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Rolling Stone puts Boston Marathon bombing suspect on cover

Social media reaction to decision overtly negative

By

Chicago Tribune

3:23 PM EDT, July 17, 2013

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How to ignite a firestorm online and across social media: Put Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the August cover of Rolling Stone Magazine.

The hashtag #BoycottRollingStone has been trending on Twitter.

@BostonBachelor wrote: Hey @RollingStone you could have honored any victim of the Bombing with your cover. But you chose a Terrorist #BoycottRollingStone

@FrankTheButcher wrote: Terrorists shouldn't be immortalized as rockstars. #BoycottRollingStone

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick was more restrained in his comments.

"I haven't read it, but I understand the substance of the article is not objectionable, it's apparently pretty good reporting," Patrick said. "But the cover is out of taste, I think."

Other government officials have chimed in on the controversy, including Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino in a letter to the publisher of Rolling Stone posted on Facebook:

"Your August 3 cover rewards a terrorist with celebrity treatment. It is ill-conceived, at best, and re-affirms a terrible message that destruction gains fame for killer and their "causes," wrote Menino.

Massachusetts House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo also issued a statement.

"While Rolling Stone has the First Amendment right to publish it, I deplore the magazine's decision to publish a cover photo that glamorizes one of the alleged Marathon Bombers," he wrote.

The editors of the magazine issued a statement on its Facebook page, saying it stands by its story and decision to publish it.

"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 response to Rolling Stone's statement on both Facebook and Twitter has been largely negative, with many saying Rolling Stone fails to address the issue of glorifying terror. Some have started using the hashtag #pullthecover.

Some companies are starting to do just that.

CVS announced in a statement on its Facebook page that their stores will not sell the issue:

"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."

Walgreens tweeted and posted on Facebook that its stores "will not be selling this issue of Rolling Stone magazine."

Rolling Stone, which publishes Tsarnaev's first name as Jahar, calls the story on its Facebook page "a deeply reported account" of the life of the Boston bomber." Negative comments about the choice have spread to nearly every recent post the magazine has made.

Among the revelations at rollingstone.com:

- Tsarnaev's former wrestling coach might have had something to do with his decision to surrender after police surrounded the boat where he was hiding.

- Tsarnaev never spoke out about Sept. 11 but once let it slip that the attacks could be justified because of U.S. policies toward Muslim countries and U.S. drone strikes.

If the cover photo looks familiar to you, it's because it was posted on social media by Tsarnaev himself and shared previously by several media outlets. Many on Twitter have made a comparison between this cover and one from 1991 featuring Jim Morrison of The Doors, mostly because of the similar stare and shaggy hair.

No word yet from any of the other names sharing the controversial cover, including Willie Nelson, Jay-Z and Robin Thicke.

Rolling Stone dabbled in controversy several years ago - in 1970 - when it featured Charles Manson in what it called a "special report." Imagine if Twitter existed back then.

Share your thoughts with us on Rolling Stone's cover choice on Twitter at @chicagotribune and also on our Facebook page.

Reuters contributed to this report.