Rolling Stone upset a lot of people with their latest cover, which shows surviving Boston Bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in a simple pose that resembles the cover shots taken of Bob Dylan or Bruce Springsteen. Boston Mayor Tom Menino issued this response to Rolling Stone:
“Your August 3 cover rewards a terrorist with celebrity treatment. It is ill-conceived , at best, and re-affirms a terrible message that destruction gains fame for killers and their “causes”. There may be valuable journalism behind your sensational treatment, though we can’t know because almost all you released is the cover.
“To respond to you in anger is to feed into your obvious marketing strategy. So I write to you instead to put the focus where you could have: on the brave and strong survivors and on the thousands of people—their family and friends, volunteers, first responders, doctors, nurses and donors—who have come to their side. Among those we lost, those who survived, and those who help carry them forward, there are artists and musicians and dancers and writers. They have dreams and plans. They struggle and strive. The survivors of the Boston attacks deserve Rolling Stone cover stories, though I no longer feel Rolling Stone deserves them.”
Menino’s response to Rolling Stone is a good one as the leader of Boston. This is a moment when he can be a populist, which is what most politicians do best, and say that we working class Boston folks are better than Rolling Stone. Kudos to him for calling out Rolling Stone on their marketing strategy of giving Jahar Tsarnaev just enough glam to cause a stir around the cover.
Rolling Stone responded with sympathy for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing and this:
“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.”
Do they have a point? Sure. Is that point relevant to their cover? Debatable. To the degree that Rolling Stone made Dzhokhar Tsarnaev look like a rockstar, they have no excuse. If they were going for a normalizing shot, one that emphasizes how much he is like other kids his age, they have an angle that they can fight for.
The problem is that they didn’t make that point. Mayor Menino and Rolling Stone are talking past each other.