The cover of the new issue of Rolling Stone (on sale this Friday) features a moppy haired and doe-eyed young man staring directly into the camera. He's very handsome, with the slightest smile on his lips and relaxed posture. The lighting is soft and warm, casting a glowing, golden hue all around him. If you weren't paying attention to the news for the past three months, you'd likely assume he is the music industry's latest heartthrob—the new John Mayer or maybe even Bob Dylan's grandkid. But he's not a heartthrob, he is, as the text below his face says, a monster—he is Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 19-year-old man suspected of assisting in the Boston Marathon bombing, which killed three people and injured over 250 others.
People are outraged that the magazine would not only put Tsarnaev on the cover, but portray him in such a romanticized way, in a space generally graced by attractive rockstars and actors. Businesses have already announced they're boycotting the issue, including CVS/pharmacy. They said "CVS/pharmacy has decided not to sell the current issue of Rolling Stone featuring a cover photo of the Boston Marathon bombing suspect. As a company with deep roots in New England and a strong presence in Boston, we believe this is the right decision out of respect for the victims of the attack and their loved ones."
Right or wrong, this is the most I've heard anyone talk about the magazine in years—there's no doubt in my mind Rolling Stone knew exactly what they were doing when they chose to feature Tsarnaev over, say, one of the other names featured on the cover like Willie Nelson, Jay-Z, or Robin Thicke. None of those guys would've made the magazine's name trend on Twitter for the last 24 hours. You can read the accompanying cover story here. They begin the story with an editor's note:
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