Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Rolling Stone Steps In It, Big Time

By Peter Rodman

No way around it, Rolling Stone Magazine's new cover is the biggest mistake they've ever made.
And they haven't made many, so I'm particularly sad to see this.

The cover is nauseatingly inappropriate; the outcry richly deserved.
It's a real shame they did this, because the damage may eventually become first-paragraph material in Jann Wenner's (and/or the magazine's) eventual obit.  And I'm not saying they should pander to every sensitivity out there, but at a time when print media's been fighting tooth-and-nail for every ad page and reader they can muster, just to survive... well, this may not have been the wisest move in their playbook.

Put another way, if this were a tennis championship, this cover controversy would qualify as "an obvious unforced error." 

Though it shouldn't really be a "right/left" issue, this tone-deaf blunder is already being used by the right wing, as a weapon to attack the magazine's credibility--and it'll be a handy and effective tool with which to beat down any future investigative pieces 'conservative corporates' may find threatening.
That is a terrible shame.

Rolling Stone is one of the few remaining outlets for clear-eyed reportage, one fine example being Matt Taibbi's excellent work exposing the financial corruption in our political system. 
Even this particular story (on 'The Bomber') might be a good one...but for this reader, it loses all credibility before I even read it, based on the wildly wrong-headed cover art.
You look at this issue, and you think "What is 'The Bomber' anyway...this kid's latest album?"

The point is, even many avowed left-wingers (and I count myself as one) find the 'rock-star cover' for this doofball wannabe-terrorist completely repulsive.
It may as well have said...

EXCLUSIVE:  Dzhokhar's Favorite Colors! 
What kind of girls does he like? 
Do YOU want to win a date with Jokey???
How 'bout a slightly less 'groovy' pose than this 'selfie' from a thoughtless jerk who ruined so many other peoples' lives in a second or two,  casually severing limbs and families forever??
Here's why it's so wrong, point by point:

Here is how it actually looks on a newsstand.
Would one be far off surmising he's been
"on the bus with Willie Nelson?"

The cover blurb says he "fell into radical Islam," and "was failed by his family."  Sure sounds like the poor kid had nothin' to do with it...
But nevermind complaining about
the words on the cover--since they're all buried at the bottom, where you can't even see 'em on a newsstand! 
Tell me, did the editors really think throwing in the word "monster" at the very end, in the bottom right corner--completely *not* visible on ANY magazine stand (see pic above)-- would somehow ameliorate their colossally bad judgment?
The magazine's defense has been to mention that RS has put many infamous types on the cover before, and that is true. 
But they just don't get it.

See, it's not the fact that you put the kid on the cover.
It's the shot you used...and the way you used it.

Logo-header, completely uninterrupted.  I've done a bit of professional writing myself, and that normally signals the reader, "Everything's okay here!" 
Glamour shot, retouched and airbrushed to perfection.
What is he, a model? 
...certainly not a model citizen. 
Here's the difference between the 'Bomber' cover and a few past RS covers of notorious figures:  When Rolling Stone put Charles Manson on the cover, almost nobody complained.  That's because it was contextualized ("A Special Report") and because of the way in which he was portrayed--beneath a big yellow circle (target?), with the whites of his crazy-ass eyes highlighted, by a lack of yellow.  The logo is  much more serious and small--almost somber looking--and it blends in, rather than looking like a full-splash fanzine, as does the newer one--especially in the bold and friendly 'orangey-red' selected to compliment 'Dzhokey's' softly airbrushed face.
Two different worlds.  
One: a (past) generation of RS editors and layout artists who knew what the hell they were doing.
Two: the clueless bunch who let the new cover see daylight. 
Likewise, one could easily tell Richard Nixon was a bad guy by the cover art Rolling Stone chose to use, back then. 

The fact is, in the past Jann Wenner has 'batted a thousand,' in defending every ballsy move the magazine has made.
He deserved to win every one of those battles.
From 'America: The Sleeping Giant' to the General Stanley McCrystal expose, the magazine's record is nothing short of astounding. 
But he deserves to lose this battle.

Jann's editors have done the magazine a disservice, with their feeble defenses about "the long-standing tradition of journalism," which apparently they forgot to apply to these needlessly complimentary graphics.  
Graphics are an editorial decision. 
In fact, it might even be said that they represent an editorial!
That's why there's an uproar, Jann.
Not because he's on there, but because of HOW he's on there.  You know that, deep in your heart. 
Look again at that Nixon picture, above.  Then do yourself a favor...and don't be like him.  You've righteously defended the magazine before, but that doesn't mean you must defend even a terrible mistake. 
Which this is.

A lot of people have come out of the woodwork to say they've been longtime loyal readers, just
to punctuate their complaint about 'The Bomber' cover...but I actually have been a loyal reader from Day One back in late '67, when I first spotted your amazing new publication in a record shop on Bleecker Street, and scarfed up the (newsprint-folded) issue, with John Lennon pictured on the front.

Now, I now find myself in the sad and awkward position of actually siding with the magazine's detractors--many of them serving a political agenda I find abhorrant--and that just ain't right.
I don't wanna be on their side, Jann!

You're the Beatles of rock journalism. You virtually started the whole profession, and I personally owe several decades of tax returns to it.  But this is not good.
And it's in no way a minor mistake.
Certainly, it's not a "meaningless" controversy, as a writer friend put it earlier today.  It's especially not "meaningless" to  the permanently disfigured (or dead) victims of the mindless shithead who just "made 'The Cover of the Rolling Stone'," as the song goes. 
In fact, maybe a quick listen to that song might help some of you figure out just what's so wrong about this new cover.  
Go ahead.  Click this link, and give it a listen:
Then tell me it was a good decision to glorify this loser.

Even the Beatles had one "serious lapse in judgement" (as TIME magazine called it back in 1966), and ultimately had to withdraw this album cover, after it was printed.
Remember that?  Of course you do, Jann!

You're a rock expert, and still a huge fan...just like me. 
Those "Butcher covers" are collectors' items to this day, and all because the Fabs pretended to be butchering human beings  on the cover. 
Butchering 1966!

Well, guess what:
Now you have your very own "Butcher cover."

Only this time, it's for real.
It's somebody who actually butchered human beings.
And you present him like you would any average rock star?
Just another "lost boy." Coulda been anyone, right?

A poor little cutey, who "fell into it?"
Jann, I just wish you'd suck it up, withdraw the issue from newstands*, and do like the Beatles did:
Admit that the cover was "a serious lapse in judgment." 

All of it.

This article Copyright 2013 by Peter Rodman. 
All Rights Reserved.
*This would amount to roughly 70,000 copies, ironically almost the same amount of Beatles 'Butcher Covers' Capitol Records printed and had ready-to-sell in 1966, before they were withdrawn. (NOTE: A couple million more copies of Rolling Stone are mailed to subscribers each month.) 
**Looking at the full 'Bomber' cover, you'd be forgiven for momentarily guessing that some hot young artist had just covered the old Joe Walsh song. If only. 
Here's "The Bomber"

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