This was originally published by Rich Sullivan, a strong supporter of the Libertarian Party, on his Tumblr. Re-published with permission.
Maybe the only thing more embarrassing than seriously considering putting one of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects on your magazine
cover is actually doing it. The move this week to put the surviving Boston bombing suspect on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine has been met with much outrage.
Somehow, this ill-conceived idea likely made it through many meetings and considerations. Now, part of me understands some of what they were trying to do: sell copies of their magazine and get more people to their website. How does one justify the risk of such a controversial move, a move they had to know would seriously offend so many? Surely, they were expecting backlash. Why did they do it? Time may tell this story, and I hope to hear it because I’m curious.
Many are calling for RS to pull the issue. Social media outlets lit up with anger of the magazine’s decision. Yet, as offensive as some find what they’ve done to be, they are within their rights to publish it just as we are in within ours to protest it. The First Amendment is very clear that Congress cannot interfere with a free press. This protects Rolling Stone from the government, but not from the people – who, at least in this instance, have much more power.
What the First Amendment doesn’t cover in detail is that we’re under no obligation to consume what we dislike. It doesn’t specifically state that we can boycott the publication, yet we can. You see, there is power both in what we choose to do as well as what we choose not to do. For example, say your favorite baseball team decides to sign a player you don’t like to a huge contract. You can choose not to buy tickets to their games. You can choose not to support their sponsors. You can encourage your friends or anyone else to join you in that. Same thing applies here.
The Rolling Stone cover is very different though because it strikes deep inside the souls of many, many people. RS will pay dearly for this mistake. But whether you find a company’s conduct slightly or massively offensive, it is your right to choose to consume it or not. You won’t see me thumbing through the latest issue of Rolling Stone, but I’m sure glad I live in a country where the laws give people and corporations the right to make fools of themselves on such a grand stage.
The market will decide this one.
Vote with your wallet.