Apparently, this picture was worth more than a thousand words.
"Jahar's World" was released Wednesday, after images of Rolling Stone's controversial cover featuring Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were made public Tuesday night. The cover immediately received backlash from critics who denounced the publication for glamorizing the alleged Boston Bomber by creating a layout that makes Tsarnaev look like a sexy young rock star. Rolling Stone touts the profile as "a riveting account of how Jahar Tsarnaev became a monster." But after actually reading the account, I'd argue the sensational magazine cover was more of a story than the story itself.
The new Rolling Stone profile is the result of thorough reporting, but in the end, it feels more like excellent fact-and-anecdote-gathering than an account of any new information. No one besides Dzhokhar himself can understand the transformation he underwent. Rolling Stone acknowledges that fact...and then attempts to understand anyway. It's an interesting read, but nothing much groundbreaking or new.
(My lack of surprise at the magazine's "revelations" might come from obsessively paying attention to the news around the Boston bombing. I was half a mile away from the bombs when they exploded.)
Still, some revelations in the article did stand out. Here they are:
One of Tsarnaev's friends actually has something negative to say about him:
The profile, like much of media coverage of the bombings, is filled with quotes like, "He was so sweet. He was too sweet, you know?" (from a friend) and "This was the quintessential kid from the war zone, who made total use of everything we offer so that he could remake his life. And he was gorgeous" (from a creepy teacher).
But Rolling Stone also quotes a friend who says he discussed the 9/11 attacks with the alleged bomber. He claims Tsarnaev "said he felt some of those acts were justified because of what the U.S. does in other countries, and that they do it so frequently, dropping bombs all the time."
Tamerlan Tsarnaev likely developed a mental illness that his mother thought Islam could help heal.
"Tamerlan [Dzhokar's brother] told me he feels like there's two people living in him," his mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, reportedly confided in her friend. "It's weird, right?" Her friend encouraged the mother to take Tamerlan to a doctor, but Zubeidat seems to have believed that Islam would help calm her son's demons. They both started reading the Koran, and Tamerlan befriended Mikhail Allakhverdov, an Armenian convert to Islam who claimed he could talk to demons and perform exorcisms.
Rolling Stone paints a portrait of a troubling family life.
Dzhokhar's mother Zubeidat told a salon client that she believed 9/11 was a government plot to make Americans hate Muslims. "It's real," she said. "My son knows all about it. You can read on the Internet." Bella and Ailina, his two sisters, eventually "disappeared" from Cambridge entirely, reportedly having been set up in arranged marriages. Dzhokhar seemed scared of his older brother, at one point empathetically telling a friend, "No, you don't want to meet him."
When a friend texted him saying that he looked like one of the bombing suspects on TV, Dzhokhar replied, "Lol."
He then told the friend not to text him anymore. "I'm about to leave. If you need something in my room take it," he wrote.
One of his nurses said that Dzhokhar cried for two days straight after he woke up in the hospital.
Janet Reitman, the Rolling Stone reporter who wrote the story, told this fact to some of Dzhokhar's friends she was interviewing for the piece. They had not heard that before and were relieved, saying it sounded like him. But as the piece not-all-that deeply concludes, "Then again, no one knows what he was crying about."