An Open Letter to Rolling Stone Magazine
Reblogged from A Glorious Mind.
Dear Rolling Stone,
I’m writing this open letter in response to your article this month, specifically the accompanying cover featuring a self-portrait of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, otherwise known as the “Boston Bomber.” I live in Boston, as do many of my family members and friends.
Boston is a truly incredible city. This was made even more clear by the aftermath of the horrific bombing on Marathon Monday. On the day that will live on in infamy for many years to come, I was safely ensconced in my office in Needham, a good distance outside the city.
I was unhappy at the prospect of working during one of Boston’s most beloved holidays, but felt reassured by the fact that during the prior year’s celebration I had been out amongst my fellow Bostonites all over the city.
Obviously we all know what happened next. I don’t want to go over that again, because it was truly terrible. Let’s skip forward, to the fateful morning that began with a text from a friend that said, “Don’t leave your apartment. There’s a lockdown” followed quickly by a text from my boss, “Are you okay?” A few minutes later I had caught up on the events of the night before, which involved a car chase and the death of a young MIT cop named Sean Collier. The cops were in Watertown, a few miles away from my apartment in Brighton, and the streets were empty due to the unwavering support of Boston residents behind those on the streets, seeking a dangerous and desperate man.
A lot of people from other parts of the country have criticized the decision to close down an entire city that day. They think it was a bad choice because it plays into the hands of the terrorists who had sought to disrupt daily life. You know what I have to say to that? Bullshit.
Anyone who lives in Boston understands that the lockdown meant one thing, and one thing only: Don’t fuck with us, because if you do, we will shut down this whole city to find you and bring you to justice. And you know what? That’s exactly what happened. With the exception of one harrowing hour in which the lockdown was over and the suspect had not yet been caught, the entire city’s population was secure in their knowledge that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev would be found, and punished for his misdeeds.
Here’s where it gets murky: Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the guy whose face is smirking out from the cover of your magazine this month, is only nineteen years old.
Does this make his actions any less abhorrent? Of course not; a nineteen year old should know the difference between right and wrong, and it is beyond comprehension or possibility that a good person would be able to set off a bomb in the middle of a crowd of innocent men, women, and children with the intent to hurt and kill them. His action cost innocent people their lives and limbs, it robbed the city of Boston of its innocence as well as the sense of safety we, its residents, used to take for granted.
I’m sure there was a lot of debate over whether or not to use this cover. Some employees probably spoke against it, while others expressed their support. “It was already on the cover of The New York Times,” someone may have said. Maybe members of the staff even thought that the controversy and outrage that was sure to follow would still work in your favor, the old “all press is good press” angle, which brings me to the point of this letter.
I think that this cover is tasteless, lazy, insulting, outrageous, disrespectful (the list could go on forever), but on top of that, is this simple fact: as journalists, your job is to seek out truth. This story likely took months of research and interviews, and the resulting information is important.
We do not want history to repeat itself. We do not want some other disenfranchised, confused, isolated, fucked up kid to decide that bombing a public event or building is the next course of action, and you just made the content of your story irrelevant by choosing a sensational cover that, intentionally or not, makes a terrorist look like a rock star. Do you understand now what I’m trying to say? With that cover, you took away any chance of your story impacting people in a positive way.
You had the power to truly make a difference, to publish a piece that makes people stop and think about the fact that this monster, this murderer, was once upon a time a normal, charismatic kid. You had the chance to pose the most important question- what the fuck happened and how can we prevent that from ever happening again. That is what you threw away, for the sake of a cover that was meant to shock people. Congratulations, your message is now irrelevant.
So now, Rolling Stone, I want you to take a minute, and imagine that some psycho blew up your city, and your eight-year-old son was one of the casualties, like Martin William Richard. Or that your fiancé had to spend the last three months in the hospital dealing with surgery after surgery in order to survive, like Marc Fucarile. Or imagine that you yourself will spend the rest of your life missing an arm or a leg because you happened to be standing in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Now imagine walking past a newsstand and seeing the face of one of the men responsible for the unending emotional and physical pain you’ve endured, smirking back at you from the cover of one of the most well known magazines on the planet, as if he were Jim fucking Morrison. Than tell me again how your “hearts go out to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing” and your “thoughts are always with them and the families.”
Oh and Rolling Stone? Stay the fuck out of Boston would you? We don’t want you here anymore.