You did?! Awesome, because now you get to be on the cover of Rolling Stone. Sure, we had to bump someone talented that contributes to society, but whatever, we have a terrorist on the cover!"

That's the outrage. It encourages others, who seek to commit violence, with the prospect of being on the cover of a popular magazine. Rolling Stone may do as they like, but it's just in bad taste.


Charles Manson was on the cover also!!!! Did that make people want to go out and randomly kill? Jim Morrison--died of drug overdose. Did you see his picture and want to drop acid? Much ado about nothing.


Completely agree. I didn't buy, nor read the magazine before and won't now. If some stores and companies wish to boycott selling the magazine I have zero problem with them doing so. It was simply a cry for selling and promoting a dying publishing company. If their gamble rolls snake eyes I will have no problem with that. Hopefully it will kill the publication that much quicker. Much like many on here it is a fart in a hailstorm.


It's not that I'm personally worried about copycats, but in my opinion, murderers should have their images forever erased from life. Speak of their crimes, so we may learn from them, but erase the person from our memories. That way they'll never achieve what they wanted, lasting infamy. These scum don't deserve to have people remember them. Just my personal view though. I agree with the others here that Rolling Stone is free to do as they please, and I'm glad they're explaining how a normal person turns into a monster, but let's not give this murderer the spotlight.


Dim witted complacent individuals see no problem, when the media gives this kind of attention to a terrorist. It only encourages the next would-be bomber or shooter.


Dim wit think again. It glorifies that he's going to die. I welcome all that want to follow. If this what it takes to weed them out then good. Thanks Rock and Roll Mag for letting the schitzo see that the bomber is going to die. Hooray! Next issue the pedophile whose going to die. Hooray for America!


You welcome others to follow his example and set off bombs and kill other innocents? You think that will weed them out? You make no coherent sense. I don't think you have a clue how to communicate. Are you purposely trying to say what you have written, or is it just bad grammar?

The Big Dog's back

Well we're big rock singers
We got golden fingers
And we're loved everywhere we go
We sing about beauty and we sing about truth
At ten thousand dollars a show
We take all kinda pills
That give us all kinda thrills
But the thrill we've never known
Is the thrill that'll getcha
When you get your picture
On the cover of the Rollin' Stone
Wanna see my picture on the cover
Wanna buy five copies for my mother
Wanna see my smilin' face
On the cover the cover of the Rollin' Stone
I got a freaky old lady
Name a Cocaine Katie
Who embroideries on my jeans
I got my poor ol' grey haired Daddy
Drivin' my limousine
Now it's all designed
To blow our minds
But our minds won't really be blown
Like the blow that'll getcha
When you get your picture
On the cover of the Rollin' Stone
Wanna see my pictures on the cover
Wanna buy five copies for my mother
Wanna see my smiling face
On the cover the cover of the Rollin' Stone
We gotta lotta little teenage blue-eyed groupies
Who'll do anything we say
We got a genuine Indian guru
Who's teachin' us a better way
We got all the friends that money can buy
So we never have to be alone
And we keep gettin' richer, but we can't get our picture
On the cover of the Rollin' Stone
Wanna see my picture on the cover
Wanna buy five copies for my mother
Wanna see my smilin' face
On the cover of the Rollin' Stone
On the cover of the Rollin' Stone
Gonna see my picture on the cover
Gonna buy five copies for my mother
Gonna see my smiling face
On the cover of the Rollin' Stone

Darwin's choice

Big Dog, have to say I liked that silly song!

The Big Dog's back

Funny isn't it. Now I can't get that tune out of my head.


Never was a fan of this publishing and now I will never buy nor read this magazine again.

The Big Dog's back

Gonna buy 5 copies for my mother.


lolol Big Dog!! The outraged ones on this topic got done typing, renewed their subscription to "The Weekly Standard", muted Faux News and tuned in their radio because Sean Hannity was just about to come on.


Aren't you the guy who yesterday complained about someone thinking they can reading minds? Look in the mirror for the a**hole who does the same thing. You can't remember what you whine about from one day to the next? Speaks volumes about your intelligence.


Awfully testy aren't you? Your name befits you perfectly.


Don't like having your hypocrisy pointed out? Poor baby, if you could remember the drivel you produce you wouldn't have that problem. But then you might also try to be consistent in your vialues instead of being blown about by the winds of opinion.

The Big Dog's back

pooh, about time you got rid of the tighty whiteties and go to boxers.


Don't like your BFF getting his nose rubbed in it instead of your nose? Poor piddle puppy feels he needs some of the same attention.


When liberals go on the attack, tolerance goes out the window.

Being a liberal means never having to use one's brain.

What else do you expect from reprobates and the godless?


Buy 10 jus in case some crazy fool needs to see what's in store for him behind the mag. DEATH.


I now see it is just bad grammar and poor communication skills.

He won't be sentenced to death. He will make a deal and get life. I would think that it is likely he will get aids being such a pretty boy and as young as he is so it might not be a long or pleasant life.


Was in the fencerow working. Used that very cover to wipe my azz when I finished pooping.


Even though I dislike the cover , we in a free society must allow its printing. It's not breaking a law.

But, in a free society, businesses have the right to sell or not sell the product in their stores.

In a free society I have the right to buy or not buy this product.