Freedom of the Press, similar to its First Amendment cousin Freedom of Speech, does not insulate members of the media from criticism when embarking upon stupidity or inappropriateness; Rolling Stone markets itself as edgy and youth oriented but no amount of adolescent edginess justifies the Jim Morrison-like image of Dzokhar Tsarnaev on the magazine's cover.
Rolling Stone ranks 53rd amongst magazines in circulation according to the Alliance for Audited Media; the most cynical interpretation of the decision to replicate the iconic Morrison cover for a terrorist is to boost lagging circulation numbers and if that's the case Rolling Stone's motivation is rooted in America's most respected value: capitalism. Rolling Stone's hubris combined with the magazine's historic embrace of counterculture movements suggest editors and writer Janet Reitman believe America failed "Jahar." The proffered motivations above are extremes, but there is no motivation that is absolvable. Tsarnaev viciously murdered four people and maimed scores of innocents.
Reitman's article itself is insulting to the memory of the dead, the living, and any person of peace, regardless of nationality or faith. The article presents Cambridge, MA as a haven to the uber-liberal elite while simultaneously intimating that same elite so tolerant of immigrants were insidiously driving up the cost of living in an effort to disperse Cambridge's sizable immigrant population. The article quotes Wick Sloane, a community-college professor who muses regarding immigrants such as Tsarnaev, "When I look at them and what they've been through and how they are screwed by federal policies from the moment they turn around, I don't understand why all
of them aren't angrier. I'm actually kind of surprised it's taken so long for one of these kids to set off a bomb." Reitman refers to Tsarnaev throughout the article by his nickname, "Jahar." Rolling Stone seems to empathize with the bomber, as if the problems of paying for college, having lousy parents and feelings of abandonment upon leaving high school are unique to Tsarnaev, as if every kid in America does not experience the same feelings of loss in some fashion.
The portrayal of Tsarnaev as a victim of society's harsh nature is appalling. Tsarnaev's problems are minuscule compared to those experienced by teenagers in the South Side of Chicago, New York's Hunts Point, or South Los Angeles. Perhaps Sloane should be asked if the violent neighborhoods of America's cities give license to young people for anger manifesting in violence. Regardless of idiotic opinions of tragically un-hip magazines such as Rolling Stone or overzealous professors seeking notoriety, Boston is too strong, too tough and too self-aware to feel culpable for the tragedy that is Dzokhar Tsarnaev.
Boston itself is a city of extremes ' the working class takes pride in a job well done, sending their kids to great public schools such as Boston Latin School or Tsarnaev's Cambridge Rindge and Latin School. The city's working class walk side by side with brilliant professors of international renown teaching at local colleges like Harvard, Boston University or Boston College. Boston is America's muse, "Cheers" is a landmark even though the show went off the air almost 30 years ago, "Good Will Hunting", "The Town" and "The Departed" use The Hub as a backdrop. Bostonians are lampooned as melodramatic Red Sox fans living and dying by the fortunes of the Olde Towne Team. Looking deeper, this disparate group of people identifying Boston as their home reveals a spirit unlike any other in America. College students from every corner of the Earth wrap themselves in the local colors and flavors; there is nothing like shared purpose in this amazing city. The throngs of people packing Copley Square thanking the Red Sox for ending the 86 year World Series drought in 2004 represented every strata of Boston society. Harken back to the American Revolution and the city acquitted itself similarly: Boston provided the British a Pyrrhic victory in the Battle of Bunker Hill. It's no surprise that April saw Boston's first responders instinctively run towards the explosion and how four days later the city didn't chafe when locked down in pursuit of Tsarnaev. Boston Strong is not a catchy motto but a way of life: in a city of brutal winters and at-times suffocating population density strength, determination and cooperation are required to weather the storms and bask in the joys.
All of which is why this magazine cover and article are infuriating. Boston embraces immigrants regardless of ethnicity or race. There was no place better for Tsarnaev to be educated and embraced than the greater Boston area. His pursuit of terrorism and justification of the same are insulting and a slap in the face to those who educated and accepted him. Rolling Stone's cover, column and editor's note stating "our hearts go out to the victims" then claiming moral high ground because Tsarnaev is the same age as a sizable chunk of their readers is laughable. If there is similarity between Rolling Stone's readers and Tsarnaev then maybe the NSA spy program isn't a bad idea. Perhaps Rolling Stone's next issue should feature a glamorous photo of Albert DeSalvo or Whitey Bulger and attempt to explain how the city and country failed them so they had no choice but to become a serial killer and mob boss.
The article makes reference to a mostly female movement protesting outside the courthouse in Boston chanting "Free Jahar." These champions of ignorance failed to note or are quick to excuse Tsarnaev's true nature initially represented by his scrawling of "F*ck America" on the side of the boat he hid in. July 10 was Tsarnaev's first appearance in federal court, during the seven minute hearing Tsarnaev repeatedly turned towards the gallery, filled with injured Bostonians, the same Bostonians that embraced him, educated him and advocated for him, and smirked. Rolling Stone has glamorized the face of evil.