There is a controversy now about the latest cover of Rolling Stone Magazine. It features an apparently cleaned up version of a headshot of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving Boston Bomber. Some say Rolling Stone has made him “look like a rock star.”
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino condemned the cover as “rewarding a terrorist with celebrity treatment” wherein “destruction gains fame for killers and their causes.”
Nationally, CVS, Kmart, Rite Aid, and Walgreens are banning the issue, refusing to sell it on their shelves.
Rolling Stone editors have responded with the following statement: “The cover story…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 Dhzhokhar 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 the issue and gain a more complete understanding of how a tragedy like this happens.”
Still, some Americans are outraged and condemn Rolling Stone for glamorizing this monster.
But that seems to be exactly Rolling Stone‘s point. In the article, he is clearly called a monster…
… and he is also depicted as a kid who fit in as an American teenager, had friends, was admired by his coach, was, in fact, the kid next door.
Rolling Stone is making the crucial point that more and more often, the enemy is among us, and in a significant way, sometimes is us.
This kid was seen for most of his life as a fairly typical teenager in America. That he was a young man who set off no alarms before the day he participated in the Boston Marathon Bombings is news and is worthy of the significant attention a Rolling Stone cover will give it.
Unless Americans can’t get the magazine.
Some say it is the retailers’ right not to sell this issue of Rolling Stone magazine. I disagree. I am not comfortable with major retail chains deciding what access their customers have to information.
Are we not America? Are we not free? Among those freedoms, don’t we still have freedom of speech and freedom of the press?
How does preventing people from reading this magazine support American freedoms?
How does at least four major retailers censoring their patrons from purchasing and reading this not score victories for the Boston Bombers? Wasn’t one of their goals to disrupt the American way of life? Pulling magazines from shelves hands these terrorists another victory.
I believe in America. I believe in the old notion of freedom of the press. And I believe America and Americans are strong enough, intelligent enough, and mature enough to handle a magazine cover, a tough article, and the hard truth that sometimes we have troubled people right here among us.
I believe we can survive Rolling Stone Magazine and it’s cover. I am less sure we can survive retailers deciding what Americans can and cannot read. With respect to one and all, such censorship suggests a much more subtle and troubling problem in our country’s culture.
Aren’t we better than this?