Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Rolling Stone Cover Controversy

Normally, this blog doesn't get political.  Although you all know my view on politics and government, I try to keep them out of my posts.  This one, however, will dig deep.  So if you are the easily offended type, click here and you can head on out.

On the majority of issues that face us, I am open minded.  I will generally listen to the other side of the viewpoint, and while I usually don't change my stance, it has happened.  A couple weeks ago, we went to a same-sex wedding.  Up until that point, I was uncomfortable with the idea of gay marriage.  Not because of religious reasons; I feared it would be a slippery slope.  However, seeing two people who clearly love each other, who are no different then me and T, well let's just say it changed my stance. 

However, this issue, the Rolling Stone cover issue, that's one I refuse to bend an inch on.

For those of you who are not sure what I'm talking about, I'll quick fill you in.

Rolling Stone, the music and cultural magazine, is featuring Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on its cover.  The picture of him is not one of a troubled man, or a mug shot, or him lying in a boat surrounded by Boston police.  No, the picture of him is a cool, hip, young man, looking into the camera with a slightly smug look.  A hipster, suave and composed.  Looking at it, if you were clueless about this tragedy that struck in April, you'd think he was an up-and-coming lead singer, or maybe a DJ.  You wouldn't dare think he was a terrorist who killed 3 people, wounded hundreds of others, caused irreparable damage, and struck fear in the hearts of the athletic community all over America.

The controversy isn't with the article itself.  I don't care this this magazine, which has billed itself in recent years as less of a music magazine and more of a political magazine that calls out Republicans and right-wing policies, wrote an article about the Boston bomber.  I don't care.  What I care about is that they are featuring him on the cover like some sort of rock star.  Like some sort of cool kid.  I won't link to the picture out of principle, but take a look and judge for yourself if this picture is accurate of what I am saying.

David Draiman, the lead singer of Disturbed, called out the magazine, saying it can "go to hell" after featuring this man on the cover.  Other musicians have joined in with him saying similar things.  It's pretty clear that featuring this terrorist on their cover has upset the general public, and rightly so.  He created terror!  He killed people!  He wrote in the boat "Fuck America".  And yet this magazine featured him on the cover!

Now, here's where we're at this morning.  A friend who reads this blog created quite the stir the other night by saying he would have to read the article before he made a judgement on Rolling Stone magazine.  I reminded him that I wasn't making a judgement on the article; I was judging the decision to feature him like a rock star on the cover.  After bantering back and forth and feeling like an episode of CNN's Crossfire, I asked him bottom line did he feel the cover was wrong.  He said no, he did not.  He said all he saw was a kid.  He didn't see a terrorist.

To me, that says a lot.  

You see, on April 15th, those of us in the running community had our lives changed.  Altered.  The rules changed.  Races were no longer safe.  A place of escape, a place where athletes gather to achieve great things, suddenly were under attack.  The phrase "is nothing sacred?" gets thrown around a lot, but in this case, it's true.  Running and races are, to the community, sacred things.  Escape.  Zen.  Use whatever word you want, but it's reality, people.  Even non-runners who have a connection to the city of Boston were affected.  While not on the same scale as the 9/11 terrorist attacks, this was personal.  It was deep.  Days after the race, Boston Strong entered our lexicon.  Much as "we will never forget" became a tagline after 9/11, and "support the troops" came into play in 2003 for the Iraq/Afghanistan wars, Boston Strong was a symbol of our unwavering support for the city of Boston, and the running community.  It meant numerous things, and yet, tied it all together into one simple thing: we will not be afraid.  We will not stand for terrorism.  You cannot scare us.  Your bombs hurt, but cannot stop us.  You saw the support across the country, with runs for Boston, wristbands, and shirts that said "Colorado Runners for Boston".  

I was at the Boston Marathon in 2012 cheering my dear friend Kris on, who was running Boston for the first time.  It was hot.  It was humid.  A horrible day to have a marathon.  And yet, it was magical being there.  Camped out at mile 25, seeing athletes climb a hill, they were strong.  Healthy.  Most were in pain, having pushed themselves a ridiculous distance in sweltering conditions.  And yet, there was joy.  There was pride.  There was an amazing sense of accomplishment.  I remember distinctly a kid running near us, with a glassy look in his eyes.  He was out of it.  I gave him very clear instructions to put some ice on his head, drink some water, and keep going.  He didn't respond, but he did everything I said to do.  That's a connection right there.  That's experiencing the race.  That's what "Boston Strong" is all about.

And that's where the outrage at this magazine comes from.  To showcase this disgusting human being on the cover, to frame him like some sort of star.  It's horrid.  Inexcusable.  And if you are not outraged by this, I honestly have to question where your heart is.

Like I said earlier, I generally listen to both sides.  This issue though?  There is no other side.  Plain and simple, Rolling Stone glorified a terrorist.  And my outrage is not fake.


  1. I am right there with you Brandon. I don't need to "read the article before making a decision". The sheer fact that he, in my eyes, looks like he is being shown as a celebrity pains me dearly. Why not a photo of the survivors? Why "The Bomber", not "The Survivors".
    I have never really been very good at putting my thoughts down into words but a running friend of mine posted this on Facebook regarding the Rolling Stone feature and I agree with his statement: "....Notoriety is fertilizer for freaks to act violently."

  2. Two observations:
    1) I don't give a flying eff what the article says because the magazine chose to humanize someone who is anything but human. There are people - morons basically - who *support* this asshat and think the charges are a conspiracy against him and all that usual BS. Putting this SOB on the cover as though he's some clean-cut upstanding member of the community is purely despicable and will only add to his idiotic fanbase. Like headlines in a newspaper, people glance at magazine covers without looking inside to read the articles. It's almost impossible not to do that while in a checkout line.

    2) The media are notorious for pursuing the negative side of everything. It's mostly laziness. Shock value is an easier sell than digging deeper and profiling the many heroes who stepped forward in what was at the time a dangerous situation to render aid to the injured / dying without giving it a second thought. These stories will always be dwarfed by the bad ones portraying the tragedy itself or the perpetrators of it.

    3) The Blerch is a moron for saying the article needs to be read first. He completely ignores the importance of the image being sold here. He also ignores how very pissed off a lot of people in the running community are about this. I wonder if he'd be equivocating as much if someone - say, a UND player - torched a forklift factory and burned Gopher jerseys?

    1. I guess that was three observations - although the third felt so blatantly obvious that it barely qualified as such.

      The Blerch shall be mocked mercilessly at the TC marathon should he show up. I'd be very curious to see if his opinion remains as rock-solid on this issue when surrounded by thousands of runners.

  3. I have never been a reader of Rolling Stone Magazine, so really I don't care who is on the outside or inside for that matter. Truth be told, the news media is a far cry from it's founder's view.

    What I have noticed, however sadly, is that many publications have put people on their covers that are in no way good decent people. Some have even made them Person of the Year!