Stephen Colbert on the Rolling Stone Boston Marathon bomber cover

Stephen Colbert discusses the controversy I wrote about earlier regarding Rolling Stone magazine putting a sultry picture of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on their cover.

In all fairness, it was Tsarnaev’s Twitter photo, it’s not like Rolling Stone posed him.  But that didn’t stop Boston Mayor Menino, and lots of people on Facebook, from decrying the end of America as we know it because apparently Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s Twitter photo is kind of hot.

As Erik Wemple notes over at the Washington Post, it was actually the NYT that used the photo first on a cover, of their newspaper front page.  And no one cared.


But that’s kind of a crappy photo for a magazine cover, so Rolling Stone simply adjust the lighting (it’s a bit overblown in the shot above), and fixed the color to make it more skin tone (which is hardly terrorist-sympathetic).

Take a look at the NYT photo vs the Rolling Stone:


A lot of Boston Mayor Menino’s buddies on Facebook are claiming that Rolling Stone air-brushed Tsarnaev’s features.  I don’t think so.  Below is the NYT photo that I took in Photoshop and simply adjusted the light/exposure and the color.  Mine is on the left, Rolling Stone on the right. I’m not convinced they air-brushed him at all.  They simply fixed a lousy photo.


Lots of evil people are hot, by the way – that’s the thing about evil, it’s not something you can put on your “George Zimmerman thinking cap” and sniff out by checking somebody’s yearbook photo. I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that no, the Rolling Stone doesn’t believe blowing up 250 people is glamorous.  They do however find it puzzling that some kid with a glamour-shot Twitter profile pic could end up blowing up 250 people.  And that is interesting, and worth delving into, as the only way we’re going to beat terrorism is by understanding it, and not  condensing it into moose-and-squirrel caricatures.

I realize the American people demand their evil clear-cut, because nuance is hard to do between commercials, but life sadly doesn’t often comply.

Colbert is, as usual, viciously funny.  Here’s his additional criticism of a recent Men’s Health’s cover:


This is definitely one of his better ones. You can watch other Stephen Colbert videos here.

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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15 Responses to “Stephen Colbert on the Rolling Stone Boston Marathon bomber cover”

  1. Papa Bear says:

    for a moment I thought you misspelled “rattlers”, but since I knew that you wouldn’t do such a thing, I read it again. Kinda like it better my way, but then, everybody’s an editor…

  2. SkippyFlipjack says:

    The people saying that the original image was photoshopped to make him look better-looking, and many are saying that, generally haven’t actually looked at the original photo.

  3. SkippyFlipjack says:

    if RS had used one of his images people would have complained that it made Tsarnaev look too tough

  4. Zorba says:

    This thread seems to be infected with a nest of down-raters. Must be friends and relatives of MA State Police photographer Sgt. Sean Murphy, who just got suspended for leaking photos of a bloodied Tsarnaev because he disapproved of the Rolling Stone cover.

  5. Max_1 says:

    Typical Americans…
    … Busy judging a magazine by it’s cover and not the content of the article.

  6. Bomer says:

    That last sentence in the Amanda Marcotte quote reminds me of a few people that I know/have known. I actually had one young lady of my acquaintance years ago tell me flat out that she hated to be by herself because then she would have to think about things and that made her uncomfortable.

  7. Tysalpha says:

    I did say it was a tangent. :p

  8. Dave of the Jungle says:

    Somewhere on the Cat Stevens – Dzhokhar Tsarnaev continuum lies the truth.

  9. nicho says:

    Wow, the guy wants to look good in a photo. Well, that’s sure proof that he’s a terrorist.

  10. nicho says:

    Half, if not more, of the people who appear on the cover of Rolling Stone are alcoholics, drug addicts, wife beaters, tax cheaters, serial adulterers, gang bangers — and any combination of the above.

  11. Tysalpha says:

    Tangent: So you know how he has that messy hair look in this photo? As if he just tossled his hair before taking a selfie? So not true. I have the same hair as him, and I can guarantee you, dude spent at least 30 mins getting it just wet enough (don’t want to look frizzy!), but not too much (don’t want to look crispy!). And used a teasing comb and hair spray to get the right amount of poof. So high maintenance, for such a ‘badass’.

  12. nicho says:

    The main problem is our current cult of celebrity. People think that appearing on TV or a magazine cover is an affirmation that you’re a good person, someone to be concerned about, or (god forbid) a “role model.” We have people who are well known for being well known.

  13. cole3244 says:

    instead of getting alarmed over the cover we need all the info possible to try and figure out why this young man resorted to terrorism to make his point, we kill tens of innocent civilians with our drone policy and few here seem outraged, our hands are not free of blood regarding murdering people the only difference is ours is state sponsored terrorism.

  14. Indigo says:

    Oh, good! Let’s fuss over trivia so the Heimatsiecherheit’s surveillance system can process our responses, set up an analytic matrix response grid, and derive a bell curve continuum of terrorist-hotness rejection-acceptance. I vote hotter than Putin but meaner than your average snake.

  15. BeccaM says:

    That says it all: The NYT used the photo, and presented it in a rather context-less way, with blocks of unrelated stories on either side.

    Rolling Stone: Same photo, fixed and cropped it a bit, then put in blaring editorializing guilt-presuming text right over it, “THE BOMBER: How a Popular, Promising Student Was Failed by His Family, Fell Into Radical Islam and Became a Monster.”

    Somehow what RS did is a controversy, and not because they asserted the proven guilt of someone who hasn’t even been tried in a court of law yet, but because they chose a photo that doesn’t make Tsarnaev actually LOOK like a monster. Seriously — do we need villain mustaches, Lee Van Cleef-style creased eyes, and black hats to know the difference between bad guys and good ones?

    Apparently we Americans don’t do nuance well at all. What we excel at is manufactured outrage, compulsive pearl-clutching, and uncontrolled pants-wetting at the slightest provocation… or no provocation at all if it’s a day ending in “Y.”

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