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July 19, 2013  | by: Neil Protacio

Image from Rolling Stone


Ouch! Too soon…

Rolling Stone magazine is no stranger to any type of controversy. Cult leader Charles Manson graced its cover at one point, hell, even Snooki made it. So on a scale of Charles Manson to Snooki, where exactly did Rolling Stone magazine drop the ball when they plastered 19 year old Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on its front cover? Apparently way past the inappropriate line.

Like a band-aid ripped straight off of a flesh wound, the pain still seethes with Americans today. “Insensitive!” many have yelled. Yet, Rolling Stone was quick to parry with a statement: “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.” The Rolling Stone claims that the decision to use his picture as its cover was in the bounds of journalism.

Hate to say it, but Rolling Stone is right.

The United States is still reeling from a tragedy that literally shook the nation. What was supposed to be a day of achievement for Boston Marathon runners became the scene of a heinous bombing thanks to Tsarnaev and his brother. However, as we continue to mourn those who have passed away, let us not be short sighted of what Rolling Stone magazine is really all about: journalism.

Think of the cover as the lead sentence in any story: it has to pull you in. The cover is definitely an eye-grabber. If you haven’t been living under a rock, you automatically know who this kid is at first glance. Subheading the selfie are the words: “The Bomber: How a Popular, Promising Student Was Failed by His Family, Fell Into Radical Islam, and Became a Monster.” That’s powerful, and like the Boston Globe has said: it’s also marketing.

So is Rolling Stone wrong for banking on Tsarnaev’s image? Perhaps the answer to that question is deeper than many may think. America has glamorized murderers, I mean, c’mon, we make movies about them all the time! What’s interesting about this predicament is that people are making these accusations because it hits close to home. People don’t want to see Tsarnaev attractive. Anger has taken its discourse, and what Americans want to see is the 19-year-old kid battered and bruised. That’s completely understandable, and this behavior is not unheard of. Remember when nobody wanted to bury his brother?

Americans can’t seem to whirl their head around any idea of compassion, much less understanding towards this situation. When western civilized societies are wronged, the impulse is punishment and punishment now. We don’t like seeing terrorists or murderers in their everyday attire – we want to see them in orange robes and behind bars.

The Rolling Stone, however, turned that aggravation down three notches and transformed Tsarnaev into what others absolutely refuse to see him as: a human being.

Yes, despite the fact that the kid was smart, popular amongst his peers, and was looking toward to becoming a dentist – ALL OF THE GOOD has taken a backseat to his subscription of Al Qaeda’s magazine. We’re quick to stamp the “terrorist” mark on his forehead and turn the blind eye to his citizenship here in America. It’s amazing how much grudge we can hold for one person without the slightest bit of curiosity of who this person actually was. Ignorance is bliss, I guess.

In that light, who’s the monster now?

What do you think about the latest Rolling Stone cover?

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