Rolling Stone magazine has brought upon itself public outrage, and threats of boycotts with a cover of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev that some readers feel give him a rock star status and glamor shot look. The cover is promoting a story about how Tsarnaev fell into radical Islam and became a “monster.” It probably doesn’t help Rolling Stone’s cause that it is a magazine that routinely puts rock stars and movie stars on its cover and thus gives a suspected killer the same celebrity status, complete with a a gauzy, “heartthrob” type photo.
Many, including the mayor of Boston, feel it was insensitive and disrespectful for the victims of the Boston bombing, and three national drugstore chains — Walgreens, CVS and Rite-Aid — have said they would not carry the issue in their stores. Other pundits see it for what is: shamelessly hoping to create buzz on the “no-such-thing-as-bad-publicity” theory. Controversy sells and this certainly isn’t the first time RS has featured a questionable public figure on the front page. They featured Charles Manson in the 70s and Osama Bin Laden even more recently.
Is RS simply exercising its freed of the press to provide a certain viewpoint of a horrific figure? Perhaps. Are they trying a hail marry attempt to generate more revenue in a time when print media demand is shrinking in lieu of electronic content? Absolutely.
Here’s the thing.
In the United States of America, people — and by extension the Press — can pretty much write or say anything they want. Sure there are laws and regulations to protect against harmful intent, illegal content or compromising government secrets. But as long as you adhere to these rules, you have Freedom of Speech to protect you whether you criticize the president, Congress or even your local alderman. No one will knock on your door in the middle of the night and haul you away to jail.
If your conscience tells you to boycott Rolling Stone or any publication because you feel they are putting profit before morals, then, go for it. Rolling Stone is entitled to put whatever they wish on their front cover, other than illegal things like child porn. If Rolling Stone wants to gamble that more people will buy their magazine than boycott it, well good for them. You are equally entitled, on the basis of those efforts, to decide not to support their publication. Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequence and everyone should remember that, especially people and/or organizations who piss off a bunch of folks. That’s only fair and pretty much how it works.
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