Thursday, July 18, 2013

Today I take an unpopular stand, defending freedom of the press

There has been a lot of online outrage because Rolling Stone magazine is publishing a cover story on Dzhokar Tsarnayev written by Contributing Editor Janet Reitman.

People are saying they are canceling their subscriptions, will never buy another issue and want to boycott advertisers. Some retail stores refuse to sell the issue. The mayor of Boston is furious. At least six instant "Boycott Rolling Stone" Facebook pages had nearly 150,000 likes on Thursday morning.

I think Dzhokar Tsarnayev is an evil piece of shit. I wish he and his brother Tamerlin had never been born.

I have the utmost sympathy for their victims, dead and alive. I have the utmost admiration for severely injured Boston Marathon runners and watchers who are struggling to rebuild their lives. I am amazed by the courage shown by first responders and civilians who rushed toward the flames and smoke to help the victims.

HOWEVER, I think it's perfectly OK for Rolling Stone or any other publication to put the bomber's face, or any other newsworthy face, on the front cover.

I don't recall similar outrage when photos of the Boston Strangler, Adam Lanza, Son of Sam, OJ Simpson or Osama Bin Laden were on the covers of magazines and newspapers or the subject of books and movies.

But now, outraged citizens complain that Rolling Stone is honoring a mass murderer as if he is a rock star or hero. Tsarnayev is not being honored. Why don't people understand this? 

Commenters sound like members of a crazed lynch mob. Some decided what the article says even before the magazine went on sale. Some think that Rolling Stone regards Tsarnayev as a hero, or needs Tsarnayev to boost circulation.
  • "We all need a list of all the advertisers and boycott them."
  • "Boycott the stores that sell this rag. I'm going shopping today, if I see this rag being sold in my grocery store, I will walk out but Not before I express my dissatisfaction."
  • "It would be interesting if they went bankrupt over this and I think they would deserve to."
  • "F U Rolling Stone. I hope you never, NEVER sell another magazine again. You make this terrorist look hip? Are you out of your F'ing minds? Each and EVERY person involved in this story and decision should be fired and banned from this line of work. America, I beg you to not buy this #$%$ ever again. Let them sink with this severely poor decision and with their glorified hero."
  • "Shame on Rolling Stone and anyone who would keep their subscription to Rolling Stone. You never give a murderer the satisfaction of being famous. Ever. I'd really like to know who owns this magazine and what their agenda is behind glorifying a terrorist."
  • I thought Rolling Stone was a music/trade magazine with rock reviews of music. Why are they doing politics?
  • Time to stop buying Rolling Stone. Also time to stop buying products advertised in Rolling Stone. It is disgusting that they are trying to make this disgusting pos into a "folk hero".
  • "Subscriptions must be waaaaay down for them to do something so sleazy. They gain attention from the initial shock value but I suspect in the long run, they'll be worse off than they are now. Possibly even to the point of folding in the next year or so. Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of leftists."
People and things get front-page treatment because they are important, not necessarily because they are good. There is a significant difference. Why don't people understand this? 

In many years Time magazine gets shit-upon by people who don't understand that the magazine's "Person of the Year" is the person who "for better or worse, has most influenced events in the preceding year."

That's not like an Oscar, Emmy, Grammy, Nobel or Pulitzer.

Time has named Hitler, Stalin, Kruschev and Khomeni as men or persons of the year. The H-bomb has also been on the cover. So was the destruction caused by the 911 terrorists. Evil was analyzed and condemned by Time -- not honored.

On this blog and elsewhere
 I write about many things I don't like. Publicizing is not praising. 

So it is with Rolling Stone and the Boston bomber.  

Rolling Stone said, "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."

Some have complained that Rolling Stone should stick to music. Politics has always been an important part of 'Stone -- going back at least to 1972 when Hunter Thomson wrote "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas." Thirty-seven years later, in 2009, Matt Taibbi was widely praised for his reporting on the financial meltdown. That's not an interview with Lady Gaga.

No one has to read the Tsarnayev article, but if the article is well done, perhaps we will get a better understanding of how a seemingly normal kid becomes a terrorist, so maybe similar tragedies can be avoided in the future. That's important.
  • It's appropriate to hate Tsarnayev -- but not Rolling Stone.
  • Nothing useful will be achieved by cancelling subscriptions or boycotting advertisers.
  • Don't shoot the messenger because you don't like the message.
  • Don't bomb TV studios or chop heads off reporters because you don't like the news. The USA is not Syria, Afghanistan or Pakistan.
Monday night a reporter and cameraman for CBS television were assaulted while covering a Los Angeles demonstration protesting the George Zimmerman acquittal.
  • Beating up news people will not bring Trayvon Martin back to life.
  • Boycotting advertisers and canceling subscriptions will not undo the Boston massacre.
In the early 1970s I was an editor (not _the_ editor) at Rolling Stone. I have no relationship with the mag now. I read it about once every three years.

Last night, MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell (whom I usually trust) said that the article did not reveal anything useful. He also said that 'Stone is "running scared" and canceled an author interview with O'Donnell after the eruption of outrage. 


  1. I totally agree that boycotting, cancelling subscriptions, etc. is at best a ridiculous response. I also agree that RS has the right to publish the story on the bomber...thus continuing their coverage of timely and controversial issues. My only problem with this cover is the picture they chose. It's been compared to Jim Morrison's cover picture. It's a somewhat sexy pose and a rockstar-ish look...not in line with the monster we know who bombed the marathon. That's where the "ew" factor comes in. I know that it creeps me out to look at him on that cover. It's not glorifying him, but it's certainly showing him in his best light, which seems a tad disrespectful.
    All of that said, yes...I think people are going way off the deep end with this. All it would take is a different picture of him on the cover...then it would just be a article and not a pin-up pic of this boy who committed such evil acts.

  2. William Bryan JaniskyJuly 18, 2013 at 7:46 AM

    You are clearly a America-hating traitor. you shood be boycotted.