Rolling Stone's Jihadist Rock Star
A liberal magazine's twisted romance with an Islamist killer -- and how it backfired.
(/sites/default/files/uploads/2013/07/ALeqM5gsldNJXyGqlSpCHNp_nq4Cr-tSvA.jpg)In a shameless display of the Left’s romance with the murderous enemies of America, Rolling Stone magazine has put a picture of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the cover of its August issue, being released to newsstands today. An outcry of national proportions has ensued, best expressed by bombing survivor James “Bim” Costello, 30, of Malden, MA, who needed several pigskin grafts, and has three friends who lost legs in the atrocity. ”I think whoever wrote the article should have their legs blown off by someone, struggle through treatment and then see who they would choose to put on the cover,” he said.
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino was equally reviled by the decision. “Why are we glorifying a guy who created mayhem in the city of Boston?” he fumed. “Why would we want to heroize this guy? He’s a terrorist. We don’t want him in our neighborhoods. We don’t want him on magazines. We don’t want him anywhere.” Menino also sent a letter to Rolling Stone publisher Jan Wenner, castigating the decision to give Tsarnaev ”celebrity treatment,” further noting such treatment “reaffirms a terrible message that destruction gains fame for killers and their ‘causes.’”
At least five retailers, including CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, Stop & Shop, the Roche Bros grocery chain, and Tedeschi Food Shops, a Massachusetts-based convenience store chain, have announced they will not be selling the issue. A statement released by CVS, which operates in 7,300 locations nationwide, illuminated the prevailing sentiment. “CVS/pharmacy has decided not to sell the current issue of Rolling Stone featuring a cover photo of the Boston Marathon bombing suspect,” it said. “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.”
Outrage was also expressed on social media sites. “This cover makes him look like some kind of cool rock god… it’s horrible” said one Twitter user. “Why give the guy the cover of Rolling Stone?” asked another. “Kill an 8-year-old, land on the cover of Rolling Stone,” tweeted Brian Ries, senior editor at _Newsweek._ ”TIME gave Charles Manson the cover and all the magazines carried pictures of the Columbine shooters on the covers, too. Don’t make martyrs out of these people,” said another enraged user. All of them reflect the reality that the Twitter feed, “#Boycott Rolling Stone” is becoming an increasingly popular topic on the service.
At the magazine’s Facebook page, where more than 5,400 people left comments in the first 12 hours the cover was posted online, the overall sentiment was equally incendiary. ”Whoever subscribes to this worthless rag should cancel their subscriptions TODAY!!! This is unacceptable!!” said one. “I shared this on my news feed, but not in support of your magazine, I shared it to show people how low you have gone by putting this terrorist on your cover. Rolling Stone, go and read all the shares of your picture, there are a lot of angry people that you would make such a disgusting choice,” said another. ”Very un-American. F**k you Rolling Stone. I thought it was supposed to be an honor to be on your cover?” read yet another disgusted reader.
The last comment cuts to the heart of the issue. For decades, getting one’s picture on the cover of the Rolling Stone was considered the ultimate affirmation of rock stardom. So much so, the phenomenon was immortalized in a song ”Cover of the Rolling Stone,“ written by Shel Silverstein and performed by Dr. Hook. It is virtually inconceivable that Rolling Stone publisher Jan Wenner would be oblivious to the obvious connection most people would make with regard to giving a jihadist bomber the “star treatment.”
More likely it was precisely the point. For some time, Tsarnaev has been the subject of conspicuous fascination, and not just by deranged college co-eds. For the Left, Tsarnaev is exotic and, most importantly, at war with America, which leftists also despise. This is why, since the time Tsarnaev’s identity was uncovered, the Left has been consumed with offering bogus motivations for the atrocity, such as the Iraq War, poverty and the sorrows of being an immigrant – the point of which is to use our crimes to account for his crimes. Most of these grievances, of course, leftists share. In all of this soul-searching and sympathy, it is no surprise that they have to some extent fallen in love with Tsarnaev in the process.
Sales are down for the _Rolling Stone_ and continue to plummet, and no doubt openly flaunting their worship of Tsarnaev was a gambit the magazine’s editorial board had hoped would pay off. In the first half of 2010, the magazine suffered a 26.9 percent decline in newsstand sales, compared to an overall drop of 5.6 percent for the industry, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. In a list of magazines sorted by their paid circulation in the United States, it currently ranks 53rd, with an overall circulation of 1.47 million, of which 1.34 million are subscriptions. The risk, however, has not been worth it. One independent Facebook page alone, “Boycott Rolling Stone Magazine for their latest cover,” had garnered more than 155,000 “likes” by the time of this writing. Many on the page are urging subscribers to drop their subscriptions.
In a self-serving statement, _Rolling Stone_ defended its decision. ”Our hearts go out to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, and our thoughts are always with them and their families,” it said. “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 magazine further insisted “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.”
All of which could have been accomplished without putting Tsarnaev on the cover in the all-too-familiar celebrity pose, along with the headline ”The Bomber” in large lettering, followed by the sub-heading, “How a popular, promising student was failed by his family, fell into radical Islam and became a monster.”
Unsurprisingly the magazine’s choice had its defenders. “The problem here isn’t the cover itself, or the image: it’s the reaction,“ wrote flavorwire.com’s Tyler Coates. Author Tony Castro contended the publication “is obviously still doing what it has–trailblazing.” After conceding the cover was “a big turnoff for many,” he defended it, even if it had been touched up for publication. “Was it touched up? Probably, but likely no more than the mug of New England Patriots’ star quarterback Tom Brady on all those sports magazine covers and his Uggs ads,” he wrote. “If you’re going to buy covers with touch-ups of your heroes, you better also expect touch-ups of your villains.” The Atlantic Wire’s Eric Levenson contends ”the brouhaha over the cover photo ignores the main reason Rolling Stone used that selfie in the first place; the piece is excellent,” he writes.
Levenson is disingenuous at best, and the Daily Caller’s Matt K. Lewis explains exactly why. “The disparity between the number of people who see a cover versus the number of people who read a story is staggering,” he writes. “What is more, even the words splashed on the cover are easily overcome by the image. Anyone who knows anything about optics and public relations knows this to be true.”
It is virtually impossible to believe that one of promotional advertising’s oldest adages, “image is everything,” is lost on the editors of Rolling Stone. It is certainly not lost on the clueless cadre of dimwitted young “fangirls” caught up in the “Free Jahar” movement that has had thousands of them swooning over the alleged mass murderer. Such swooning includes blogs with pictures similar to the one published by Rolling Stone. Since several stories about this odious phenomenon were published in May, along with explanations about the psychological motivations that animate it, namely the twisted desire for fame above everything else, the idea that Rolling Stone is surprised by the outrage its cover engenders strains credulity. Moreover, by publishing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s picture on the cover, Rolling Stone feeds into the exact same need for fame that has driven some of the nation’s worst mass murderers.
As for the magazine’s professed desire to “gain a more complete understanding of how a tragedy like this happens,” spare us all such pious nonsense. First and foremost, a carefully planned and executed terrorist attack that wounded 264 people, many of whom had limbs blown off, and killed three, including an 8-year-old boy, is not a “tragedy.” It is a cold-blooded atrocity, the “complete understanding” of which can be reduced to two words: radical Islam. Furthermore, the article itself, entitled “Jahar’s World,” is a long, detailed effort that comes across as an attempt to elicit some level of empathy for Dzhokhar. It is a function of the left’s ceaseless efforts to cast sociopaths (especially liberal-aligned sociopaths) as sympathetic, relatable figures with “dysfunctional childhoods” and “broken homes,” shifting the proximate cause of their evil acts to “society” or “the system.”
Conspicuously missing from the article? Any details about the victims of the bombings. Jen Regan, fiancé of Marc Fucarile, who is still hospitalized as a result of the attack, offers some much-need perspective in that regard.
For over 3 months now, Marc has had to wake up every day in a hospital dealing with pain, dozens of surgeries and intensive rehab therapy. Our entire family has been focused on Marc’s recovery while we anxiously await when he can return home. The new Rolling Stone cover is disgusting. It sensationalizes Marc’s pain as well all the other victims and survivors. It is an insult to the families and people impacted that day. We know that the people of Boston are better than this and will continue to rise above this meaningless story and keep the focus where it belongs on the victims, survivors and their families who face a lifetime of challenges. We look forward to welcoming Marc home soon and thank everyone for their continued support.
The victims are the real face of this atrocity. That Rolling Stone chooses to ignore such an obvious reality in favor of giving an Islamic jihadist the so-called “rock star treatment” is a utter disgrace.
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