I’ve spent the past two days trying to track down the latest issue of Rolling Stone that has prompted controversy across the county.
In case you haven’t heard, Dzhokhar ‘Jahar’ Tsarnaev — one of the Boston Marathon bombers — is featured on the cover of Rolling Stone’s August issue, headlined as ‘The Bomber: How a Popular, Promsing Student Was Failed by His Family, Fell Into Radical Isalam And Became A Monster,’ sporting an Armani Exchange t-shirt.
Before I start, let me just say—that headline doesn’t even make sense to me. He wasn’t ‘the bomber,’ he was one of two of the Boston Marathon bombers.
This seemingly glamorous ‘selfie’ shot (a type of self-portrait), is captioned as a ‘photo illustration by Sean McCabe’ and it’s this cover photo that is instigating some heated debates.
Upon the release of their August issue, barely three months after the April 15 marathon bombing that killed three people and injured more than 200, the public has now turned their attention to the cover photo and is not hesistant to express their views on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
While the majority backlashed, the supporters of Rolling Stone’s decision are encouraging readers to focus on the article and not jump to conclusions based on the cover alone. Many supporters also referenced the Rolling Stone issue printed in the 70’s which featured Charles Manson on the cover.
As an editor who has to match art with stories on a daily basis, I can appreciate the fact that the photo does match the ‘meat’ of the article.
That is to say, the Jahar that is described in the article by friends is seemingly reflected in that photo, but that’s not the Jahar the public knows.
“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,” said Rolling Stone editors in a statement released on July 17 via their Facebook page. “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.”
I can understand why they wrote the article. I’m not trying to debate that, though I easily could.
The main issue, the kick off towards controversy, has to do with the cover.
Personally, and prior to reading the article, I was very shocked when I saw it.
Jahar does look glamorous. It looks like something teenagers would want to pick up and buy. And that was the point, I suppose. Rolling Stone is delivering something that they feel their readers should read.
However, bottom line: a ‘bomber’ should not be depicted as glamorous.
It’s that simple.
1. I think they (the editors) should have chosen a different photo.
2. I think it’s too soon.
The cover, and the headlines circulating about the cover, immediately caught my intrigue. My first instinct was to read it online.
But I wanted the hard copy. I wanted the full experience. I wanted to see their full delivery.
And it wasn’t easy to find. Many stores are refusing to carry the August issue.
Giant Food Stores, corporate-wide, is not carrying it. I’ve also heard that CVS and Walgreens will not be carrying it.
How does that saying go? If you tell them they can’t have it, they’ll only want it more.
But anyway, I finally found a book store that had copies stocked behind the counter.
I reserved one in my name, picked it up, came home and read every word.
The twelve page article, Jahar’s World, offers a depiction of Jahar’s life over the past few years, with comments and insights from his friends and mentors.
It teeters on the edge of prompting readers to empathize with a man that many aren’t, and most likely never will be, ready to empathize with.
The article insinuates that Jahar followed the path of his older brother, Tamerlan.
Which, again, makes me wonder why he’s coined ‘The Bomber.’
I have mixed feelings about the article, which as a whole stays very neutral, until the end when the writer does seem to almost prompt the reader to have an emotional connection with Jahar.
It certainly leaves you wondering about his mindset.
I can’t help but wonder how the editors of Rolling Stone are feeling about their decision now and whether they’d do it again if given the chance.
And I’m curious how Armani Exchange feels about their representation in that photo.
Overall, I think the twelve pages leaves readers with more questions than answers — questions that will most likely never be answered.