Skip to content Skip to footer

On the Cover of the Rolling Stone

William Rivers Pitt: There are far larger and more dangerous fish to fry right now than getting all worked up over who is on a magazine cover.

Wanna see our pictures on the cover
Wanna buy five copies for our mothers
Wanna see my smilin’ face
On the cover of the Rolling Stone

– Dr. Hook

I awoke on Wednesday morning to the outrage du jour: Dzhohkar Tsarnaev on the cover of the newest Rolling Stone looking like Jim Morrison’s little brother after a fight with a Flowbee. As someone from Boston who was personally affected by the Marathon bombing, I am apparently supposed to be all up in arms about this. It glorifies a murderer as if he were a celebrity or a rock star, they should have run a cover with the victims instead, and so forth.

Three things:

1. The outrage over Tsarnaev’s face on the cover has everything to do with the fact that there is a puppy-dog cuteness about him which is jarring in the context of his alleged crimes. If Tsarnaev’s face looked like the back of an old man’s balls, no one would give much of a damn about this. I’m not going to get all worked up about the attractiveness double-standard involved here; this issue of Stone has a huge feature story on the dumb bastard, and so having him on the cover makes perfect sense.

2. The fact that Rolling Stone has excellent journalists like Matt Taibbi working for them means putting newsmakers on the cover is not out of line. Hell, they had Charlie Manson on the cover once upon a time, as well as George W. Bush in 2009. It’s not like this is some crazy new thing. Hitler made the cover of Time twice, and I’m pretty sure that had nothing to do with how the middle of the last century shook out.

3. From everything I have read and heard – which is quite a lot given my location in the 617 area code – the victims of the Marathon bombing have no interest whatsoever in gracing the cover of Rolling Stone or any other periodical. They just want to be left alone to heal and recover. As for glorifying Tsarnaev or potentially upsetting the bombing victims, his face has been on the front page of every newspaper in the Western hemisphere more than once, so that horse left the stable so long ago that the oats have germinated and the hay has become straw…and speaking of horses that left the stable, the idea that being on the cover of Rolling Stone is some epic honor belongs to another era when Dr. Hook songs were actually relevant.

(Sorry, Stone, but in the immortal words of Robbie Robertson, it ain’t like it used to be)

But perhaps more important than all of that, speaking personally, is the simple fact that I just don’t care. There are far larger and more dangerous fish to fry right now than getting all worked up over who is on a magazine cover.

To wit:

1. The government of the United States is a disaster zone. In order to get the heads of several agencies appointed, Sen. Harry Reid was required to threaten the Senate with a major change to the rules regarding filibusters, no small thing given the very real possibility that his party won’t control that chamber after the 2014 midterms. Even though Reid won a small victory by forcing Yertle The Mich McConnell Turtle to back down, Yertle still retains the power to filibuster everything down to the sink in the men’s room if he so decides.

As dangerous as it may be to alter the current filibuster rules, leaving the situation as it is carries with it its own perils, represented by daft curly-fuzzed lunatics like Rand Paul, who made the point recently that the current GOP minority in the Senate needs the filibuster in order to stop President Obama from nominating Rachel Maddow to the Supreme Court … because that’s what we all need to be worried about. Oh, and they tried for the 38th time to repeal Obamacare on Wednesday. Jobs? Not so much.

2. Texas, Ohio, North Carolina and Wisconsin have declared open warfare on women again in the last several weeks. North Carolina passed its draconian anti-abortion law by attaching it to a motorcycle safety bill without telling anyone until the deal had gone down. Despite heroic efforts by people like Wendy Davis of Texas, being a woman in those four states just became a far more dangerous and humiliating affair…and the trend is spreading like metastasized cancer to any state under GOP control.

3. Trayvon Martin is dead, and so is Darius Simmons, and so are approximately 7,000 other American men, women and children who have died at the end of a gun since the Newtown massacre last December. There have been 23 mass shootings in 19 different states since the Aurora theater massacre. The Iraq war needed almost ten years to amass 5,000 dead Americans, but the hyper-armed American people have nearly doubled that body count in seven months…and since we’re on the subject, here’s a question offered by an astute member of the DailyKos community: why isn’t the NRA arguing that the Trayvon Martin tragedy could have been averted if Trayvon Martin also had a gun?


P.S. Syria.

P.P.S. Egypt.

P.P.P.S. The NSA.

P.P.P.P.S. The “defense” budget.

P.P.P.P.P.S. Learn to swim.

P.P.P.P.P.P.S. Etc.

The moral, in short: if you find yourself getting worked up over a picture on a magazine cover, you are missing the point and playing someone else’s game. Is the cover in poor taste? Arguably. Does it have the same affect on your life as the other issues we aren’t talking about because manufactured outrage over a magazine cover makes life easier for the “news” media? Res ipsa loquitor.

As for me? Yeah, I’ll buy a copy of the latest Rolling Stone. The cover should fit perfectly over my dart board. Beyond that, I don’t have time to worry about a magazine. Neither, frankly, do you.

Join us in defending the truth before it’s too late

The future of independent journalism is uncertain, and the consequences of losing it are too grave to ignore. To ensure Truthout remains safe, strong, and free, we need to raise $33,000 in the next 2 days. Every dollar raised goes directly toward the costs of producing news you can trust.

Please give what you can — because by supporting us with a tax-deductible donation, you’re not just preserving a source of news, you’re helping to safeguard what’s left of our democracy.