Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the accused Boston Marathon Bomber, was arraigned on July 10th, and pled not guilty to the 30 counts against him. This coincides with the July issue of Rolling Stone, which includes an in depth profile of Tsarnaev and a controversial photo of him on the cover.
There is a lot that we didn’t know about Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. We did know that he and his brother, Tamerlan, detonated two bombs at the finish line of this year’s Boston Marathon, which killed three and injured over 250 people. We knew the following days saw a massive manhunt for Dzhokhar and Tamerlan, the city of Boston on lock down, a car hijacking, a shoot out which killed Tamerlan, and eventually the capture of Dzhokhar in a boat in Watertown. While the Rolling Stone feature was extremely illuminating, the cover photo of Tsarnaev has outraged many who find it to be in extremely poor taste.
I read the feature, and it’s extremely well written, sensitive, and solid journalism. It’s a shame that the piece is going to be tied to a poor art choice, and is upstaged by the controversy. It’s not hard to see what about this cover is so upsetting to Rolling Stone readers. The Instagram-style filter and pose look like it could be the cover of a bad singer-songwriter’s album to be sold in Starbucks. Of all the photos of Tsarnaev and the destruction he helped to create, I’m unclear as to why the art director chose a photo that makes him look like the next big thing. It seems like Rolling Stone wanted to shock people to stir up controversy, which is a lazy and tone-deaf approach.
The push back was immediate, with the cover getting criticized for being insenstive and offensive. The Boston Globe reports that
[a]n online post at RollingStone.com about the cover contained more than 1,000 comments, many of them criticizing the decision. On the magazine’s Facebook page, an image of the cover had generated over 10,000 comments, a number of them expressing outrage.
Drugstore giant CVS has announced that the store will not be carrying this issue of Rolling Stone in any of its locations. CVS posted the following on their Facebook page:
CVS/pharmacy has decided not to sell the current issue of Rolling Stone featuring a cover photo of the Boston Marathon bombing suspect. 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.
This is sure to make a point, as CVS has over 7000 locations in the US. On a smaller scale, Tedeschi Food Shops, a convenience store all over Boston, will also be boycotting the July issue.
We see this time and time again, where mass murderers are glorified and treated like rock stars. Their crazed and violent manifestos are published, and we make killers into celebrities. We saw it with Jared Loughner and Adam Lanza, whose photos were splashed across every front page and featured nonstop on every major news network. Every time a horrific event like a mass shooting or terrorist attack happens, mental health or law enforcement professionals beg the media not to glorify the perpetrators. But here we are, slapping Tsarnaev onto the cover of Rolling Stone, looking like a slightly alt John Mayer.
Photo: Rolling Stone