Rolling Stone magazine unleashed a firestorm with its provocative cover featuring a smoldering, Jim Morrison-esque image of accused Boston bomber, Dzhohkar Tsarnaev. But of the thousands who expressed outrage at the upcoming article, arguably none were more impacted than friends and family of the more than 260 victims of the attack.
“When I first saw it, I was surprised, and then I was actually disgusted, and lastly angry,” said Peter Brown, whose nephews J.P. and Paul Norden each lost a leg in the April attacks, on msnbc Thursday. Brown went on to say that the cover inappropriately promotes a “celebrity status” for the 19-year-old suspect, “which is not the case here.”
The article, entitled “The Bomber: How a popular, promising student was failed by his family, fell into radical Islam and became a monster,” seeks to deliver a detailed glimpse into the mind of Tsarnaev as constructed through dozens of interviews with people who knew him. Rolling Stone, which has featured controversial covers in the past (Charles Manson was profiled in a 1970 issue,) defended the story in 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.”
Brown disagreed, suggesting to msnbc that the story was a marketing ploy aimed at eliciting an emotional response from Rolling Stone’s young audience.
“I believe the magazine’s intention was to play on those readers of a young age, maybe to influence and coerce, or encourage more support,” said Brown. “I don’t believe there’s any connection in terms of the magazine’s article and what they actually cover.”
So far, CVS/Pharmacy, Rite Aid, Walgreens, and numerous other stores have decided not to sell the upcoming issue of Rolling Stone, a move Brown said he applauded. He said his nephews were both doing well, and that he wanted them to remain focused on their recovery, not on the controversy Rolling Stone has produced.
“As far as this stuff goes, they don’t put much time into it at all,” said Brown on his nephews’ reaction to the cover.