Rolling Stone magazine’s cover featuring Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhohkar Tsarnaev on the cover of its newest issue is drawing a backlash. Inside the magazine, Contributing Editor Janet Reitman delivers a detailed profile of the 19-year-old suspect involved in the April attacks that killed three people and wounded more than 260.
Titled ”The Bomber: How a popular, promising student was failed by his family, fell into radical Islam and became a monster,” the cover story offers a deep account of the one-time UMass-Dartmouth student who went to high school in Cambridge, Mass. But many people are responding angrily to the magazine’s decision to place Tsarnaev on the cover, which is often reserved for high-profile musicians and celebrities. The photo of the suspect was taken from one of Tsarnaev’s Twitter account and enraged online viewers and readers of the magazine.
The magazine’s editors released a statement to msnbc.
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.
According to an online post about the Tsarnaev profile, the magazine says the profile includes interviews with Tsarnaev’s friends, school teachers, neighbors and law enforcement officials. ”Reitman spent the last two months interviewing dozens of sources–childhood and high school friends, teachers, neighbors and law enforcement agents, many of whom spoke for the first time about the case–to deliver a riveting and heartbreaking account of how a charming kid with a bright future became a monster.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, the cover drew over 16,000 comments–mostly negative–just on the magazine’s Facebook page. “Rolling Stone” is now also trending nationally on Twitter.
One commenter accused the magazine of “glamourizing terrorism” and many others called on the public to boycott the publication with the “#boycottrollingstone” hashtag.
Matthew Adams Wow, putting this guy on the cover of a pop culture magazine in a Jim Morrison pose? Way to perpetuate the notion that crimes on this level will garnish attention for sociopaths who are out to seek it. This is sickening…
Bobbie Mott You gave him exactly what he wanted… To be famous like a rockstar. I never in my wildest dreams thought the Rolling Stone would stoop this low to idolize a criminal terrorist just to sell a few copies. I’d throw it in the trash before I’d read this now.
Jason Michael Mulcahy I speak not only for myself, but most likely on behalf of my entire hometown of Boston when I say, #RollingStone, shame on you. A domestic terrorist on the cover, front page and center, of this legendary publication? I ask, and urge you, on behalf of the families of the deceased and injured, Boston, New England, and America, to do the respectable act of changing this cover. To see a photo resembling that of many rock stars that have once held this prestigious spot, well Rolling Stone, I find simply simply appalling. And at the very least, why a photo in a jumpsuit, or #BostonStrong wasn’t considered is beyond me…
Mary Messick Romanko You want to put a picture of a handsome young man on the cover of your magazine? How about the 8 year old that was murdered by your current cover boy. His name was Martin Richard.
Another Facebook page was created overnight called “Boycott Rolling Stone Magazine For Their Latest Cover,” with faces of the four victims of the attacks – including Sean Collier, the MIT campus police officer shot and killed on campus – featured as their cover photo. The page has more than 78,000 likes by Wednesday afternoon. Since the cover’s release, CVS/Pharmacy, Rite Aid, Walgreens, and numerous other stores including Tedeschi Food Shops, Cumberland Farms, Shaw’s and Stop and Shop have made the decision to not sell August’s issue of Rolling Stone.
The cover also struck a major nerve with Boston residents. Kathryn Townsend, a friend of Jeffrey Baumann, who lost both of his legs waiting for his girlfriend near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, wrote and posted her letter to Jann Wenner, Rolling Stone’s editor-in-chief, on Facebook.
Carlos Arredondo, who was credited with helping save Baumann’s life, released a statement on Wednesday as well. ”Our nation does have freedom of the press. However, the focus should be on remembering those who did not survive along with their loved ones, as well as the amazing strength and healing of the survivors and the city of Boston.”
“Your use of a provocative, borderline sympathetic image and headline of someone who has caused so much pain to our country is appalling, insensitive, and disgusting. This person does not deserve to have his name mentioned publicly, let alone be featured on the cover of a magazine,” Townsend wrote. She also suggested that the net proceeds of the issue be given to the One Fund.
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino also wrote a letter accusing the magazine of rewarding “a terrorist with celebrity treatment. “The survivors of the Boston attacks deserve Rolling Stone cover stories, though I no longer feel that Rolling Stone deserves them.”
The story, ”Jahar’s World,” says that Tsaranev downplayed his Muslim faith in high school, but told a high school friend after 9/11 that terrorist attacks could be justified. But as his older brother, Tamerlan, and mother became more religious, Dzhohkar started attending a small weekly prayer group and once got upset at a friend who talked about their faith in a casual way. ”Islam wasn’t casual to Jahar,” says one friend. “He took his religion seriously.”
Tsarnaev, who went to high school at Cambridge Rindge and Latin, is accused of domestic terrorism with his brother, Tamerlan. On April 15, the two set off two bombs near the finish of the Boston Marathon on Boylston Street. While Tamerlan died after a shootout in Watertown, Mass. with police on April 18, Dzhohkar was found the next day in a boat in Watertown surrounded by SWAT teams and police. It was only when FBI negotiators mentioned a plea from his former wrestling coach that Tsarnaev decided to surrender.
Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty to 30 federal charges including using a weapon of mass destruction to kill. Tsarnaev will return to court on Sept. 23.