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July 19, 2013 at 9:35 AM

From the Boston Marathon to the cover of Rolling Stone

Here is a radical thought for all the people screaming and yelling about the current issue of Rolling Stone, which features a cover photo of suspected Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev: Read the article by Janet Reitman.

The magazine features a lengthy profile of Dzhokhar’s life and that of his deceased older brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev who was killed in a confrontation with police. The two are prime suspects in the April 15th bombing that killed three people and injured hundreds near the finish line of the annual marathon on the city’s Boylston Street.

Far from offering any rationalization of the horrible event, it searches for the point going through everyone’s head: “What the hell were they thinking?”

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the Boston Marathon suspect.  (AP Photo/WennerMedia)

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the Boston Marathon suspect.
(AP Photo/WennerMedia)

Some of the controversy does not register for me. Lots of eyes see the picture of the surviving Tsarnaev brother as some sort of “glam” photo, whatever that means in this context. The big, bold words “The Bomber” tell prospective magazine buyers who the mop-headed teenager is. The article is about two lives examined; young Russian émigrés and their parents struggling to get established in Cambridge, Mass. The richly reported background piece lays out a story, but draws no conclusion. The question remains, what brought on this heinous assault?

The eighteen-page article is a worthy read, and can be found here. Rolling Stone has a history of serious journalism beyond its famed documentation of the music world. Until this controversy, I had not seen a copy of the magazine for ages. The ragged, pulpy Rolling Stone of newsprint days is now a slick, glossy publication ala Time or The Economist.

Rolling Stone never compelled my attention. When I fit the demographic better, I was more interested in listening to the music than reading about the performers. Same thing as a kid with sports. I played baseball, basketball and football, but did not read about them in the sports section.

But over the years, Rolling Stone has had first-rate journalism on politics, economics and other national topics. I sought them out. This current profile is not some leap into pernicious marketing.

The Tsarnaev brothers are cut from the same ugly cloth as Timothy McVeigh, that vile young man who killed 168 people and injured 680 when he blew up a federal building in 1995 in Oklahoma City. Some demented sense of righteous indignation apparently inspired them to heinous acts. McVeigh was put to death for his lethal arrogance. Tsarnaev will stand trial.

Read the Rolling Stone article. Try to fathom what was going through the young man’s head.

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