Rolling Stone’s Despicable Cover

The new edition of Rolling Stone magazine is out and its cover is truly reprehensible. It has a full image of Boston Bomber Jahar Tsarnaev, looking more like a rock star than a terrorist. In fact, Tsarnaev looks good on the cover! It’s a glamour shot of him. Here it is:

Rolling Stone Cover

Boston Bomber Jahar Tsarnaev.

After a shooting in Portland, Oregon last year and right before the tragedy in Newtown, Forbes Joseph Grenny penned an excellent post (which I expanded on here) about the coverage of mass shootings and how the press must do better. Here’s the important part:

But my horror was twofold. The first misery came as I heard the names and numbers of victims and thought about the pain they and their families will endure for the rest of their lives. The second dose came as I held my breath, hoping and praying the media wouldn’t amplify the violence.

But they did.

They did exactly what they needed to do to influence the next perpetrator to lock and load.

  1. They named the shooter.
  2. They described his characteristics.
  3. They detailed the crime.
  4. They numbered the victims.
  5. They ranked him against other “successful” attackers.

Public shootings are a contagion. And the media are consistent accomplices in most every one of them.

The Boston Bombing is a bit different than a mass shooting. The Tsarnaev brothers weren’t motivated by fame or trying to “outnumber” past killers. Terrorist attacks of that sort aren’t fueled by that. In this case, the brothers were motivated by extremist Islamic beliefs and a deep hatred for America.

But, nevertheless, Rolling Stone‘s cover still glamorizes the attack. Future potential terrorists won’t see it as further incentive to attack our country (as noted above, that’s not what incentivize them), but other madmen may. Future potential mass murderers may see the cover and think that they could one day find themselves on there as well. What kind of message is that for Rolling Stone to send?

The story has a number of interesting details about Jahar and his brother’s decent into radical Islam. It’s worth reading and provides an invaluable look into their lives. But there is no reason for Rolling Stone to put Jahar on the cover whatsoever, especially not a glamour shot of him. The less we do to spotlight terrorists and mass shooters while still investigating stories, the better. With its recent cover, Rolling Stone failed mightily.


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