My Unpopular Opinion on the Rolling Stone cover

It seems I have a very unpopular opinion about this whole Rolling Stone Magazine cover thing going on. I don’t necessarily believe putting Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the cover is a terrible thing. This is not to say I do not understand what the victims and others are saying and why they think it’s awful.  But I can see what, possibly, RS is attempting.

People are upset by the photo, claiming it glamorizes Tsarnaev and turns him into a celebrity figure.  But this is the same photo media outlets have already been using since the bombing occurred.

Now look at the text in front of the photo: THE BOMBER How a popular, promising student was failed by his family, fell into radical islam, and became a monster.

Read it again.

That photo could be anyone. Any kid in AnyTown, USA.  It’s just another “selfie” pulled off a social media site.  Another photo from some kid’s facebook page. Some kid nobody would ever have thought capable of causing such terrible violence and horrific destruction.  He could be ANY kid.  Of course, he’s not, he’s Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the Boston Bomber.  But how did he become that?  How did he go from some kid to mass murderer?

I don’t know if they did it for shock value or to boost their sales.  I have no idea what their motivation was, but when I first heard of all the outrage, my thought was not “Oh, they’re glorifying this person” it was “look at the point they are making.”

Is it any different than the point TIME magazine made in 1999 when they put the smiling school portraits of the Columbine murderers on the cover of their magazine and said “THE MONSTERS NEXT DOOR: What made them do it?”  Or, later that same year, the black and white surveillance photo of the boys with their guns in the cafeteria where the two propane bombs they had placed (which, had they gone off, probably would have killed almost 500 people)?  Many people on various social networking sites may be too young to clearly recall the Columbine Massacre.  I, however, have a very clear recollection of the horror and shock the country felt. Yet nobody decried TIME’s covers.

Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, also graced the cover of TIME, they called him the Mad Genius right there in big bold lettering, even though he killed 3 people and injured another 30.

Timothy McVeigh has graced their cover no less than three times.  He killed 168 people and injured over 600 more when he set off explosives in Oklahoma City in 1995.

So is the problem more that it’s Rolling Stone Magazine who has put Tsarnaev’s face on their cover?  If it were TIME, would people be as outraged?  No.  Because TIME is “news” and Rolling Stone is entertainment (though they have a long history of covering current affairs, politics, etc.).

Isn’t it important to educate younger readers, like those who read Rolling Stone, about these type of things?  Isn’t it important to show how the very people reading the magazine are, in reality, not so different than the bomber himself?    We expect people who commit violence upon others to be something so very different than us, but the hard truth is, they’re not.  At least not on the outside.  Sure, most people are not going to go out and inflict mass violence, but who knows who may or may not. How could a popular, promising young man become the monster who maimed so many?

It’s a conversation that should be started.