Rolling Stone Runs with Boston Bombing Suspect Cover, Sparks Outrage


Rolling Stone magazine unveiled the cover of their August 1st issue yesterday, and immediately felt the Internet’s wrath. That’s because the cover — often reserved for celebrities, rock stars, etc. — features a photo of the infamous Boston Bomber #2 in the white hat: suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

The issue’s lead story, written by Janet Reitman, is an in-depth feature on Tsarnaev. A “heartbreaking account of how a charming kid with a bright future became a monster.” Therefore, the magazine obviously thought it was okay to put a photo of Tsarnaev on the cover — the online community disagrees.


The photo itself isn’t new. Taken from Tsarnaev’s Twitter account, it has even been used on the cover of The New York Times, and caused no newsworthy backlash. The issue seems to be that getting on the cover of the Rolling Stone is seen as something of an achievement … a good thing. It was even immortalized in song by Dr. Hook and The Medicine Show.

Reactions to the cover reveal have ranged from speechless disbelief to vulgar outrage. One Facebook commenter expressed a sentiment that was repeated by many others: “[I have] been a subscriber since 1982 — canceling tonight. I am beyond words…” Others chose a more simple approach, dropping a choice expletive and signing off.

Some see the cover as incentive for “future nutjobs to aspire to,” while others fear the fuel this will give to the small group of Tsarnaev supporters rallying under the so-called “Free Jahar movement.”

Whatever the outcome — it seems even Tsarnaev sympathizers weren’t happy with the magazine, because the article labels him as guilty before he’s had his day in court — the folks at Rolling Stone have a viral Internet backlash on their hands. Thus far, the magazine has not responded to requests for comment.

(via The Verge)

Update: Drugstores and supermarkets based in New England are boycotting Rolling Stone over this cover photograph.

Update: The magazine has published a response to the controversy, 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.

  • geeves

    So? Nobody would care if it was the cover of Time. Tsarnaev isn’t the first deplorable person to grace the cover either. Manson and Nixon have preceded Tsarnaev.

    These people complaining haven’t ready the f’in article. My bet is Rolling Stone is not glamorizing Tsarnaev. Also most of those who are decrying RS probably don’t even read or subscribe to the magazine. They’re complaining to complain, are easily offended and should go play in their safe room and never leave their house.

    Yes, RS main focus is perhaps music and entertainment, but Tabbi and co also do some really good investigative journalism. Much better than the cable news channels.

  • DamianM

    America has lost its balls

  • tyrohne

    I bought five copies for my mother…

    (apologies to Dr. Hook)

  • Mantis

    It’s news, and Rolling Stone has some great journalism.
    Why the outrage America?

  • Christian DeBaun

    At least they didn’t put Zimmerman on the cover…

  • Ian

    Yes, the first amendment protects them, but I hope they go bankrupt over this – it might be cool to some people, but to those of us who had a Muslim extremist terrorist murder one of their friends, it’s beyond deplorable.

  • Aaron Lee Kafton

    Yes, we should stop taking photos, writing stories, articles, and creating art that might upset or disagree with anyone. We should all just be creating hotel lobby art. Completely meaningless, incapable of offending anyone, and most definitely won’t cause us to have a discussion about the problems in our society. That is obviously the answer.

  • Ken

    F**k Rolling Stone. You should never romanticize these people. They should be thrown into a pit and forgot about and I know several Muslims that agree with me. They would probably bury him with pig blood.

  • Ian

    And we should glorify murderers, praise rapists, and deify terrorists! Why the hell not, right? Artistic expression should overrule everything else, I suppose. As I said, they are free to do it, but I’m free to think they are disgusting for doing it and to hope they all go bankrupt for using their influence to celebrate a terrorist as a rock star. I am not for infringing artistic expression, but I am free to criticize those “artists” who I think have gone WAY TOO FAR.

  • Mantis

    Yes, exactly. Let’s just forget that these people exist, cover our eyes & ears, and say “La la la la la la!”. I’m sure we’ll all be better for it.

  • Mantis

    Who the hell is glorifying, praising, and deifying these people?

    Does the History Channel deify Nazism when they show a documentary about Hitler? Of course not.

    This is journalism in the human interest.

  • Ian

    Rolling Stone is glorifying a terrorist, plain and simple. By putting him on the cover, that puts his profile on the same footing as the rock stars and other celebrities that usually appear there. Please don’t be so foolish as to think that isn’t the case and that the people on magazine covers are irrelevant.

  • A.J.

    Sounds like the Right Wing Noise machine must be creating more phony outrage today, and of course, it’s aimed at a publication they consider “Liberal”.

    I wonder how different their reaction would be if this picture was on the cover of Newsmax or Time.

  • Mantis

    So what’s the alternative? To bury history? To not try and learn what radicalizes people and turns them into monsters, as the headline on the front of the damn magazine clearly says?

    Hitler was once named Time Magazines “Man of the Year” in 1938.

    Do you think they were glorifying him? Or maybe just commenting about his impact on the events of the time?

    Osama bin Laden has appeared on the cover of countless magazines & newspapers. All deifying the guy, right?

    Give me a break, Ian.

    It’s folks like you who encourage ignorance, brushing history under the run, and actually help to insure that these events happen again.

  • Ian

    You know what, you’re right. News is entertainment these days, and so I guess Rolling Stone is as appropriate as any other venue. I think you’re missing the whole point, though. The point isn’t that he’s on a magazine cover, it’s that he’s on THAT cover, which does glamorize the people on the cover. If you think Time and Rolling Stone are the same, you are ignorant indeed.

    I’m done commenting.

  • Mantis

    It’s too bad you feel that way. And the idea of glorifying this guy never even crossed my mind. It still doesn’t. I’ve always seen Rolling Stone covers as just featuring people who’ve made a big impact on modern culture, and has some of the best, and most fearless writing in journalism . You should read some Matt Taibbi articles.

  • Aaron Lee Kafton

    Thank you Mantis for saying exactly what I was going to.

  • Guest

    I’m honestly shocked this is considered outrage material.

    Now, the teens who post love poems to Tsarnaev all over tumblr, those kids just baffle me.

  • Devin Dillinger Paredes

    bin laden was on the cover of time, charlie manson was previously on the cover of RS; this is no different. There is nothing that states RS should relegate its cover space to Kanye and Bieber. Seeing as how tsarniev is the cover story it makes sense to put him there.

  • DamianM

    It is to remind us that there are things that need to be addressed. These people are much more important then any celebrity that could adorn the cover. The front cover is for important subjects. OJ Simpson, Osama bin laden, Charles Manson, and even Hitler have been on the magazine covers before, so whats the outrage?

    Like I said America has lost its balls.

  • Matt

    How about a photo of the bombing or surviors? I agree that some twisted minds will see themselves on the cover of RS if they commit a big enough crime. The article is most likely a good one, and I assume brings up topics that need to be discussed. But puting his photo on the front page and throwing his name around is just feeding the twisted minds that do this type of thing.

  • citoyenmag

    Why get into this news, PetaPixel? I was really hoping for a more photography-focused, new angle to this story from you guys. Maybe an exclusive quote from the photo editor who ran it? Or a perspective from another photo editor at another major magazine? The pageviews game gets us all, I guess. Still really dig your site.

  • Matt

    What needs to be addressed is the motivation of the attack,
    what would lead a monster to do these kinds of things. And what we could do to prevent innocent people from dying in these attacks. His actual photo does nothing to help that.

    One thing we have learned in looking at these monsters is that publishing their names and faces gives them what they want. And that it is providing motivation for other twisted people who want that kind of infamy. So, yes we should be outraged that his photo is on the cover of anything past the first few days. Does that equate in any way to not addressing the event? Not in the least. Photos of the survivors, the first responders, the good that was displayed that day could just as easily have been used on the cover.

    So, why is it different than before? Because we have talked about it in the past and we learned lessons. And we should be outraged if those lessons are not followed as it could fuel the next tragic event.

  • Devin Dillinger Paredes
  • nullhogarth

    One of the most interesting aspects to this story, for me, is exactly what everyone is so uncomfortable about – although they express it in different ways – that a good-looking person can actually be evil. He represents a disturbance in the vortex – we are drawn to him even while we’re repelled.

  • nullhogarth

    Why get into this? Because it’s a story about the power of a photograph.

  • citoyenmag

    Of course. But I’ve read this general angle from USA Today,, NYT’s media beat, etc. I like PetaPixel because it provides fresh angles on powerful photo stories. Anyway, I think it’s a really interesting discussion. I remember a similar uproar happening when Time featured Osama Bin Laden’s likeness.

  • Marius Viken

    Rolling Stone is going to laugh all the way to the bank in september.

  • DamianM

    Its not ment to be cool but its ment to call everyone’s attention

  • George

    I can’t believe this outrage over this one person when you show no remorse for killing hundreds of your own people every day , using an outdated 200 year old constitutional amendment .

  • Sterling

    Circulation must be down. No such thing as bad publicity and all that.

  • Diana

    I appreciate Rolling Stone taking the time to consider the WHY of this boy’s path to violence. It takes a village to raise a child, and our village is crumbling. Let’s put aside our fears, righteousness and ego to start taking a real look at what is going on in our country.

  • tarena1991

    I STILL think it’s inappropriate, Rolling Stones may dabble in non musical Journalism but THIS is like having the Twin Towers exploding on the cover of Architectural Digest

  • John Kantor

    “within the traditions of journalism” – and that, of course, is the problem. Become a terrorist or mass murderer and you can be assured the news media will give you everything you desire.

  • alecio

    I think the cover glorifies an image, the image of a disturbed young man, an assassin. Let’s hope that nobody else would think that is all right to do the same or something similar to get on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. In times when “followers” in social media and image are everything it is really a serious situation to see a guy like him on that cover. It doesn’t matter if RS is not glamorizing Tsarnaev, his image is already there, and i think that would be i enough for more crazy ones to do something really bad just to get in evidence in life. I dare anyone who lost someone for terrorism to write something like this “These people complaining haven’t ready the f’in article.”

  • Lee Young

    you don’t need to specify the religion- it’s not the religion’s problem, it’s the person’s.

  • Sky

    Well, not everyone read American newspapers. For me it was an interesting and a totally new thing.

    I think you got a typical issue people from USA have: Forgetting that you are not alone in the world and you are not the only one who matters.

  • Ian

    I mentioned it for accuracy – my friend was on the 100th floor of North Tower on 9/11

  • Sean McCann

    Do you also have some black friends?

  • Sean McCann

    Dabble? Because they do tough stories and do not cover the county fair? Where have you been the past 40 years?

  • Froggy

    Does the name Hunter S. Thompson ring any bells?

  • ZA

    Osama Bin Laden was on the cover of TIME magazine.

  • Slapdick McGee

    I’m not angry, but I do think it cheapens the cover. It used to be considered a great honor to be put on the cover of Rolling Stone.

  • Ken

    No, that’s not what I am saying at all. I am saying give them a proper trial, then bury them. What more do you need to hear from a terrorist than his last breath, after you get all the information from them that you can. This country treats even terrorist with kid gloves.

  • Brixton

    Time and Rolling Stone are two very different magazines. RS is known to put people who have changed the music world and it’s cover is reserved for people of that stature. It’s fine for them to do a story on Tsarnaev since it is journalism, but the fact that they made him the cover and used that photo – that’s what’s disrespectful. No one like him should have the honor of the cover.

  • Spongebob Nopants

    One of the reasons people do these things is to become famous or earn some sort of (often delusional) kudos. By putting this little douch bag on the cover Rolling Stone has given him one of the rewards he desired.

    And it’s not just a reward, it’s an incitement for further murders. Others like this cruddy little toe rag will see the gamour awarded by this cover and want it for themselves. And thanks to this cover, they’ll conclude that they have a reasonable chance of getting it.

    The next mass murder by a home grown jihadi wannabe will be partially Rolling Stone’s fault.

  • Spongebob Nopants.

    It most certainly is the “religion’s” problem. To be more specific it’s the ideology that is focusing on what has always been in the belief system’s core texts.

    They use faith to justify and inspire terrorism and conquest.

    Furthermore it is the primary motivation of the people who are turning impressionable half wits like the Tard brothers into terrorists. They believe they are commanded by their faith to engage in conquest.

    The claim that faith is irrelevant is just not true as long as the terrorists and those who create them think it’s their prime motivation.

    There are tens of thousands of scumbags just like the Tard brothers and they all have individual psychological reasons. But the people who turn them into terrorists have only one motivation.

  • wewqeqwe

    time is not a magazine that create stars.. clebrities….. get a clue what your talking about.

  • DesertandSeas

    Wish I had found this earlier. It’s good to see Rolling Stone carrying on the tradition of controversy and damn good journalism.

    Some of the younger readers might like to do a bit of research about Rolling Stone before they say or write another word about relevancy.
    Some of the older ones have really slipped into middle age crankiness.