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Carroll: Nothing glamorous about Boston Bomber

An old friend and longtime reader recently suggested I write a piece ripping Rolling Stone magazine for placing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on its cover.

I have no problem ripping anyone worth ripping, but in this case, I’m just not feeling any outrage. I have no plans to cancel my subscription, nor will I be firing off a letter to Rolling Stone’s editor because I feel as others do that they’ve glamorized the alleged Boston bomber.

More and more, the media takes heat for glorifying killers — whether they’re the Boston bombers or the latest unhinged male to take out a school class or movie theater.

Understandably, readers and viewers are getting tired of hearing about these news events and the culprits behind them. It’s the innocent victims who deserve as much if not more attention than what the deranged murderers receive, and that’s a plausible argument.

Sunday’s Denver Post profiled the victims of the Aurora theater massacre as part of the first anniversary of the event. It was a difficult read — stories of the mothers, fathers, children, servicemen and others all slain simply because they were at the wrong place at the wrong time. But it was important to read, as well, if only to digest the unfortunate significance of and surrounding the event.

Some readers, meanwhile, have argued that Rolling Stone exhibited insensitivity toward the victims, the first responders and the entire city of Boston for plastering Tsarnaev’s photo on the cover.

Yet the photo is not new. It appeared in other publications, including The New York Times, which ran the image on its front page of a Sunday edition.

But Rolling Stone is a pop-culture magazine, and its cover subjects typically are celebrities or rock stars.

Given that context, Tsarnaev‘s quasi-handsome features only fueled the outrage, with some comparing his image to old Bob Dylan and Jim Morrison photos from past Rolling Stone covers. Editorial cartoons lampooned the magazine, and many Boston merchants removed it from their shelves. Yet there’s no outrage about American retailers engaged in censorship, a practice more in line with tyrannical countries.

Any person or corporation can boycott Rolling Stone if they please, of course. It’s their right, just like it was Rolling Stone’s right to run Tsarnaev’s image on its front cover. And even though Rolling Stone’s covers typically glamorize pop celebrities, it’s also known for some pretty stout journalism. If you take the time to read the story, chances are good you’ll agree that the piece in question was fine journalism and not the glorification of a psycho punk. Journalism isn’t always pretty and uplifting, even if the subject isn’t literally hard to look at.

Sometimes the toughest emotional stories can be disturbing and revealing but, more importantly, a necessary tool to help understand how this mad world operates.

Before rushing to judgment, those outraged by the Rolling Stone cover story might behoove themselves to read the story. Glorifying, it is not. It is a troubling portrayal, for sure, both the magazine’s cover — because bombers come in all shapes and forms — and the 12 revealing pages about whom it calls a monster, hardly a glamorizing term.

Rick Carroll is editor of The Aspen Times. He takes comments, complaints, questions and news tips at rcarroll@aspentimes.com.


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