23/07/2013 12:40 BST | Updated 22/09/2013 06:12 BST

Boston Bomber on the Cover of Rolling Stone: By a Boston Marathon Runner


Three months ago I was crossing the line of the Boston Marathon. It was one of the happiest moments of my life. I had run a PB. I was in a city that I loved. I had completed the ultimate marathon for any serious distance runner. My relatives had traveled thousands of miles to be there at the finish.

We went around the corner for a celebratory meal. I had my first beer for four months. Other runners from all around the world came through the door. The face of the winner was on TV.

Then two bombs went off 100 yards from our table and I found myself running for my life through the streets of Boston. I was lucky, I could have been one of the three people killed, over 300 injured, but it was the most terrifying experience of my life nonetheless.

One of the bombers is currently on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. When I saw it I felt sick.

Rolling Stone seemed prepared for this and presented a precursor to the piece.

The cover story we are publishing this week falls within the traditions of journalism and Rolling Stone's long-standing commitment to serious and thoughtful coverage of the most important political and cultural issues of our day.

I read the article. It was interesting but didn't tell me much I didn't already know. Jahar Tsarnaev was a pretty normal young man. He was found school boring, he had a difficult family, he was skint, he smoked too much dope:

"He was hating life," says Sam (a teenage friend). "He used to always call and say it's mad wack and the people were corny."

Then through the influence of his brother - a self-taught Islamic fundamentalist - he began to show signs of radicalism:

"Idk why it's hard for many of you to accept that 9/11 was an inside job, I mean I guess fuck the facts y'all are some real #patriots #gethip," Jahar tweeted.

But at no point did anyone consider him to be a terrorist.

He looked happy and chill, as he always did, and was wearing a new, brown military-style jacket that his friends thought was "swag."

Do you know - I think know how Jahar Tsarnaev felt.

It is hard being a young adult, there is very little direction - no real careers, no affordable housing, no moral doctrines, no wife or child - and while this is a testament to our levels of social liberty it is also a cause for disillusionment. Who am I? What can I do? Why should I do anything? Many of us make immature and stupid decisions because of this. I tried to become a lawyer because I really liked Boston Legal. My friend tried to become a sports agent because he watched Jerry Maguire.

We have no social definition so we turn to whatever is we are in to at that time - a film, a book, an article in a cool magazine.

Which makes Rolling Stone even more irresponsible to do what it did - right?

I would argue that it is precisely for the reasons above that Rolling Stone was right to present the story as it did. Kids are not idiots. The readers of Rolling Stone are not going to read this article and think bombing a marathon is cool. Instead they may take a cold hard look at who they are and what they want to do, because they do not want to end up like Jahar Tsarnaev - even though at first glance he looks like everything they should want to be - young, pretty and on the cover of Rolling Stone. They are going to realise they have to have figure things out for themselves rather than get their answers from a TV show or a magazine cover. They are going to have to get a life, a real life in the real world.

There are very few platforms where this can be raised as a serious issue but this month's Rolling Stone has created at least one. The shock value of the cover makes it all the more powerful.