NEW YORK, NY – Outrage is percolating across social media over Rolling Stone magazine’s decision to put Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the accused Boston Marathon bomber, on the cover of its latest issue.
The picture is one that Tsarnaev himself posted online and has been published widely by other media outlets in the past. But a groundswell of criticism objecting to its prominent play emerged on platforms like Twitter and Facebook.
Two prominent New England-based businesses, CVS pharmacies and Tedeschi Food Shops, heard the public outcry and announced it will not sell that edition, which will be on the stands soon.
“Music and terrorism don’t mix!” the Tedeschi firm said on its Facebook page, which carries the cover image with a circle and a line crossed through it. One Facebook commenter said, “I’m done with Rolling Stone.”
Much space in the magazine often is allotted to rock stars and celebrities. But the popular journal has forged a reputation over the years in other realms, not just its popular music writing. It provides hard-hitting pieces on national affairs, politics and popular culture.
For example, journalist Michael Hastings wrote a 2010 profile of Gen. Stanley McChrystal that led to the officer’s abrupt retirement. In his profile, Hastings quoted McChrystal and his staff criticizing and mocking key administration officials.
In response to the criticism, the magazine issued a statement saying, “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.”
From ‘promising student’ to ‘monster’
The article about the bombing suspect is a deeply researched account, the magazine said in a synopsis about the story on its website dated July 16. News about the story and cover has made its way around the Internet and social media.
The cover photo shows a scraggy-haired, goateed Tsarnaev staring straight at the camera, an image that many people interpret as sympathetic rock-star treatment.
The text reads: “The Bomber. How a popular, promising student was failed by his family, fell into radical Islam and became a monster.”
Among the revelations in the story:
— A public plea from his former wrestling coach may ultimately have convinced Tsarnaev to surrender when police surrounded the boat in which he was hiding.
— In high school, Tsarnaev played down the fact that he was a Muslim. But he also took his religion seriously.
— He once confided to a friend that he thought the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks could be justified because of U.S. policies toward Muslim countries.
Slammed across social media
The magazine’s Facebook post of the cover image had received more than 4,700 comments by early Wednesday morning.
“Oh look, Rolling Stone magazine is glamourizing terrorism. Awesome,” Adrienne Graham commented on the magazine’s Facebook page. “I will NOT be buying this issue, or any future issues.”
Others expressed similar sentiments, and words such as “tasteless,” “sickening” and “disgusting” flew around social media.
“What a slap in the face to the great city of Boston and the Marathon Bombing victims,” commented Lindsey Williamson.
The cover also brought out comments from the “Free Jahar” movement. (Dzhokhar is also spelled Jahar or Djahar.)
“#BoycottRollingStone calling Djahar a monster and stirring the pot even more shame on you! Innocent until PROVEN guilty,” tweeted @Jahars_Tsarnaev.
The issue will be off some racks
Michael DeAngelis, a CVS Caremark Corp. spokesman, told CNN that the company will keep the new issue off its magazine racks across the country. CVS Caremark is headquartered in Woonsocket, Rhode Island.
“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,” DeAngelis said.
Tedeschi Food Shops, based in Rockland, Massachusetts, has stores in New England. While it supports the need to provide news, it said, it “cannot support actions that serve to glorify the evil actions of anyone. With that being said, we will not be carrying this issue of Rolling Stone.”
Authorities accuse brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev of setting off a pair of bombs just seconds apart near the finish line of the packed Boston Marathon course on Boylston Street on April 15.
Three people were killed and more than 260 were injured.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed four days later in a shootout with police.
His younger brother, Dzhokhar, was captured and charged with 30 federal counts stemming from the attack.
Last week he pleaded not guilty to the charges.
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