By Rob Duguay
There was a time in my life when I always looked forward to reading the newest issue of Rolling Stone, at least one good article about a favorite musician of mine would make my eyeballs pop and my mind excited to delve into a deeper look at the life of a person who wrote songs that I absolutely loved. Unfortunately over time, Rolling Stone has abandoned the rebellious counterculture rock & roll mission that it became associated with when it was started up by Jann Wenner in San Francisco during the late 1960's and has gradually conformed to the mainstream bullshit parade known as corporate media.
From looking at Rolling Stone over the past 5 years or so, certain points can put you in disbelief that it was once a publication that gave the legendary journalist Hunter S. Thompson a voice while at the same time feeling the disappointment in the fact that a courageous writer who calls out the establishment on their wrong doings in Matt Taibbi still doesn't get the worldwide recognition he wholeheartedly deserves. As many people felt today evidently through various social media websites as well as most likely the amount of emails and phone calls Rolling Stone have received, I too was incensed when I found out that one half of the Boston Marathon bombers in Dzokhar Tsarnaev was going to be placed on the cover of the August issue of Rolling Stone.
The public response to the cover choice led to a flood of rampant reactions that even engulfed the scorn of Boston's Mayor Thomas M. Menino, who in fact wrote a letter to Wenner saying the cover is,"Ill-conceived, at best, and re-affirms a terrible message that destruction gains fame for killers and their causes." With vehement anger and disgust flowing through the interwebs, Rolling Stone released a statement on Facebook defending the cover stating:
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 or our day. The fact that Dzokhar 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 -THE EDITORS
The cover story examining the background of Dzokhar Tsarnaev was written by contributing editor Janet Reitman, who I commend for having the gumption to tackle such a disturbing topic about how a murderer came to be through 2 months worth of reports and interviews she conducted with people close to Dzokhar. I don't feel that she is to blame for the cover at all and I still believe that her story should have been published, but it doesn't take a genius to know that Rolling Stone could have handled this a whole lot better. Here are a few things about the American public that the head editors of Rolling Stone should have thought about:
1.) The Average American Isn't Really Known For Being Able To Read The Fine Print: Yes, the cover story is an examination of how a gifted individual became a bloodthirsty terrorist but the most dominant image on the cover is a photo of Dzokhar Tsarnaev. The image immediately invokes rage and furiosity amongst the American public and despite not purposely doing so, Rolling Stone glamorizes and gives fame to a murderer. When an average American picks up the issue and takes a look at the cover, they'll be angry at the image no matter what the article associated with it is about.
2.) Young Adolescents Are Still Able To Be Influenced By Fame: Giving Dzokhar this amount of attention to a young readership increases the likelihood that a young kid who has psychological issues and who has parents who can't afford the proper treatment will think in his head "If he gets on the cover of Rolling Stone because of blowing a bunch of people up, maybe I can do the same." I know it sounds kind of farfetched but giving Dzokhar this particular token of fame has a chance to make a young, naive, psychologically damaged kid think that the end result makes what Dzokhar did "OK."
3.) Bad Publicity Can Alienate Your Readers: People might pick up the August issue of Rolling Stone just to see what all the fuss is about, but there will be a mass majority who will feel that a once great publication has lost all credibility and will start to lose interest. Could this be the beginning of the end of Rolling Stone? If so then it'll be a huge blow to print media as a whole and true alternative media will be on the rise.
If you want my honest opinion on Dzokhar Tsarnaev being on the cover of Rolling Stone here it is: It's a publicity stunt by a dying magazine trying to get one last gasp of attention in the name of journalism. That alone is what disgusts me the most, there has to be a certain amount of decency and class in journalism without sacrificing the dignity of a publication just to get people riled up. You can still include the article written by Janet Reitman but don't act like you had no alternative to putting Dzokhar on the cover. We're in the middle of music festival season, Robin Thicke has a hit pop song out that's actually kind of good and there's the Americanarama touring festival with My Morning Jacket, Wilco and Bob Dylan taking the country by storm. Why didn't any of these topics make the August cover of Rolling Stone? Because it would be exactly what you'd expect, you'd be fine with it and Rolling Stone wouldn't be the subject of conversation all around the globe.