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Outcry, Boycotts After Rolling Stone Puts Bomb Suspect On Its Cover

In this magazine cover released by Wenner Media, Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev appears on the cover of the Aug. 1, 2013 issue of Rolling Stone. (Wenner Media/AP)

In this magazine cover released by Wenner Media, Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev appears on the cover of the Aug. 1, 2013 issue of Rolling Stone. (Wenner Media/AP)

BOSTON — Several New England-based retail chains say they will not carry the next edition of Rolling Stone magazine because it features surviving Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on its cover.

The just-out cover story details the 19-year-old’s alleged radicalization. (See the magazine’s statement below.)

Rockland-based Tedeschi’s Food Shops, Rhode-Island-based CVS and Boston grocer Roche Bros. said Wednesday they won’t carry the edition in their stores.

Tedeschi’s said its decision to not carry the edition is out of respect for the bombing victims and their families. CVS said it cannot support an issue that glorifies evil actions. Roche Bros. simply said it will not offer the product.

As soon as Rolling Stone posted the cover image on its Facebook page Tuesday evening, it was swarmed by negative comments.

A separate Facebook group, called Boycott Rolling Stone Magazine for their latest cover, gained more than 60,000 likes by mid-afternoon Wednesday.

MBTA Transit Police Officer Richard “Dic” Donohue, who was wounded in the Watertown shootout with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his slain brother, Tamerlan, released a statement Wednesday calling the cover choice “thoughtless at best”:

The City of Boston and the surrounding communities have faced many challenges since the bombings at the marathon finish line. The new cover of Rolling Stone has garnered much attention due to its sensationalized depiction of one of the alleged bombers. My family and I were personally affected by these individuals’ actions. I cannot and do not condone the cover of the magazine, which is thoughtless at best. However, I appreciate our country’s protection of free speech afforded to us by the Constitution. I am confident that our Boston Strong community will remain intrepid and unshaken by the cover of this magazine.

Update at 2:52 p.m.: Rolling Stone has released a statement in response to the controversy, attached to the (just-posted) online version of the story. Here’s the statement:

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.

Update at 3:25 p.m.: Walgreens and locally based Cumberland Farms (in an emailed statement) will not be selling the issue, either.

Update at 4:13 p.m.: Star Market/Shaw’s won’t sell the issue, either. Their statement:

Shaw’s has been part of the New England and Boston communities for over 150 years and we understand on a personal level how profoundly the tragedy surrounding the Boston Marathon has affected our associates and customers. Out of respect for the survivors, those who lost their lives and all of their families and friends, we have made the decision to not sell the August issue of Rolling Stone.

Update at 4:16 p.m.: “Your August 3 cover rewards a terrorist with celebrity treatment,” Boston Mayor Thomas Menino wrote in a letter to the magazine.

He also said: “The survivors of the Boston attacks deserve Rolling Stone cover stories, though I no longer feel that Rolling Stone deserves them.”

Here’s the full letter (via Scribd):

With additional reporting by WBUR’s Newscast Unit

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  • Johan Corby

    Let’s go ahead and pull The Globe, The Herald, Time, and any other that plastered his face on the cover at some point.

    • Argentus

      The Globe, Herald, Time, and many others didn’t make a lunatic look like a rock star.

      • Johan Corby

        I don’t think you know what rock stars look like. Rolling Stone is as much a political commentary mag as it is about music.

      • Eric Herot

        I don’t know what this means either. The picture on the cover is a self-portrait taken before the bombing which makes him look like an ordinary American teenager, which is the whole point of the story. Rolling Stone did nothing to the image to make it more “rock star” like. The fact that the general public can look at such an ordinary picture of Tsarnaev and automatically think “rock star” or “cool teen” makes it the perfect picture for telling the story they are trying to tell.

  • donniethebrasco

    Brookline Booksmith refuses to not display the Rolling Stone issue.

  • donniethebrasco

    Hudson News says that they will sell the Rolling Stone issue with the Boston Bomber.

  • donniethebrasco

    A Walmart employee says that she will take the issue off the shelves if she sees it.

  • Argentus

    I’m not always the biggest fan of Mayor Menino, but that was a great response. I hope the rest of the country follows suit.

    • Thinkfreeer

      Menino makes me gag

    • GTV

      Menino’s heart may be in the right place, but where is his head? It’s a magazine cover. Period. One can choose not to buy the magazine and even not to look at the cover. Besides, we all know what the Marathon Bomber did; and we are not going to confuse him with a “rock star.” Give us a little credit, Mr. Mayor!

      You will recall that Menino also forbade the burial of the elder Tsarnaev brother in Boston–as if he owned the city! Advice to the Mayor: try to keep quiet during the waning days of your tenure lest you undercut your own legacy.

  • Bebe Tores

    I am not a Bostonian, but I definately have sympathy for the victims of the
    tragedy. Yet, I think his story has to be heard, not for justifying what he or a
    terorist did. But to give us, the society the insight of a series of events
    that converts a young smart fellow to a terorist. I think by putting his story
    on the cover, Rolling Stone wants to have every one’s attention and have people
    to actually read it. you may hate him, but you better listen to his story for
    preventing future terorists attacks.

    • Andrew McLaughlin

      I don’t think the objections are with the fact that Rolling Stone is doing the story, or even that they made it their cover story. I think the issue at large is the cover itself and the way they are choosing to represent their cover story exploring Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as the subject. The cover makes it seem as though they are treating him as a pop icon or a celebrity of some kind and not a criminal and a murderer. I get that their intent is to portray him as a real human being, a teenager that went to a dark place and if we hope to ever prevent other Dzhokhars, then I absolutely agree that we as a society need to look at what truly went wrong and try to understand the reality of the evil. But the execution of their cover seems to be more glamorizing than objectively and sensitively discussing and analyzing.

      • Eric Herot

        I am curious. Since the story was indeed about Tsarnaev’s “transformation,” what sort of picture do you think would better have represented it than the quintessential teenage “selfie” they decided to use?

        To hear your and other comments, you would think the only appropriate image of Tsaenaev would be one of him in handcuffs and an orange jumpsuit, which would not, of course, represent the very important story that they are trying to tell.

        • Andrew M.

          I don’t know. I’m not the professional in this instance, but I do know that this cover comes off as tasteless. There must have been some other, more tactful way to present their cover story that truly represented the tone they were going for while preserving the gravity and sensitive nature of their subject-matter. Perhaps a side-by-side juxtaposition of a different photo of him as a normal, average happy high school student hanging out with friends (maybe some other photo like the graduation photo that we’ve all seen already) and one of him in handcuffs and an orange jumpsuit as you suggest. Not this one or any other one that could ever be described as “dreamy” or misconstrued by anybody as the sensitive new singer/songwriter all the girls are obsessing over.

          They could have done better than plastering a flattering head shot on the cover of their pop culture magazine that could easily be compared to similar covers they’ve done of Jim Morrison and other pop stars.

          Doing this responsibly was their job and they failed.

        • maraith

          Ask graphic artists and illustrators – they will tell you there is a wide variety of ways to show this young man that does not treat him as a celebrity. All it takes is imagination and skill. No, Rolling Stone did this on purpose because they want to sell magazines.

  • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

    I wish the would put the guy the FBI agent killed on the cover. when will there be justice or an out cry for him?

  • Andrew Page

    This is a magazine largely dedicated to the celebration, promotion and perhaps worship of celebrities. To put this traitor on the cover with the most flattering picture at hand is celebrating, promoting and worshipping his actions.

    I agree with the numerous comments that they would have done better to use a picture of one of his victims on the road to recovery.

  • http://moultonlava.blogspot.com/ Mokita Syzygy
  • J__o__h__n

    Not selling it is wrong and cowardly. No one has to buy it but censoring is a practice used by radical Islamists and shouldn’t still be going on in Boston.

  • sjw81

    what happened to free speech in america? just dont buy this trash. its all about selling magazines, and this rag put this murdering terrorist on its cover to gain attention and sell …i found it repulsive myself so dont know how many will actually buy it, regardless of how serious or insightful it might be. who cares? why are these horrible humans so prevelant in our society and infamously glamorized in media? Cant wait unitl his sentencing, either execution or lifetime of being raped in prison by infidels….

    • Andrew Page

      No one is calling for the cops to kick in the door and take away the copies. The debate is just how BAD of an idea this cover is.

      You have a right to free speech but that doesn’t make anything you say or print poetry or wisdom.

  • scallywag

    Who knows maybe the role of press is just to be an obsequious marketing tool to preferred dogma and keeping the sheep den cozy….sorry not all terrorists are hunch back tyrants but sometimes the ‘white boy’ next door gone disturbed, or is that headline not fitting well with our well formulated understanding of what reality and morality ought to be and look like in America…?

    http://scallywagandvagabond.com/2013/07/was-rolling-stone-wrong-to-idolize-boston-bomber-dzhokhar-tsarnaev/

    • Thinkfreeer

      You are speaking to an empty room

  • zubsha

    Perhaps the worst thing that has happened is an unfortuante choice of cover photo We must reserve judgement until the article is read To see an attractive young man transform into a monstrous killer is a potentially powerful story The photo may make you want to know him or be him but the article might tell a very different story. Maybe it is the right cover Cant judge without the whole story

  • maraith

    Probably the article is excellent journalism. But the cover is glamorizing a murderer. That is wrong. It’s just that simple.

    • Thinkfreeer

      Glamor is in the eye of the beholder, not the retailer.

  • Lori Salotto

    I totally support the right to free speech and Rolling Stone can do whatever they want and it may be a terrific article, but the cover was not necessary and what they did was in very poor taste; and I, as a reader have a right not to buy it and people who sell magazines have the right not to
    sell it.

    • Thinkfreeer

      And I have the right not to patronize stores that choose to censor what issues of a publication I may purchase. Future purchases at CVS = $0, Cumberland Farms = $0, Shaws = $0, Star Market = $0. Don’t know the others.

      • Lori Salotto

        You absolutely do and that is what is great about our country – we can make the choices that feel right to us personally – Rolling Stones put what it wants on its cover – I chose the right not to buy it – stores choose not to sell it, others will choose to sell it – you choose not to patronize those stores that won’t sell it and will patronize those stores that do. Kudos to you.

        • J__o__h__n

          Store have the right to not sell publications but it cowardly to cave into the mob and obstruct journalism. Pressuring stores to not sell publications doesn’t put one on the side of freedom.

  • Sunnie J. Smith

    If I understand correctly, the article states that this was just an ordinary kid who became a terrorist. The photograph in question is proof that he appeared to be “just another kid”. I think it is completely stupid to boycott a magazine for printing an article that will educate the American public that terrorists can look like “just another kid”. Look at Timothy McVeigh, he was also “just another kid”. The media has picked up on the photograph and not the substance of the article. Hmmmm, judging a book by it’s cover? I suppose that any magazine that shows photographs of Hitler would be boycotted if we use this logic. Those that do not learn from their mistakes are destined to repeat them. This young man “looked like just another kid.” let that soak in for a minute.

    • jean marie

      Sunnie at first I was offended by the cover but you make a really point.

  • Thinkfreeer

    The mayor goes out of office with big sucking sound. Good bye, Mumbles.

  • veritas78

    I understand the point RS was attempting to make. In this case, however, I think the editors made a conscious decision to ignore the ego-enhancing thrill their cover provided to Mr. Tsarnaev.

    I think a less flattering image would have offset the rage many of us feel with RS’s choice. It may have also placed the focus on where it belonged – a character study of how hate seeps into the mind of any individual, under the right circumstances.

    Propaganda has incited generations to war and violent activism – THAT should have been the focal point. RS harmed both the writer and their readership.

  • gardenia

    Just think of all the negative publicity this stupid cover will get for Rolling Stone. I predict that they will sell every magazine they produce and make lots of profit. This cover was no “accident”.
    I hope Tsarnaev gets to live a long life in solitary confinement. What worries me is the influence radical Islam has on “innocent” appearing Muslims in the whole world.

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