Friday, July 19, 2013

Gonna See My Poutin' Face...

Perhaps the biggest irony in Rolling Stone magazine's botched cover of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is their use of the word "thoughtful" in their official statement, in response to the overwhelming negative reaction from everyone from loyal subscribers to vendors.

"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 of our day," the statement read in part.

Thoughtful? I would submit that whatever was going on inside the magazine's offices while coming up with the rock star-like photo of Tsarnaev, thinking wasn't really among the activities.

I have no problem with the story itself. I think good journalism does indeed seek to find out how someone like the young Tsarnaev went awry, leading to the atrocities he committed in April.

But the cover photo was anything but thoughtful.

Clearly, there was no thought given to the victims, their families, or to plain old common decency. The story itself could have been teased on the cover with text, and maybe a thumbnail photo of Tsarnaev---preferably in custody or otherwise disheveled.

But to display Tsarnaev on the cover like so many rockers who have adorned Rolling Stone---with sexily tousled hair, pouting lips and looking like the second coming of The Doors' Jim Morrison (as was suggested by a Facebook friend), well that was just plain wrong and irresponsible.

The magazine also invoked the "two wrongs must make a right" defense, pointing to its controversial cover shot of Charles Manson over 40 years ago as justification for aggrandizing Tsarnaev.

But the comparison to the Manson cover is disingenuous. The photos don't look anything alike. And Manson wasn't a terrorist; he was a deranged man whose cult killed several people but didn't injure and maim a bunch others.


I don't see the merits of the comparison---do you?


How about now?

Again, the story of how Tsarnaev went off the rails ought to be written. That makes sense. Why the magazine decided to portray him in the manner that they did will probably never really be known.

Rolling Stone's statement was feeble in many ways, such as this sentence: "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."

Good job, guys and gals---you've managed to lump your demographic in with this bombing monster. The fact that Tsarnaev is "in the same age group" as many of the magazine's readers is as irrelevant as it is flawed reasoning. Does that mean AARP Magazine should have put Osama bin Laden on its cover, because he was over 50?

I'm not going to pile on. Just about everything that's been said about this boneheaded decision of Rolling Stone's has been said, and rightly so.

It's one thing to make the egregious mistake in the first place. It's quite another to weakly defend it---and worse, to subtly patronize those who are decrying it with flimsy reasoning and almost a cavalier attitude.

Shame on Rolling Stone. Not that they care.

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