This week’s cover of Rolling Stone magazine, the Wenner publication that has historically prided itself for using its frontispiece to tweak pop culture with photos of risque icons, contains a soulful image of one of the two Boston Marathon bombers, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. For a magazine that has experienced a 30% decline in sales over the last few years, this is either a brilliant publicity stunt to increase sales, or suicide.
Putting controversial images of controversial people such as writers and rock stars in the midst of controversial acts (Janis Joplin with a joint, etc.) is de rigeur for Rolling Stone. Anyone who purchases the magazine from news outlets or has subscribed, as I once did, is aware that the articles and features therein are a compendium of the amoral, immoral and self-indulgent. But this latest stunt of lionizing a monster on the cover is a violation of all decorum, in the opinion of this writer.
How can any American citizen countenance the sympathetic photograph of a youthful, tousled Tsarnaev, looking purposefully into the camera from the depths of a soul so empty? By what merit does this monster ascend to gaze at the American public whose trust he so brutally violated? Did Rolling Stone opt to put Mohammed Atta’s sneering mug on their cover after the 9/11 attacks? Perhaps the Egyptian terrorist lacked the good looks and appealing back story of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Except there is nothing appealing about Tsarnaev’s back story.
Rolling Stone appears to be attempting to paint Tsarnaev as a “victim” caught up in the scheming of his older brother and let down by a non-supportive family. The cover appellation declares “How a popular, promising student was failed by his family, fell into radical Islam and became a monster”. This fanciful apologetic pap is likely to signal the end of the magazine for good, and if this is the kind of insane propaganda they intend to publish, good riddance. Even for Rolling Stone, this is beyond the pale.
The caption on the cover suggests several things, all of which amount to excuses for his not being responsible for his actions that killed four people, including the execution of 27-year old MIT campus policeman Sean Collier. First of all, he wasn’t a popular, promising student. Tsarnaev had some friends during his high school days at prestigious Cambridge Rindge and Latin, but none that appear to be close or lasting. His latest grades from college show a failing student. Whether this was due to his attention being diverted from his studies to “other interests”, like helping his brother plot and murder Bostonians, is unclear, but the facts are that his recent academic record was anything but “promising”.