It is hard to know how to respond to Rolling Stone’s most recent cover, but everyone has a reaction, that's for sure. Rolling Stone is a magazine that has always been well respected and well read; true journalism in it’s rawest form. To say that the cover featuring the Boston Bomber (I refuse to even use his name as that would add to the glorification) is embarrassing and disheartening is an understatement. Sure, the publishers have certainly attained their goal, they will probably sell more copies than ever. At what cost is the question?
There has been recent notice and subsequent coverage about a cultish group of girls and young women who have declared the Boston Bomber a heartthrob. This misinformed and misunderstood group has declared that the charges against this young man are false. Based on shallow perceptions that he looks like a ‘regular’ guy, they have decided to embrace this nefarious individual as an idol.
This type of dark obsession is not new. Serial killer Ted Bundy caused a similar stir. The difference, however, is that at that time the Internet did not exist. The ability of this group of followers to band together was not as easy nor was their presence as obvious as the group obsessed with the Bomber. Similar to the Boston Bomber, Ted Bundy looked like a regular guy. Most of us understand how looks can be deceiving.
So what can one make of Rolling Stone’s move to iconize this alleged criminal? In a letter to the publisher of the magazine the mayor of Boston Thomas Menino succinctly and eloquently represented the sentiments of Boston’s citizens when he wrote, “To respond to you in anger is to feed into your obvious marketing strategy.”
The group of teens who have dedicated social networking pages on Tumblr and Instagram to this young man (I’m holding my tongue here) may not be large but they are prominent. Photo collages and quotes professing admiration and love for the alleged criminal have received some media attention. One can certainly surmise that the bomber’s cover shot only serves to validate and re-enforce the commitment these girls have towards his “cause.”
As Menino also points out in his letter, even if the accompanying article proves to be an important piece the cover photo certainly overshadows any content.
How can we hope to disperse the cultish group of girls who have proclaimed their allegiance and love to this young man? How can we hope to dispel the notion that people should be judged on character not looks? This task becomes difficult when a mega magazine such as Rolling Stone chooses to leave responsible journalism outside the door.
The Boston Bomber is not a rock star, he is not a hero, he is a young adult accused of a hideous and unthinkable crime against innocent people.
It is hard to start a conversation with youth already egocentric by nature, who believe that no one understands them. It is an encumbering task to discourage a group of girls blinded by what they claim they feel toward a person they think they know whom they have never actually met.
To try to reason with these girls is most likely a fruitless task. Carol Boone an admirer and constant defender of Ted Bundy took her devotion to the serial killer to the highest level when she married him. She refused to believe he was guilty of the crimes for which he was tried. Eventually, however, as the evidence mounted she came to realize with much horror that he was, in fact, guilty.
There is hope that in time these obsessed teens will open their eyes and realize the young man on whom they are crushing is not the carefree college boy they perceive him to be. Rolling Stone’s decision to put him up on a pedestal by giving him the coveted spotlight on their cover is mindboggling and disturbing. Although such action may serve to validate the Bomber’s cultish clan of admirers, we will turn to the courts to determine the fate of this unassuming young man accused of a horrific crime.
Photo: Released to the Press by Wenner Media/Rolling Stone. The cover is for the August 3rd issue.