What’d I Say: Justin Bieber & the Attack on ‘Rolling Stone’

Posted February 20, 2011 by J Matthew Cobb in Features

Rolling Stone interview with today’s Georgy Porgy made the grown-up, overly-protective soccer moms cry

I smelt this was coming. The vapors were all in the air when I entered the house with today’s mail while focusing my attention squarely on the new issue of ‘Rolling Stone’. The walk into the kitchen felt like an inmate slowly walking down Death Row. Not that I’m afraid of Justin Bieber, who’s dressed like a Twilighter fanatic ready to hit attend his first leather party, but because in the kitchen was my worst nightmare. My mother and sister are having a conversation about the week’s hot topics. It’s what most families do in their winding-down time on a nice Saturday afternoon. I really felt like I should have made a U-turn and head downstairs to the basement to my computer and start working on articles and upcoming assignments, but I didn’t. Big mistake.

My sister notices the Bieb on the magazine cover and asks me the question, “Um, is that Justin Bieber?” Women do that. You know, ask you a question they already know the answer to. “Yea, it’s Justin Bieber,” I replied, as if the question was some jaded way to strike up a new conversation. I made it seem so…regular. Why did I do that?

Like a portly 50-year old Southerner  feels about his sports pages or a 60-year old granny hunting down her Sunday paper for the Funnies or coupons, my sister makes it a routine to check her MSN.com front page every day. It’s her way of connecting with the rest of the world. Today was no exception. She brings up the heated debate concerning the teen idol and the press involving his views on hot-button topics like abortion. As I opened up the 82-page glossy magazine of one of my favorite publications in music, I quickly notice that ‘Rolling Stone’ is the culprit.

First, let me say this. Usually when a detestable event occurs in the music world and it involves an exclusive artist interview, look to ‘Rolling Stone’ to filling in the blanks. If it’s not them, they are going to be next in line. I think that is why I appreciate the magazine. They go where most magazine fear of going. And yes, they’ve built a reputation on being a leftist, politically-aggravated, rebellious resource for rock n’ roll, but it’s one that I can identify with. What do you expect from a 40-year old mag that’s still in the hands of one of its founders?

The Justin Bieber vs. Rolling Stone debate has grown immensely. Thank the ladies at ‘The View’ for that. The hosts of the hit ABC daytime talk-opera all agreed that RS was out of line for quoting Bieber’s views on religion, homosexuality and abortion.. Joy Behar and Elizabeth Hasselbeck seemed as if they were on the same team until Behar declared that Bieber, now 16 years of age, had no opinions. Hasselbeck, a pro-Bible Republican kind of gal, quickly jumped into to defend Bieber – saying that he was right…but Rolling Stone was wrong.

For God’s sake, people. When is it ever alright to talk about religion? I still know 40-year Bible lovers that get irrate when they watch two women kissing on ‘Jerry Springer.’

Back to the subject.

The question was raised at the kitchen table from my folks why all this attention is on Bieber. Being the youngest in the room, I felt I had a legitimate answer. It’s because he’s a teen idol. Sure, grown adults who perfer Luther, Aretha and Whitney are baffled over how Justin Bieber – in such a short period of time – emerged to be the prince of pop. But every generation has their teen fixations. My mom’s generation had Elvis and the Beatles, my sister’s had Michael Jackson and Madonna. For my folks’, it was N.W.A. and 2Pac. But Bieber, resting comfortably in the prime of his adolescence,  is now gracing a grown-folk’s magazine like ‘Rolling Stone.’

My mom recalls the magazine from decades’ ago. “I remember when ‘Rolling Stone’ was sluty and offensive. Bad people, folk on drugs, were usually associated with it. They just recently tried to clean up their image,” she said. I’m not sure if she was trying to be sympathetic to RS because I’ve renewed my mail-in subscription for a second year, but if you’re working in the world of rock ‘n roll, it’s almost impossible to enter sainthood, but I tend to think the majority of people that pick up ‘Rolling Stone’, without any shame or hesitance, are men. And I think that’s why ‘Rolling Stone’ is getting the beatdown this week…because women who are overly-protective of their kids see Justin Bieber as being vulnerable to the rest of the world and see ‘Rolling Stone’ as being the predator. 

If you asked Momz or my sister right now who they prefer – Rolling Stone or Justin Bieber- there will be a brief pause. Women love to rationalize, but as much as they love to rationalize – they also have an incurable infatuation with talking. The answer would probably be Bieber. No, they are not hardcore Bieber fans. During our Saturday conversation, my sister is having a hard trying to recall some of his songs. She only knows the song that says, “Baby, baby, baby, ohhhh.” With her unstable pitch, that could be almost any song. Heck, that could be any song  Ashanti recorded (Most of her songs had repetiive “baby” lines in her lyrics). But mothers protect their young and they overwhelmingly felt that Bieber was under attack by a corporation of grown professional men who love to rock ‘n roll all night and party everyday.

But as I read the article – being a 30-year old man with no kids – I realize that ‘Rolling Stone’ wasn’t in the wrong at all. My sister argues that ‘Rolling Stone’ posed the hard questions. Thankfully, I read the context before I spoke my view. The reference to Bieber’s views on abortion (Rolling Stone, March 3, 2011, Issue 1125; pg. 58) never mentions he was asked the questions about abortion. It only quotes his views.

“He’s definitely against abortion, too. “I really don’t believe in abortion,” he says. “I think [an embryo] is a human. It’s like killing a baby.” Even in the case of rape? “Um,” he says. “Well, I think that’s just really sad, but everything happens for a reason. I don’t know how that would be a reason.” He looks confused. “I guess I haven’t been in that position, so I wouldn’t be able to judge that.”

Sure, Vanessa Grigoriadis (a woman) brings up the unpleasant scenario about rape. It’s a response to his answer, but the article never states that the writer asked the tough question about abortion. Maybe they were just having a conversation about faith and one thing lead to another. And in the end, Grigoriadis thought that his views on abortion were more interesting to read than…passing out evangelism tracts or him rambling about his favorite gospel singer. Sure, Bieber is a kid that’s still learning and growing. Heck, he might become an atheist in ten years, but RS is doing what any serious journalist would’ve done. They ask the tough questions and they post the stuff that their readers are most interested in.

Amazingly, in the same article, Bieber asks the writer before the interview begins, if she’s a Christian. Apparently Bieber wouldn’t have done the interview if she wasn’t. So maybe the reasons why hot subjects like abortion was on the table had something to do with Bieber asking the first question, which was a question about faith. Bieber set the tone for what was to come.

As the article gallops along, Bieber talks alot about God and it is quickly determined that the superstar, still growing and learning, is full of love and peace. “I don’t agree with war either, necessarily,” he says. “I think everyone should just get along…What’s the point of killing people – power? If no one cared about power, then no one would have wars. Canada doesn’t go around attacking people.”

Bieber’s way of thinking is kinda innocent. And charming. He thinks with a moral obligation. Not one that’s built on selfishness or impudence but on what affects the common good. Certainly, grown-ups offended by the ‘Rolling Stone’ article will blast the writers for asking 40-year old questions to a 16-year old minor. But in our country, a 16-year old child can be sentenced to prison if he commits murder or any adult crime, just because he was involved in an adult situation. Bieber may be 16, but he’s doing tons of things that 16-year olders only dream of. Most 16-year olders are playing their XBox, going to school, prepping in advance for the senior prom and are trying to start their own Glee club. Bieber is being hounded by the paparazzi from city to city, packing out stadiums and football-size arenas singing that “baby, baby, baby…oh” song. And to add to his popularity, he’s now cool enough to land on ‘Rolling Stone’.

In the end, I think the biggest problem of this whole situation is that women and men still don’t understand one another. At the end of the day, the boys will be boys and girls will be girls.

Last week, after the Grammy victories during the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards, Bieber fans (also known as Beliebers) decided to raid Esperanza Spalding’s Wikipedia page, while posting cruel, offensive threats. Spalding won New Artist of the Year- beating out Justin Bieber, Drake, Mumford & Sons and Florence + the Machine. The comments were quickly removed, but still caused a major stir in the media. One rant read: “Justin Bieber deserved it go die in a hole. Who the heck are you anyway?”


What’d I Say is a new public opinion series focusing on recent events featuring commentary from our team of skillfull writers and guest bloggers. The opinions expressed at this forum are the opinions of the individual author and may not reflect the opinions of the parent company HiFi Magazine.

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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