Like a Crazy Ex, Rolling Stone Desperately Hoping You’ll Pay Attention to Them Again
Look, we get it. It’s tough to run a print magazine, particularly if a magazine thinks of itself as a journal of cultural trends that entice and excite young people. Kids don’t read print anymore. People pass by the newsstand and don’t give it a second glance, their eyes pulled away by the latest starlet half-naked and pouting on the cover of Maxim. And if a publication’s editors start feeling financial pressure and a sense of declining relevance to the conversation they seek to influence, they can get desperate, resorting to shock headlines and a sneering tone . . . as we’ve seen:
But Rolling Stone editors knew what they were doing by putting the Little Brother Bomber on the cover. They were getting the news world to talk about a magazine that had in past months become largely indistinguishable from Entertainment Weekly: Johnny Depp in full Tonto regalia, comedian Louis C. K., Mad Men lead actor Jon Hamm, Seth Rogan and his co-stars of This Is the End.
And in using the soft-focus, Dylan-esque image of Little Brother Bomber on the cover, they scrambled some of our usual political lines. The editor of ThinkProgress says the image makes the bomber look like Jim Morrison.
And some complaints are coming from on high:
Former White House National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor expressed concern on Wednesday about Rolling Stone magazine putting Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on its cover, tweeting that “A disaffected US kid could see this and think terrorist are afforded rock star status.”
The same image once appeared on the cover of the New York Times; objections seem to primarily revolve around the fact that Rolling Stone almost only features celebrities on its covers — most recently Johnny Depp — and thus this image would put an accused terrorist into that category, of someone to be celebrated.
Bingo. A traditional newsweekly could have run that image with the headline, “Into the Mind of a Killer” or something similar, with little objection. The New Republic recalls Time magazine covers featuring Hitler, Stalin, Saddam Hussein, and Osama bin Laden.
But this is the cover of Rolling Stone, where we’re used to seeing Janet Jackson’s cleavage, or Angelina Jolie’s cleavage, or Katy Perry’s cleavage, or Shakira’s cleavage, or . . . where was I going with this? Ah, yes! For most of the past decades, Rolling Stone covers have fit into three categories 1) celebrity cleavage 2) here’s a singer or band who is very hot at the moment and whose image will instantly date this magazine 3) “Isn’t Obama awesome!”
There really isn’t a strong tradition of “here’s a detailed look into the face of evil” cover pieces.
Let’s also note that the cover’s text doesn’t help matters, either.
How a Popular, Promising Student Was Failed by His Family, Fell Into Radical Islam and Became a Monster
To their credit, the editors label him a monster. But “failed by his family” seems to suggest his actions aren’t entirely his responsibility, and “fell into radical Islam” is a strangely passive way of describing the choice to commit murder. It’s not a pothole.
Also . . . had Rolling Stone editors personally known any of the victims, would they have made the same choice?
Apparently Rolling Stone editors are comfortable writing off Boston from their circulation area:
Pharmacy chain CVS has announced it will not sell copies of next week’s Rolling Stone featuring suspected Boston terrorist Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the cover.
“As a company with deep roots in New England and a strong presence in Boston, we believe this is the right decision out of respect for the victims of the attack and their loved ones,” the company said in a statement.
The cover, which was teased late Tuesday night, has incited a flurry of controversy, with Rolling Stone’s website being bombarded with complaints and a Facebook page started to boycott to the music magazine. Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick have both criticized the cover as in poor taste.
Here’s Erik Wemple, a usually fair-minded reporter and blogger on the media beat for the Washington Post:
*This is good journalism, as the photo depicts the same Dzhokhar Tsarnaev that The Post and the New York Times — and others — depicted in deeply reported pieces. That is, a regular, good guy with friends, interests and activities — a “joker,” even.
*Showing this alleged bomber in his full humanity makes him appear even more menacing.
*Some are saying that Rolling Stone is exploiting this image — this story — for commercial gain. Well, Rolling Stone is a magazine. It exploits all its stories for commercial gain, some more effectively than others.
. . . I’ll leave the last word to two of the victims:
Brothers J.P. and Paul Norden of Stoneham each lost a leg in the attacks and they let the magazine know how they feel in this long Facebook post Wednesday morning.
Here you go Rolling Stones; if you required a cover and wanted marathon related, one would assume that you would have promoted a nation of continued healing, provided American heroes and encouraged moving forward. This is just one of several available shots that would have made sense if you were looking for togetherness.
Instead, your irresponsible behavior did more to tear open wounds and insult victims, survivors and families that have been slowly healing and accepting the horrendous acts of terrorism. There is a very long road that awaits the involved victims and your magazine ripped at the hearts in an instance and cut at the deepest levels and for what, “To increase sales of a magazine that usually is worthy of music celebrities.” Well, Rolling Stones, you just reclaimed your 15 minutes of fame, we only hope, it lasts only fifteen minutes.
What you did yesterday with your incredibly poor decision, was weaken extreme good that has been built from unimaginable evil.
Well, we are here to remind you that we are 2 BROTHERS 1 NATION. . . . Standing Boston Strong. . . . and no room for magazines intended on highlighting evil, hate and death.
Today, we take a step over that magazine and hold our heads up high and ask our supporters to do the same and to also ignore the sensationalism perpetrated by RS.