Chances are you've heard about the decision by Rolling Stone to put Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the cover. Critics have been in a rage all day, and stores including CVS say they won't even stock it. It's offensive, exploitative, and glorifies violence are the more common refrains. At Slate, Mark Joseph Stern has a different word: Brilliant. "By depicting a terrorist as sweet and handsome rather than ugly and terrifying, Rolling Stone has subverted our expectations and hinted at a larger truth," he writes. Instead of seeing a monster, we see "a boy who looks like someone we might know."
This is great journalism, writes Stern, and he argues that Rolling Stone is getting unfairly slammed by critics. Where was the outrage when the New York Times ran the same photo on its front page? Or when Time put the Columbine shooters on its cover? Rolling Stone isn't glorifying Tsarnaev, it's exploring the contradictions about him. "We may want the media to reconfirm for us that psychopaths are crazed, nutty, creepy recluses whom we can easily identify and thus avoid. But, as this cover reminds us, that simply isn’t the case." Click for the full post. (Meanwhile, USA Today notes that Rolling Stone put none other than Charles Manson on its cover 40 years ago—and won a National Magazine award for the interview.)