If you were online at all this week, you may have seen or heard the controversy over Rolling Stones recent cover, featuring a social network selfie of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, known to his friends and teachers as Jahar, and the rest of the world as the Boston Bomber.
Some believe that the cover glamorizes Tsarnaev, depicting him as a rock ‘n roll outlaw rather than a terrorist. With several deaths and hundreds with serious injures, critics state that the magazine’s decision to allow the “cover [to be] dropped into Boston was hurtful to their memories and their families.”
Sgt. Sean Murphy, a tactical photographer with the Massachusetts State Police, is furious with the magazine and he made sure we all knew why. This week, Murphy decided to protest in the form of an exclusive release of tactical photographs of Tsarnaev’s capture leaked to Boston magazine.
I hope that the people who see these images will know that this was real. It was as real as it gets.
And it only got more real when the sergeant was relieved of duty late Thursday evening, when his computer, badge, and gun were removed from his home. What disciplinary action will take place has not been released and a status hearing is pending to determine his role during an internal police investigation.
“Photography is very simple, it’s very basic. It brings us back to the cave. An image like this on the cover of Rolling Stone, we see it instantly as being wrong,” Murphy shares. “What Rolling Stone did was wrong. This guy is evil. This is the real Boston bomber. Not someone fluffed and buffed for the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.”
Murphy is not alone. Boston Mayor Tom Menino and Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, struck fast, accusing the magazine of offering Tsarnaev “celebrity treatment”.
So eye for an eye – or in this case, photo for a photo.
Rolling Stone defended its decision to run the cover, stating that it “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.”
Should this Matter?
Terrorism, domestic or foreign, is a sensitive issue. Does this make the portrait of a young man an attack against the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing?
The Rolling Stone cover accompanied a feature written by journalist Janet Reitman. Centered around “Suspect #2”, the article grapples with the question that many of us ask – why? In the article she writes,
He was charming kid with a bright future. But no one saw the pain he was hiding or the monster he would become.
When I purchased my own copy of the controversial Rolling Stone, I was able to chat with the newsstand worker.
We’ve been asked to take it down, but we’ve decided not to. This is news, and it is not our job to decide what news people are allowed to read.
It looks like several retailers vow to not sell the volume in their stores. “CVS/pharmacy has decided not to sell the current issue of Rolling Stone featuring a cover photo of the Boston Marathon bombing suspect,” the Rhode Island-based pharmacy chain said in a statement. “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.”
Other chains include Rite-Aid, Walgreens, and local supermarkets. But I doubt they boycotted the Newsweek cover “The Children of Bid Laden” or Time‘s “Face of Buddhist Terror”.
And guess what – The New York Times had already used the same image on the cover of their May 5 issue. Rolling Stone used an existing photo for their cover, one already used by other media organizations.
This is not the first time a cover has been under fire. Both Time and Life magazines have been known to feature high profile cases by slapping a portrait on the cover with eye-grabbing titles. Remember O.J. Simpson and the Unabomber?
My Two Cents
No matter where you stand, I believe in journalistic integrity and I am against censorship. Freedom is costly and we should not allow terrorism of any kind rob us of that, no matter where we live.
I personally feel that both Rolling Stone magazine and Sgt. Sean Murphy had the right to publish the images they did and will have to face the backlash from their actions. Both sets of images go deeper than accusing a religion or ideology. It looks at a human being and asks what broke?
What are your thoughts on the two sets of images released this week?
Until Next Time . . .
Credits: Photographs by Massachusetts Police Sgt. Sean Murphy unless otherwise stated.