Rolling Stone’s Boston bombing suspect cover ignites heated debate

Rolling Stone’s Boston bombing suspect cover ignites heated debate
Accused Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is seen on the cover of the August 1 issue of Rolling Stone magazine in this handout image received by Reuters July 17, 2013. Photo: Reuters
Cover image accused of glamorising terrorism terrorism, Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev
Published: 11:54 AM, July 18, 2013
Updated: 3:57 PM, July 22, 2013
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NEW YORK — With his smoky eyes and tousled hair, the subject of the latest Rolling Stone cover story could pass for any rising United States music star.

But this is no ordinary pop portrait. The stark cover line, “The Bomber”, overlays a picture of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 19-year-old Boston Marathon bombing suspect, and when the magazine published the cover on Tuesday night there was an immediate backlash. One criminologist warned that it glorified Tsarnaev — accused of planting bombs which killed three people and injured more than 260 others — and could send a dangerous message to others. Yesterday (July 17), the US pharmacy chain CVS said it would not stock the issue.

The photo accompanies an article by Rolling Stone contributing editor Janet Reitman, which the magazine described in a pre-publicity notice as a “deeply reported account” of Tsarnaev’s life, including the revelation that he had played down his Muslim faith in high school. The magazine promised “a riveting and heartbreaking account of how a charming kid with a bright future became a monster”. It later posted the full article, along with a defence of the piece, saying it fell within the magazine’s tradition of reporting serious political and cultural issues.

The Tsarnaev cover drew considerable attention on the magazine’s Facebook page, with 9,000 comments posted by yesterday morning.

Rolling Stone did not immediately publish the Tsarnaev profile online, which had the effect of focusing the initial debate on the picture.

On Facebook, reader Shawn Anthony wrote: “I think it’s wrong to make celebrities out of these people. Why give the guy the cover of Rolling Stone?” in a sentiment that was given the thumbs up by 1,202 people.

“Jeff Bauman, who lost both legs, should be on cover,” wrote another reader, Mr J Harper Philbin, in a post liked 1,428 times.

“I am ending my subscription. This is bullshit. Let’s honor those who hurt innocent people. Who’s next, George Zimmerman?? Rolling Stone is a music magazine, not the Taliban Times,” wrote another Facebook user.

Northeastern University criminologist Jack Levin told that the cover could send a dangerous message to others who might be minded to carry out violence: “If they want to become famous, kill somebody.”

Within hours, CVS announced that it would not sell the issue in its store. “As a company with deep roots in New England and a strong presence in Boston, we believe this is the right decision out of respect for the victims of the attack and their loved ones,” it said.

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