Rolling Stone magazine is helping turn Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev into a cult figure by featuring him on its current cover in a glam, rock-star pose reminiscent of The Door’s Jim Morrison, says legendary entertainer Pat Boone.
Boone – who himself was featured on a Rolling Stone cover in 1976 – told WND that when he saw the magazine’s August cover he immediately thought of the famous declaration from the classic comic strip character Pogo: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
“The media is asking why young people are so mixed up and muddled, and even anti-American in their thinking – and it’s the media itself,” Boone said in an interview with WND.
Already, amid a flood of outrage on social media by subscribers and non-subscribers alike, including on Rolling Stone’s Facebook page, three major drug store chains have announced they will not sell the August issue.
Boone, whose squeaky clean persona helped mainstream rock and roll in the 1950s and early 1960s, sees an “anti-establishment tenor” in media that “glamorize rebels and iconoclasts and those who ‘rage against the machine,’” such as the infamous Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski. The university professor drew sympathetic followers for his left-wing social commentary despite a 17-year nationwide bombing campaign that killed three people and injured 23 others.
Tsarnaev, who is accused of killing three and injuring hundreds more in the April 15 Boston bombings, already has a cult-like following on social media, including the “Free Jahar” movement comprised of young women who are protesting his prosecution.
On Rolling Stone’s August cover, Tsarnaev, with his curly locks and pouty look in soft focus, could be mistaken for a budding teen idol.
But some defenders of the alternative magazine’s August cover have argued that while the image may appear sympathetic, the subhead, describing the article itself, calls Tsarnaev “a monster”
Under the headline, “The Bomber,” the subhead explains the article examines how “a popular, promising student was failed by his family, fell into radical Islam and became a monster.”
Another rock and roll legend, Ted Nugent, told WND he found the article to be valuable.
Nugent was featured in a 1979 Rolling Stone cover story.
“Though Rolling Stone magazine is mostly dope-inspired leftist tripe, I happen to applaud them and writer Janet Reitmen for a thorough, comprehensive expose’ of terrorist murderer Dzhokhar Tsarnaev,” Nugent told WND.
“It is important the young readers of RS know how a fellow dope smoker lost his mind and doped his way into the evil, brain-dead Islamist terrorism and the horror he wreaked on innocent Americans,” he said.
Tsarnaev, who could face the death penalty, has pleaded not guilty to 30 federal charges, including using a weapon of mass destruction to kill. He and his brother Tamerlan, who was killed in a shootout with police, allegedly placed two bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon April 15 that killed three people and injured hundreds more. The Tsarnaevs also are accused of killing MIT police officer Sean Collier after the bombing.
No stranger to controversy
The Chicago Tribune noted that Rolling Stone is no stranger to controversial covers, pointing out the magazine featured Charles Manson in 1970 in what it called a “special report.”
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino called Rolling Stone’s August cover “a total disgrace.”
“It should have been about survivors or first responders,” he told reporters. Why are we glorifying a guy who created mayhem in the city of Boston? I am going to be in touch with the publishers and tell them how I feel about it.”
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick also was asked to weigh in.
“I haven’t read it, but I understand the substance of the article is not objectionable, it’s apparently pretty good reporting,” Patrick said. “But the cover is out of taste, I think.”
Rolling Stone publicist Melissa Bruno did not reply to WND’s request for comment.
In a preface to the cover story posted online, Rolling Stone editors expressed sympathy for the victims but emphasized the importance of examining how a promising young person became a terrorist.
“Our hearts go out to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, and our thoughts are always with them and their families. 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 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.”
‘Respect for the victims’
CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid have decided not to sell the current magazine issue.
The Rhode Island-based CVS said that 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.”
A Massachusetts-based convenience store chain, Tedeschi Food Shops, will also not sell the issue, the Associated Press reported.
An informal poll of “Today” show viewers found 90 percent believe the cover “goes too far.”
On the magazine’s Facebook page, the initial thread about the cover has been hit with thousands of angry comments, including:
- What a disgrace, trying to make a murderer look like a rock star. Horrible
- Are you kidding me? All time low for rolling stone.
- Thanks for re-opening the wounds that are just starting to heal. Clearly you lack empathy, tact and common sense.
- A domestic terrorist on the cover of Rolling Stone. You should be ashamed, RS. Not another penny will flow from my pockets to yours.
- I will NEVER buy a Rolling Stone ever again. Disgraceful.
A new Facebook page dedicated to boycotting the cover already has more than 63,000 supporters.
Kansas City Star columnist Yaael T. Abouhalkah had a different perspective.
He said Rolling Stone “couldn’t buy this kind of publicity for its product,” and while it’s a negative reaction, “much of it is from people who would never buy the alternative publication anyway.”
“As for people saying Rolling Stone should feature the victims of the Boston bombing, that wasn’t what the magazine thought the real story was in this case. It wanted to shed light on who this guy is,” Abouhalkah writes.
He noted the subhead headline tells how “a popular, promising student was failed by his family, fell into radical Islam and became a monster.”
“That’s right: The magazine calls him a monster,” he writes. “Hardly a glamorizing headline.”