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Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is on the cover of Rolling Stone‘s August issue. Complete with signature red lettering, the shaggy-haired alleged bomber is framed by the title of the magazine in an arguably similar manner as the publication’s cover subjects since April: Johnny Depp, Seth Rogen and James Franco, Daft Punk, The Rolling Stones, Bruno Mars, Louis C.K. and Jon Hamm.
Tsarnaev isn’t a movie star or pop music icon — he’s one of the two brothers who allegedly plotted and executed the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15. Giving the alleged bomber a stylistic treatment similar to the aforementioned celebs has naturally sparked some outrage, even if the picture of Tsarnaev itself has appeared on news websites and on the front page of The New York Times.
The cover has drawn comparisons between the magazine’s iconic cover of The Doors’ Jim Morrison and has reminded others of the 1970 issue with convicted killer Charles Manson on the front. The magazine has a long history of deeply reported stories on controversial subjects, but they’re sometimes balanced with celebrity covers. (For instance, “The Runaway General,” Michael Hastings‘ 2010 blockbuster story that forced the resignation of the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, wasn’t featured on the cover. Lady Gaga was.)
The Tsarnaev story (not yet online) was authored by contributing editor Janet Reitman, who previously wrote pieces for the magazine that included a report on Dartmouth College’s hazing practices and an appraisal of the effort to help Haiti rebuild. “Reitman spent the last two months interviewing dozens of sources … to deliver a riveting and heartbreaking account of how a charming kid with a bright future became a monster,” reads a preview.
Presumably because of the reaction to the cover image, “Rolling Stone” on Wednesday became a trending topic in the U.S. on Twitter. A group on Facebook has amassed nearly 50,000 likes calling for a boycott of the publication, calling the image “unacceptable and a slap in the face for those [Tsarnaev] killed and maimed.” Two widely retweeted reactions:
Maybe I’m old fashioned but putting the Boston bomber on the cover or Rolling Stone is a terrible idea.
— Albert Brooks (@AlbertBrooks) July 17, 2013
At Rolling Stone: “Let’s use Zimmerman next!” “Does Dylan have a new album dropping?” “Not Bob, George!” <eye gouge> <wrench to nose>
— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) July 17, 2013
Others noted a counter-argument to the criticism. “Showing this alleged bomber in his full humanity makes him appear even more menacing,” wrote Washington Post media reporter Erik Wemple.
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