The Ballad of Rolling Stone

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Thu, Apr 9 - 9:00 am EST | 4 years ago by
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The Morse Code - Rolling Stone

If we could personify popular publications then Rolling Stone would be the limbo king, impressing us all with just how low it could go.

It’s history as a music industry rag since the 1967 has sported such classic hits as…

Kanye West Rolling Stone Cover

Encouraging Kanye’s God complex

and who could forget the “Incredible Story” of Charles Manson…

Charles Manson Rolling Stone Cover

Kanye and Manson might not have actually killed anybody, but they did have a hand in death of something, and both think they’re somewhere close to godhood. Apparently Rolling Stone thinks that as well, since they dressed Kanye up as Jesus, and made Manson look like a medieval era Saint, complete with yellow glow around the head.

Hey, maybe that’s just me, but the next part really isn’t.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Rolling Stone Cover

For those of you who live a blessed life away from the media, this is 21-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. He didn’t write any songs. He doesn’t act in movies. He has zero to do with the entertainment industry at all. No, he likes to bomb innocent people, and he’s just been found guilty on all 30 counts for the horrific Boston Marathon Bombing. Seventeen of these counts include the fun penalty of being put down like a diseased dog.

So why is he on a Rolling Stone cover that looks inspired by Tiger Beat? Good question.

It’s a disgusting behavioral pattern you see out of Rolling Stone that inspired even more disgusting behavior from some of it’s readers. Before long, Tsarnaev had a fan club.

No really.

The Boston Bomber himself, responsible for the horrific deaths of innocent people, suddenly had fangirls. The “Free Jahar” movement was born. Many of these “fans” attempted to comment intellectually about Tsarnaev’s situation, but it’s hard to sound intellectual when you’re too busy commenting on how cute he is. I mean, these fangirls lost their minds when a court sketch of Tsarnaev was deemed unflattering.

This is the Rolling Stone audience, and unsurprisingly, Rolling Stone makes excuses for promoting this brand of teen-boppery.

Rolling Stone on Tsarnaev Cover

The fact that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is young, and in the same group as many of your readers is in fact a good reason to cover a story, but not a good reason to create a cover that could be torn off so it could appear next to a One Direction poster and shirtless pic of Justin Bieber. I’m not saying that Rolling Stone shouldn’t be able to put glorifying pictures of psychopaths on their cover. It’s their rag. But don’t pretend like you’re “examining the complexities of this issue” or gaining “a more complete understanding” when you’re making a model out of a murderer. If you’re going to sell sex and death, sell it honestly.

That’s what gets me about Rolling Stone – its blatantly dishonest. To show that, let’s go a little further down the timeline to more recent events.

The world over should now know about the UVA rape case. A girl known as “Jackie” claimed she was raped by seven fraternity members of the University of Virginia chapter of Phi Kappa Psi during a house party. Sabrina Erdely from Rolling Stone decided she would cover the story. Erdely reached out to Jackie and received a horrifying tale of misplaced trust in a date that resulted in a brutal gangrape as part of a pledge ritual.

The story went mega-viral. Feminists everywhere had their smoking gun. Men are bad. College is dangerous. Women are victims. It was the perfect example of everything people like Sally Kohn and Jessica Valenti have been saying all along.

Then it turned out to be a complete fabrication. Once people started asking questions, those questions lead to more questions. Soon, the whole story went bottom up. It even earned them a position on 2014’s worst journalism list by Columbia Journalism Review.

There was no party. Descriptions didn’t match. Hell, even the timeframe for the frat house to be filled with pledgers was off by an entire season. What’s more, Erdely had completely neglected to reach out to the accused because the fraternities web page was “outdated.” The conflicting reports about her friends just added to the fire.

Rolling Stone and Erdely were caught red-handed with a false story. A media storm erupted around it, forcing Rolling Stone retract the story and issue this statement:

“In the face of new information, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie’s account, and we have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced.”

Forget taking responsibility or irresponsible journalism. Forget not being concerned with fact checking. Rolling Stone had just simply misplaced their trust in Jackie. That’s all. It wasn’t their fault! They were just fooled by a really good story teller! If anything, Rolling Stone is the victim here!

Despite their retraction, the damage was done, and innocent people had suffered. The members of Phi Kappa Psi had gone through emotional trauma. Their house was vandalized with bricks through windows, and spraypainted with words like “rapists.” They had to flee to hotels. The rest of the fraternities and sororities were told to abide by new, unnecessary rules, all for having done nothing wrong.

Erdely herself issued what appeared to be an apology of her own.

“The past few months, since my Rolling Stone article “A Rape on Campus” was first called into question, have been among the most painful of my life. Reading the Columbia account of the mistakes and misjudgments in my reporting was a brutal and humbling experience. I want to offer my deepest apologies: to Rolling Stone’s readers, to my Rolling Stone editors and colleagues, to the U.V.A. community, and to any victims of sexual assault who may feel fearful as a result of my article…”

This apology can’t even be considered an apology at all, as Erdely gave no wordage to the real victims of the story: the young men whose lives she destroyed.

It would be one thing if Rolling Stone just gave fawning attention to murderers, but the UVA hoax wasn’t just come controversial cover, it was a story that was crafted in order to create villains out of real people. Who those people were made zero difference, so long as Rolling Stone had a martyr for their narrative, it didn’t matter who paid the price.

By the way, Erdely gets to keep her job.

This is who Rolling Stone is. The entertainment magazine that puts psychopaths in the same place they put Dave Grohl and Brad Pitt. The magazine that riles a mob with a lie, hoping it won’t get caught, then issues shrug-worthy statements until the pressure becomes too much. Rolling Stone is the journalism we’re all so sick of.

A warning.

This is the information age, and while a lie may travel halfway around the world before the truth gets its pants on, it sure as hell suffers a massive beatdown once the truth catches up. Rolling Stone needs to remember this fact and quick. Its advertisers are starting to get a little nervous. The publication’s flat-out disrespect for the victims of bombings has cost them as well. If Rolling Stone doesn’t get its act together, then you may very well see the information age bite it for its abuse. Consumer revolts are a popular thing nowadays, and people know that emailing advertisers works.

Hailing from Austin, Texas, Brandon Morse has been writing about politics and culture across many websites for the last six years, with a heavy emphasis on anti-authoritarianism. Aside from writing articles, he is also known for voice acting and authoring scripts. He is an avid gamer, dog person, and has a bad habit of making vague references to things no one has heard about or seen. Follow him at @TheBrandonMorse on Twitter.

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