Is Rolling Stone’s Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Cover Offensive?

dzhokhar tsarnaev Rolling stone

Some take issue with the magazine's depiction of the Boston Marathon bombing suspect

In the era of print media provocation of newsstand sales and the need to make the news to cover the news, it isn’t too much of a surprise that Rolling Stone took a more creative approach to its latest cover, a feathery, softly-lit picture of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Equally unsurprising were the reactions, which where swift and shrill. CVS is reportedly refusing to sell this issue. Funny or Die created a parody cover mocking the magazine’s seeming attempt to retain cultural relevance. And Boston mayor Thomas M. Menino told Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner in a letter that “the survivors of the Boston attacks deserve Rolling Stone cover stories; though I no longer feel that Rolling Stone deserves them.”

But a few have actually supported Wenner and his staff, including Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple and Mark Joseph Stern at his sister publication, Slate. Stern eloquently writes that “[b]y depicting a terrorist as sweet and handsome rather than ugly and terrifying, Rolling Stone has subverted our expectations and hinted at a larger truth. The cover presents a stark contrast with our usual image of terrorists.” Rolling Stone issued a statement of justification on its Facebook page and on the story, saying “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.”

After all, isn’t this what magazine covers are supposed to do — grab the attention of your multitasking mind just long enough to stir up anger or curiosity and make you  pick up the issue? But, in the case of the Rolling Stone cover, was it too soon and too self-promotional? Vote:

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  1. Gwen says:

    It’s important for us to understand how a totally seemingly normal young man is capable of such act. Is there a monster in every one of us? There’s nothing wrong with rolling stone’s cover choice.

  2. bob watson says:

    It’s a picture and a story…period…and I read the article

  3. EK says:

    The look of the guy without the obligatory hoodie and dark glasses, shrouded in darkness, but rather looking like a normal person in our midst is more provocative than the stereotype image usually used to portray terrorists. It warns us that everyday “normal-looking” people are just as dangerous, perhaps even moreso, than the evil doers profilers accentuate. The cover doesn’t deify the bomber; it exposes the treacherous persona behind the mask of normalcy. Better that than the usual mug shot or hoodie pic.

    • Melody Swan says:

      Featuring a terrorist/national threat on your cover when you’re a music magazine is completely inappropriate and in this case largely superficial! Did they run a story on Bin Laden? Oh, that’s gotta be because he was not “normal looking” and never “softly lit”. As if it matters how a terrorist looks… Please! Its even more questionable that Rolling Stone’s has any readers in Tsarnaev’s age group

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