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Boston bomber a rock star? Rolling Stone cover sparks outrage

A Rolling Stone cover story on Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev isn’t on the stands yet but it’s already generating controversy, with at least two retailers announcing Wednesday that they will not carry the issue. 

A close-up picture of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev scheduled to hit shelves Friday looks more like a young Bob Dylan or Jim Morrison than the 19-year-old who pleaded not guilty a little more than a week ago in the Boston Marathon bombing, his arm in a cast and his face swollen in court. Has the magazine, with its roundly condemned cover, offered the world its first rock star of an alleged Islamic terrorist? 

The same image of Tsarnaev was widely circulated and used by newspapers and magazines before, but in this context it took on new criticism and accusations that Rolling Stone turned the bombing defendant into something more appealing. 

‘I can’t think of another instance in which one has glamorised the image of an alleged terrorist. This is the image of a rock star. This is the image of someone who is admired, of someone who has a fan base, of someone we are critiquing as art,’ said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a communications professor and the director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. 

Public outrage was swift, including hard words from the Boston mayor, bombing survivors and the governor of Massachusetts. At least five retailers with strong New England ties - CVS, Tedeschi Food Stores and the grocery chain the Roche Bros. - said they would not sell the issue that features an in-depth look into how a charming, well-liked teen took a dark turn toward radical Islam. Stop & Shop and Walgreens followed suit.  Tsarnaev is not referred to as Tsarnaev in the article.

The magazine uses his playful diminutive instead in a headline: ‘Jahar’s World.’ With cover teasers for other stories on Willie Nelson, Jay-Zand Robin Thicke, it declares for the Tsarnaev story: ‘The Bomber. How a Popular, Promising Student was Failed by His Family, Fell Into Radical Islam and Became a Monster.’ Rolling Stone did not address whether the photo was edited or filtered.  
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