Reaction: Rolling Stone Cover-gate (and examining the actual article inside the magazine)

rolling stone boston bomber coverIsn’t he cute, ladies?

Right off the bat: isn’t it fucking annoying that we have to add “-gate” to something to indicate a controversy? It’s so lazy. Why am I doing, too, then? Because it works, dammit. I just want to be on record as saying how annoying it is, that’s all. It doesn’t mean I’m above using it.

Well, unless you live in a cave…on Neptune, you’ve no doubt seen this Rolling Stone cover and heard all the huff & puff hitherto on the internet, on TV, and/or on the radio. Does it glamorize Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev? Does it make a terrorist look too attractive? Are the people who run Rolling Stone terrorist sympathizers?!?! Have they forgotten what this monster DID? Are they doing this for publicity?!?! Why don’t they put pictures of the victims on the cover instead?! RAAR!!!

Up until now, I hadn’t said anything about the cover, because I wanted to actually read the story the cover is connected to first in order to have some context. It occurred to me that the two are probably closely related and relevant to each other. Crazy, I know. I didn’t want to immediately hop on the bandwagon and say, “It’s outrageous! They’re glamorizing a terrorist!” and all that other stuff you’re hearing. I’ve now read the article, all 11,000+ words of it, so…context acquired!!! My dear readers, you can rest assured that the opinions you’re about to read are in fact informed opinions. And as I’ve said, those are the only opinions that matter to people with functioning brains.

Am I offended by the cover? No, but that probably has a lot to do with the fact that it’s Rolling Stone. For whatever reason, this doesn’t surprise me coming from them. If Boston Magazine had done this, there might be some shock coming from my end. Do I approve of the cover? No. They should’ve chosen a different picture of this piece of filth, no doubt about it. The photo itself does glamorize him; the article within the magazine does not. As such, the cover does a disservice to Janet Reitman‘s fine journalism inside the issue. That’s the biggest atrocity here, in my view.

Editor’s Note: In case it hasn’t been clear in the past, I am from the Boston area. Born and raised. I don’t live there now, but the events of April 15 of this year impacted me just as strongly as anyone but the people who were at that finish line or connected to the victims. My heart broke. Terrorism striking Boston? My city? My home? It seemed unfathomable. It still does. I don’t know what my reaction will be the next time I get a chance to go back and visit and walk down Boylston Street to see what remains of the bombing sites.

What I’m trying to say is that I completely understand why the reaction to this magazine cover has caused such an outcry from people in New England. What I’m also going to say is that, objectively, I also believe it’s overdone. In short, I’m not all that butthurt over this controversial cover. What I’ve found much more interesting is the reaction to it, and how Rolling Stone has reacted to that reaction. As many readers of mine will know (many of whom are my friends from back home), pretty much the only places you can even buy the issue in the Boston area were Barnes & Noble and 7-11. Just about every other grocery store and convenience store (Shaw’s, Roche Brothers, Stop & Shop, CVS, Walgreens, Tedeschi’s, etc.) has boycotted the issue. Completely understandable.

What did offend me in the aftermath of the outrage was one of Rolling Stone‘s editors, a sarcastic cretin named Christian Hoard, deciding to tweet this out in response to the controversy:

Christian-Hoard-Rolling-Stone-Tweet

Needless to say, he apologized right quick and deleted the original tweet. Fucktard.

The question becomes: why should anyone want to know anything about Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, his past, or what may have led him to do the things he did? Umm, because it matters. Because like it or not, this maggot is a part of history now. I don’t know about any of you, but I find history fascinating. As should any intelligent person. I am interested in what turned this kid to ‘the dark side’ as it were, and this article gives you insight as to precisely when and how this might have happened. Unfortunately, there are only two people in the world who know for sure; one of them is dead, and the other isn’t likely to give a media interview for the rest of his life.

This argument that no one should care about what made him tick because of the horrible things he did is about as small-minded and ignorant as it gets. Adolf Hitler was one of the worst human beings in history. That doesn’t mean he isn’t an interesting figure. On a personal level, I remember vividly that one of my strongest reactions to the Columbine shootings in 1999 was that I wanted to know more about the killers, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. What made them do it? Why did they kill themselves afterwards? What is going through your mind as you’re walking around a school killing innocent people? I was a teenager at the time and wondered those things. That doesn’t mean I can’t also grieve for the victims. It means that intellectually curious people can be interested in more than one angle of a story at the same time. This doesn’t make me, or anyone else who gave the story inside the magazine a chance, insensitive or uncaring.

*To be clear, I did not buy the magazine to read the article. I read it online.

Why do people find serial killers so interesting? Because they want to know why they did what they did! They want to know how they did what they did! So why is it any different for terrorists? I’m fascinated by Osama bin Laden. That doesn’t mean I mourn the fuckin guy or support his views. I want to know more about Ayman al-Zawahiri, who has been the leader of Al-Qaeda since bin Laden’s death. Where is he hiding? What the hell does he do all day?

There’s a logic breakdown in some people’s arguments over this magazine cover that I can’t ignore. I could understand the “it’s too soon” argument from people who were directly impacted by these events. If you had your leg blown off by one of those bombs, I get that you probably still don’t want to even think about this guy, let alone read about what a nice kid he used to be. I get that. I didn’t know anyone injured or killed that day (that I know of), so my innate curiosity forces me to want to learn about what led to the bombings. And this is no doubt what led Janet Reitman into her investigation for this article.

To sum up, I found the article to be captivating. It is an amazing piece of journalism that I strongly recommend anyone interested in this case give a read. Yes, even people from Boston. I learned a lot about Tsarnaev, his brother, his family, his friends, and how, over time, there were in fact signs he was being radicalized. Janet Reitman did her goddamn research. The article is intricately detailed, and she left no stone unturned. She found and spoke to someone who was a friend of his on the Russian version of Facebook for fuck’s sake. The article is not sympathetic towards him, it does not have an agenda to get other people to like him, it does not glamorize him, and there is no editorializing. It is pure, honest journalism, which, sadly, is incredibly rare in today’s media marketplace. It’s even more incredible coming from Rolling Stone, one of the most politically biased publications in America. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you which way they lean. The article is a must read, if you ask me.

You can read the story online now, simply called Jahar’s World. I strongly recommend giving it a shot. It’s long, but definitely worth the time. Not only will you learn about the Tsarnaev brothers, but you’ll discover a lot of information about the case that you probably weren’t aware of previously. We should be able to separate the distasteful cover from the riveting piece of journalism the cover photo represents.

I wanted to share a few of the things inside the article that stuck out to me, including some strange choices of words from the people Reitman spoke with.

-Dzhokhar/Jahar had two amusing nicknames: “Jizz”, and “Ho”. Yes, some of his friends called him Jizz. I will refer to him as Jizz going forward, because really, isn’t that all he is at this point?

-The city of Cambridge, where Jizz lived, is referred to as being “intellectually sophisticated”. Umm, that’s one way of putting it.

-One of Jizz’s male high school teachers called him “gorgeous”. Again, a MALE teacher. Well, it’s Cambridge…

This was the quintessential kid from the war zone, who made total use of everything we offer so that he could remake his life. And he was gorgeous.

Moving on…

-One of his friends says, “He was smooth as fuck.” Just how smooth is fuck?

-The article calls him a “dedicated pot smoker”. Is that a compliment? Along those lines, he did not appear to be overtly religious prior to 2011, but even before then, he was religious enough to give up pot during Ramadan. Any dedicated pot smoker would show that respect.

-During his first court appearance recently, he admitted regretting the fact that he killed innocent people. He never appeared to be pro-terrorism to his close friends, but at one point he told one of his friends the events of 9/11 were justified because of what the U.S. does overseas. That would read as pro-terrorism to me, but maybe I’m crazy.

He later claims to believe 9/11 was an inside job, which kind of contradicts the whole “justified” thing. So it’s justified that the U.S. government would kill 3,000 of its own civilians for what the U.S. is doing in the Middle East? HUH? Usually people who make the justified argument mean it’s fair that Muslims returned the destruction upon us. Which is it, bro? Conspiracy theory or justified Muslim extremists? You can’t simultaneously believe that we deserved to have Muslims kill thousands of innocent people and that the whole thing was perpetrated by the U.S. government.

-His brother Tamerlan (or “Speedbump” as I prefer to call him), was a religious nut who once thought he could talk to demons and perform exorcisms.

-Tamerlan often read American conspiracy websites, including Alex JonesInfoWars, which is ironic given how flat out wrong that site notoriously was in the days after the attack trying to figure out who the bombers were.

-Tamerlan eventually quit boxing in 2011, citing as one of his reasons the fact that it’s unacceptable for a Muslim to hit another man. Innnnteresting. But blowing up an 8-year old kid? Not as unacceptable.

-Their mother also believed in 9/11 conspiracy theories, saying you can read about it on the internet. Oh, well, if the internet says so…

As an aside, it’s nice to know that scumbag 9/11 conspiracy theorists may have been partially responsible for radicalizing these turds. Well done, a-holes.

-The mother was arrested in 2011 for attempting to shoplift $1,600 worth of clothes at a Lord & Taylor, but fled the country to Russia instead of facing prosecution. It’s believed that their parents’ leaving the country was a contributing factor to the brothers becoming isolated and struggling financially, which further disenfranchised them with America.

-In hindsight, Jizz’s Twitter account is a mesmerizing indicator of his future actions. After becoming openly religious in 2012, Jizz once tweeted, “Never underestimate the rebel with a cause.”

-Jizz was a huge fan on The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones. This sickens me.

-Jizz became a naturalized citizen on September 11, 2012. That’s a really hideous coincidence.

-Speedbump read an article from the Al Qaeda online magazine (humorously called Inspire, which makes me think of a women’s lifestyle magazine, not a Jihadist’s handbook) called “Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom”, which has all sorts of hilarious connotations, but would also make an awesome title to a Rage Against the Machine song.

-On April 7th of this year, 8 days before the bombings, Jizz tweeted, “If you have the knowledge and the inspiration all that’s left is to take action.” My god. If ANYONE had been suspicious of him and seen that, could this tragedy have been prevented? It’s chilling to think about.

-His Twitter account (@J_tsar) is still active (or at least was when this blog was posted for readers in the future) and has garnered tens of thousands of new followers since the bombings. Someone should tell these morons it’s unlikely he’ll have access to social media anytime soon to respond to your pathetic #FreeJahar pleas. By the way, the fact that he was tweeting 2 days AFTER the attacks like nothing had happened is truly terrifying.

On a personal note, if this is indeed what happened, I’d like to thank Jizz for running over and finishing off his brother on that street in Watertown (hence Tamerlan’s nickname “Speedbump”), sparing the taxpayers the cost of keeping two of you fucks alive in prison for years on end. That was very considerate of you.

Finally, people who say the victims or first responders should have been on the cover instead are sorely missing the point. The article isn’t a broad story about the entire incident and its aftermath, it’s about the bombers, their family’s history, and how it all fell apart, resulting in an act of terrorism. And there’s nothing inherently wrong with that! You can say I don’t care about him! all you want, but history cares…as it should. Shall I point you to one of the 753,942 stories about the victims, the survivors, the cops, the firefighters, the hospital staff, the charity work, or the rest of the country’s incredible response to the bombings? Right, that’s unnecessary because those stories have been out there now for 3 months and you’ve read lots of them. I want to dig even deeper now and see the story from the other side as well. The only problem I see in all of this is that Rolling Stone made a piss poor choice for their cover image. Which leads me nicely to…

A Massachusetts State Police “tactical photographer”, one Sgt. Sean Murphy, released some photographs he took during the final confrontation with Jizz Tsarnaev in the backyard of that Watertown home, in response to the Rolling Stone cover. These photos show Jizz climbing out of the boat he’d been hiding in, bloody, disheveled and exhausted, surrendering to police after having hidden in there for nearly 20 hours. I like these photos much better. Murphy said his photos show the “real Boston bomber. Not someone fluffed and buffed for the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine.” The problem is, Murphy didn’t have permission to release the images, and as such he’s been “relieved of duty”, with a hearing scheduled this week to determine his status going forward. He could be returned to full duty, restricted duty, or be suspended (so says this Boston.com piece). I guess the primary issue was that federal investigators with the ongoing Marathon bombing case took big-time exception to the photos being leaked. That’s completely understandable, and it’s probably the right response, but I ain’t mad at Sgt. Murphy, that’s for sure. Nor is anyone in the Boston area.

State Police Tsarnaev photoThey should’ve used this for the cover instead.

You can find the original Boston Magazine article that first posted the photos HERE. There are a bunch of really interesting shots in there.

By the way, “State Police tactical photographer” is a job? I wish I had known this as a kid.

I guess another question I have for Rolling Stone is why now for the Tsarnaev story? Where are the cover stories detailing the pasts of young Adam Lanza (the 20-year old Newtown, CT shooter) or James Holmes (the 25-year old Aurora, CO movie theater shooter)? I’d like to see 10,000 words on why this Lanza nutjob shot his mother in the face, then went and killed 20 first-graders. Maybe they’ll get to that story next month.

Adam LanzaAHHHHHHH!!!!
I guess Adam Lanza wouldn’t have made a good cover boy.

And that’s all I got to say about that.

Oh, and Uncle Ruslan rules!

-In the interest of fairness, Rolling Stone‘s own Matt Taibbi, a Boston native himself, does a competent job coming to his employer’s defense in his own brief “response to the criticism” piece HERE.

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1 Response to “Reaction: Rolling Stone Cover-gate (and examining the actual article inside the magazine)”


  1. 1 rograt1 July 30, 2013 at 2:24 PM

    Outstanding job, Biggie!


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