Is It Downhill From Here for ‘Rolling Stone’?
In 2017, I wrote about Glamour magazine giving an award to the organizers of the Women’s March, including anti-Israel activist and terror-supporter Linda Sarsour. A year later, the magazine ceased print publication and moved to a digital-only format.
Teen Vogue, too, has embraced the anti-Israel cause, including by printing blatantly ahistoric material, and at times veering into antisemitism. Teen Vogue ceased print publication in November of 2017.
Legacy media outlets are struggling across the board, and we can’t say that these publications’ problems were caused by their anti-Israel slant. What we can say, however, is that embracing the anti-Israel narrative didn’t save them.
Now it seems that Rolling Stone, the 52-year old music magazine, is starting to go down this road as well.
Although it readers numbering in the millions, Rolling Stone has been in decline for some time. In 2017, The Financial Times, its founder Jann Wenner put his controlling interest in the publication up for sale due to “circulation and revenue declines… . In addition to those industry-wide trends, a scandal over its 2014 reporting of an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia, which was found to be largely false, led to lawsuits, financial settlements, and a tarnishing of the magazine’s reputation.”
In addition to those industry-wide trends, a scandal over its 2014 reporting of an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia, which was found to be largely false, led to lawsuits, financial settlements, and a tarnishing of the magazine’s reputation.
In January of this year, the publication came under the full ownership of Penske Media Corporation. Since then, there have been three instances in which the publication has embraced or promoted troubling positions pertaining to Jews and Israel.
First, the magazine’s March cover, released at the end of February, featured Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-MN). Omar has made comments that many consider not just anti-Israel, but antisemitic. But a cover line called Omar a woman “shaping the future,” and the magazine featured an interview with her as well.
While Rolling Stone once defended an earlier controversial cover — of Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev — by explaining that it considers itself a “hard news” organization, and that the photo used was an existing photo used by other news organizations, that logic doesn’t apply to the Omar cover. Rolling Stone made the choice to feature Omar and two other freshman members of Congress out of a group of 93 new members (including more than 60 freshman Democrats). It also did a glamour photo shoot with Omar, and featured her in a flashy video. It was original content, and it wasn’t hard news coverage — it was acclaim.
While an editor’s note included with the Omar interview stated that it had been conducted prior to her tweeting that support for Israel was “all about the Benjamins,” it was conducted after her tweet saying, “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel,” was known. The magazine failed to sufficiently explain to its readers why its cover model’s comments were problematic.
Then, subsequent to her “Benjamins” tweet at the end of February, with the March cover on newsstands, Omar said at a DC event that she “want[s] to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country.” Rolling Stone never condemned these comments, but it was quick to jump to Omar’s defense when a Fox News commentator made almost the exact same slur — that of disloyalty to the nation — against Omar. The publication wrote not one but two articles condemning the comments about Omar, with one reporter calling them “disgusting.”
According to Rolling Stone, it’s unacceptable to claim that Omar is disloyal to the US, but perfectly fine for her to make that claim about supporters of Israel — which, of course, includes the vast majority of American Jews. The charge of dual loyalty is an antisemitic trope dating back to the time of Pharaoh that persists, sadly, to this day.
Finally, last week, the magazine promoted the movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel (BDS) in an article on Eurovision.
A May 19 online article described Madonna’s off-key singing at Eurovision only as “haunting.” Meanwhile, the magazine quoted at length the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel without any rebuttal. Reporter Ilana Kaplan even wrote in her own words that “Palestinians are being brutally oppressed” by Israel. While Madonna used her performance (flawed as it was) to call for co-existence and engagement, Rolling Stone, in covering the story, opted instead to amplify the divisive campaign for boycotting Israel.
As with Glamour and Teen Vogue, embracing anti-Israel activism and even antisemitism may not kill Rolling Stone. But it certainly won’t save it.