Readers Claim Rolling Stone Cover Makes Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Look Like ‘Rock Star’

People are not pleased with the magazine’s photo choice for their cover.

Photo via

Photo via

The latest issue of Rolling Stone is drawing a lot of negative attention for featuring a cover of alleged Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, with many claiming that the image used to highlight the magazine’s lead story glamorizes the alleged terrorist.

The August cover, which the publication posted online this afternoon and features a selfie of Tsarnaev, is meant to supplement a ” riveting account” of the suspect’s life in Cambridge and Boston. But those who have seen it and are passing it around via social media are comparing it to past covers that have shed a positive light on iconic performers—think Jim Morrison of The Doors—proclaiming that the cover gives Tsarnaev a “rock star” appeal.

Tsarnaev, who stands accused of setting off bombs with his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, on April 15 on Boylston Street, pleaded not guilty to 30 charges brought against him by federal prosecutors at the Moakley U.S. District Court last week. It was his first public appearance since the day of his arrest.

In the hours since the cover was posted online, it has already received intense backlash, and the story to accompany it hasn’t yet been released. Even those who have shown support for the alleged domestic terrorist, and claimed that they feel the 19-year-old bombing suspect is innocent or has been framed, are taking shots at Rolling Stone.

Some have argued, however, that the publication has done nothing wrong, and the photo was once the centerpiece of the New York Times when new revelations about the Tsarnaev brothers came out:

According to the magazine’s editorial staff, the cover is meant to merely highlight a “deeply reported account of the life and times of Boston bomber Jahar Tsarnaev,” with two months worth of detailed reporting and commentary from the suspect’s childhood friends and former classmates, as well as teachers, neighbors, and law enforcement agents. According to Rolling Stone:

[It’s] a riveting and heartbreaking account of how a charming kid with a bright future became a monster.

Three hours after the cover was teased on, it had been shared more than 1,500 times on Facebook, and even readers that admitted they flock to the music site regularly were pushing back at the editorial staff’s choice to plaster Tsarnaev’s mug front-and-center. “Found guilty or not, he shouldn’t be on this cover. It’s a painful reminder of the horrific acts. How about putting one of the heroes or victims on the cover! Seriously Rolling Stone are you kidding?,” wrote one reader.

“It seems you have glorified the only living suspect of the Boston Marathon bombings. Yes, tell his story. Reference it on the cover. Promote the story. But putting his image on the cover like he is a rock star is hurtful to so many,” a commenter by the name of “M” said.

Another person wrote that the decision was a “disgrace,” and vowed to stop reading any more content from the publication, a sentiment that was echoed by people on the publication’s Facebook page, too. “Oh look, Rolling Stone magazine is glamorizing terrorism. Awesome. I will not be buying this issue, or any future issues,” they wrote.

A Facebook page called Boycott Rolling Stone Magazine for Their Latest Cover was also started, and garnered 1,000 likes by 10 p.m. Tuesday. “I haven’t been this disgusted in a long time. The nation, and the victims, are still healing and Rolling Stone magazine gives it’s sought after cover to a murderer,” the page administrator wrote.

Below are some additional reactions from Twitter following the unveiling of the cover online at 6 p.m. on Tuesday:


UPDATE 7/17/2013, 3 p.m.: Rolling Stone just posted its story on Dzhokhar Tsarnaev with the following statement at the top:

Our hearts go out to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, and our thoughts are always with them and their families. The cover story we are publishing this week 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 Dzhokhar 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 this issue and gain a more complete understanding of how a tragedy like this happens. –THE EDITORS

  • Pat Jones

    Disgusting putting that murderer on the cover. I have read my last Rolling
    Stone magazine. you disgust me. do you really think he is a “Rock Star”?

  • Kirsten Carlson

    Why, why, why would you glamorize an unremorseful killer who hurt so many? I was a journalusm major, so spare the expected rebuttals. Rolling Stone screwed up

    • THE Antonio

      “journalusm” — perfect.
      But otherwise I agree

  • Michael Trifilo

    I could MAYBE see if this was Newsweek or People even, for God’s sake. But Rolling Stone puts Rock Stars on their covers. This was NOT a smart move. Shut it DOWN!

  • karen sumner

    Everyone should boycott RS Magazine. This is an insult to the victims and the entire country. The best way to send a message to the editor is to have a complete boycott.
    Ks BostonStrong

  • Krista Dier-Lafond


  • Laura Wilson

    I fail to see how this photo glamorizes anyone. First of all, Rolling Stone has written a comprehensive piece of journalism which provides important insight into the evolution of this young man. That’s the purpose of the photo, to go with the story, which is a serious and thoughtful one. Second, to me, the photo makes him look like a scumbag, actually. Everybody’s going to have their own take on the photo and it will evoke different things for different people. It’s RS’ job to choose an image that accurately reflects the story they’ve written, and I think they have done that.

    • Sam West

      Not “evolution” – degradation. Putting accused mass murderers on the magazine cover is wrong.

      • Laura Wilson

        Why is it wrong? If the purpose of the article and the image is to investigate into the mind and experience of a “monster” (as RS’ themselves describe him), then this photo is perfectly legitimate and in fact, appropriate. Can we not handle serious journalism in this country? Grow up, people!

        • Dana Gunn McIntyre

          So would you buy the RS if George Zimmerman was on the cover, made to look like a hero (regardless of how you felt about the verdict).

          • Laura Wilson

            I can quite easily imagine RS doing an investigative piece of journalism on the background and psyche of George Zimmerman. Given RS’ history of stellar reporting, it would be an article I would be interested in reading, and I would fully expect that they would put a picture of Zimmerman on the cover. What photo would you prefer RS to have used of the accused bomber? Some photo with “evil” etched across his forehead? The photo they did use was one that had also been used by the NY Times. One could read almost anything into that photo–I read into it a confused, drug-addled moron, not a rock star. They wrote a serious article about a serious issue and it warranted a photo, period. Can we not handle serious journalism?

          • Dana Gunn McIntyre

            Quiet honestly, I’d prefer not to see either one on the cover. RS isn’t the type of magazine I want to get my news from anyway. It is more for music and celebrity news, not current events. Has there been a story on Benghazi? Or the IRS scandal?

          • Laura Wilson

            RS has done some incredibly important and ground-breaking journalism, for example, Matt Taibbi’s story about the financial collapse, and the General Stanley McChrystal story. I respect their journalistic work. My point is simply that photos to go with the articles is part and parcel of the journalism. If RS or any news outlet were to attempt to tailor their photographs to avoid offending this person or that person, this would actually be a serious violation of journalistic ethics itself. What we personally prefer or do not prefer is not how journalism works.

  • Vic Rattlehead

    Has always been a crap overated magazine, so not suprising

  • Jack Spratt

    This rag should be investigated by the feds, conspiring with terrorists

    • Sam West

      America-hating media are disgusting but they still have their freedom of speech. Morally they’re despicable. Legally they’ve done nothing wrong.

    • Sud1

      Only way they’ll get investigated is if they change their name to “Tea Party Monthly”

  • Steve Boudreau

    It might very well be ” a riveting and heartbreaking account of how a charming kid with a bright future became a monster” and worth a read, but I think it was a very poor choice to feature his image. Although, thinking back a few decades it seems to me Charles Manson got a cover too…..Guess you don’t need to play a geetar if ya wanna see yer pitcher On The Cover Of The Rolling Stone.

  • GabrlaMA

    He is a suspect-not a bomber or a monster. The article is inaccurate. Bostonians are too proud and insulated to make a discussion on the issues around the marathon explosions. If this article from a more independent news source reaches a wider audience than the east coast news does and produces evaluation, I am all for that. The way to knowledge may be the debate process. We have to get down to the facts and find the truth.

    • Sam West

      Knowing the evidence that we all know he is a bomber and a monster – we are all waiting for the justice process to declare him so but even before it happens the facts are what they are:

      1. He and his bother were caught on multiple security cameras carrying backpacks with unusual spherical objects in them.

      2. When the 1st explosion happened the Joker unlike everybody else who turned to look in that direction was looking at the site of the second explosion as if waiting for it per account of a witness whose legs were blown off. He actually looked into his victims eyes.

      3. The scum brothers confessed to the owner of the SUV they car-jacked that they were the marathon bombers.

      4. Lid of the pressure cooker that landed on top of the Mandarin hotel had a fingerprint match with the older brother.

      5. During shootout in Watertown the scum brothers were seen by multiple witnesses.

      6. The Joker with gunshot wounds was found inside a boat in Watertown.

      There is much more.

      Maybe all of this evidence was produced by the media – but whoever claims so much produce their own evidence for that. They have none so shut up. Even if there is a slight chance that Joker is not guilty any America-respecting magazine should not put a picture of an accuses mass-murderer on the cover.

  • Aaron Washington

    Y’all mad cause he looks like a “rockstar” or just mad you gotta see him on the cover of what you limit the rolling stone to be (a music magazine).. The story not about the victims it’s about him.. or would you ppl rather a pic of the actual bombing? Y’all just like to bitch.

    • Sam West

      Accused mass murderers should do only one thing: prepare for their trial not be published on the magazine covers.

      • Aaron Washington

        I’m sure he’s doing just that… Rolling Stone’s choice not his. So we are faulting Rolling stone for doing their job at being the media when New York Times post the exact picture on their front page? How is this different? He’s in trial right now this is a big story. I’m not debating just wanna know your reasoning behind on what/where his picture should be displayed.

    • Dana Gunn McIntyre

      How would you feel about seeing George Zimmerman on the cover, looking like a rock star??

      • Aaron Washington

        I’m not sensitive to images.. rather Zimmerman’s face is on the cover “looking like a rockstar” or the bloody pics of the back of his head the tragedy still happened. won’t change anything neither will it make me forget something I’m effected with. i won’t feel like they are glorifying him unless they say they are. it’s just unfortunate to you all that are mad cause he looks like what y’all believe is “rockstar”. deception vs reality when I see Zimmerman I see a killer.. my opinion.. rather he’s smiling or frowning. just like I see Tsarnaev

  • John Baker

    Good grief, they call him a frigging monster and everyone is freaking out like they glorified him? I have seen some stupid mass hysterics before but this one is a new level. Get a grip people.

    • Sam West

      Putting an accused mass murderer on the cover of a magazine should only happen with “Al-Qaeda News Magazine” not any American magazine that cares about the American people an their way of life. It just shows how anti-American the media has become.

  • Ima

    Take this crap off your website. Black out that image! Don’t allow the victims to be subjugated

  • Brandon Chase

    When this issue arrives in my mailbox, I will read the article on Gary Clark Jr. (who is much more deserving of being on the cover), and then promptly burn it.

  • Sam West

    Rolling Stone is pure trash for putting an accused terrorist with plenty of publicly available evidence to claim him as such. I hope it does not survive the backlash.

  • buku

    For instance 1970… One of the Rolling Stone magazine best selling issues including winning a National Magazine award for the riveting article on Charles Manson. I challenge people to compare and contrast with the most recent to be August cover story before boycotting the magazine. Why can the Times cover stories include OJ Simpson, Kim Jong-il, Danny Escobedo, Saddam Hussein… Why are they held to a different standard? It’s journalism, nobody is glorifying the criminal.

  • Anhtuan Nguyen Huynh

    FACT: The magazine industry is in terrible shape than ever before. In spite of controversies the Rolling Stone gotta navigate to survive in today’s tough economic conditions. In publishers v. adverts, it is the different ball game. Visit my twitter @AT_Nguyen_Huynh

  • Sue Mclean

    From Dr Hook’s song:

    Rollin’ Stone…) Wanna see my picture on the cover
    (Stone…) Wanna buy five copies for my mother…(Wa wa)
    (Stone…) Wanna see my smilin’ face
    On the cover of the Rollin’ Stone
    On the cover of the Rollin’… Stone…)

    Rolling Stone magazine has set a new bar for getting ones picture on the cover….. Shameful! Do they not know that this connotation exists. It is after all part of the magazines legacy. I predict a huge loss in subscribers.

  • Dave R

    RS should be ashamed for accusing Dzhokhar of being The Bomber without a trial and conviction.

  • Mal Gleizle

    I have boycotted the magazine since they had Obama on the cover…

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