about the Rolling Stone cover

Over the past ten years, print journalism has suffered badly. One of the remaining bright spots in reporting and writing over this period has been Rolling Stone. This is evidenced by Matt Taibbi, who has been an extremely positive force in a very weak pool of reporters in this decade. He has written extraordinary pieces on the financial crisis, on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and many contemporary social issues.

So, when Rolling Stone decides to feature Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on its cover, I had to believe that it was for purely journalistic reasons. You see, in my mind, journalism not only seeks to tell the truth, but it tells the truth so well that it helps us to think.

I am so disappointed with the backlash over the Tsarnaev cover, with some news stands even pulling the issue from their racks. 

The editors at Rolling Stone didn’t try to make Tsarnaev look like a rock star. They merely printed a picture of a young man who – without our knowledge of what evil he is capable of – happens to look like the typical teen. Who happens to look like he wants to be a rock star.

And that is the very point. 

It is very troubling to me that there is expressed outrage over what this young man looks like on this cover. You see, we have been conditioned to believe that there is a certain way  a terrorist should look. He certainly shouldn’t look Americanized. He certainly shouldn’t look like a rock star. And he certainly shouldn’t look like he belongs on the cover of a rock magazine.

Except for the fact that we are talking about a magazine with exceptional journalistic practices and principles.

Further, had any of these detractors bothered to read the article before decrying the editorial decision, they might have realized exactly what Rolling Stone was trying to say.

There is no “other” in the war on terrorism. There is no easy way to identify a terrorist. And sometimes, there is no way to “Americanize” a child enough.