You’d think, of all people, country star turned celeb-reality D-lister John Rich might know the difference between fame and infamy. In this year’s You Are So Nashville If … issue of the Scene — out today — an entry ribbing Rich for his domestic, aesthetic assault on Love Circle took second place.
In fact, every summer we hold this crowd-sourced contest, and every summer we get a glut of entries lambasting the singer, using him as a perennial punch line. Unequivocally, Rich — who I’ve previously proclaimed The Kenny Powers of MOR Country — is the most hated man in Nashville. Or rather, the man most Nashvillians love to hate. It’s become a local pastime. And had this year’s YASNI runner-up taken the crown — which it almost did — an illustration of Rich’s mug, hateable handlebars and all, would’ve graced this week’s Scene cover.
Would Rich have felt glorified by the gesture?
Until recently, Rich had long dreamed of gracing the cover of a different, much, much, much, much, much larger and more iconic publication — Rolling Stone. But that all changed this week when the magazine put a picture of Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on its cover, along with an in-depth story about his life. In the eyes of many, who are calling for a boycott of the magazine or just shaking their fist at it on Facebook, the picture of the bomber was especially provocative in that, to them, it glorified Tsarnaev, making him look like an iconic rock star by framing his dreamy-eyed boy-band-worthy mug in the context of a Rolling Stone cover.
But the truth is, there was no photo shoot for this cover story; the image of the bomber — which was widely used by other media outlets in the wake of the tragedy in Boston — is a selfie. That’s what Dzhokhar Tsarnaev actually fucking looks like, and that inconvenient truth — that this handsome, freshman-faced, Jim Morrison-coiffed pothead could have been your kid’s high school best friend — is what the unsettling story between the pages (that reactionaries are refusing to read) is actually about: an immigrant child, assimilating into our culture as a well-liked, popular and promising all-American teen, and becoming a radicalized terrorist as a young man.
John Rich doesn’t know that, though. Because he didn’t actually read the story before tweeting last night, “If u wanna get on the cover of @RollingStone just blow some people up and get some photoshop on your terrorist face and you're IN! #boycott”
Curious, I quickly responded directly by asking Rich if he’d actually read the article. And that was all it took to make the sanger-songwratter see red and send him into a Twitter rage. He tweeted that he had indeed read the piece and invited me to defend it, telling me soon after (sic), “You need to have you ass kicked.” (Full disclosure: I occasionally moonlight as a contributor for Rolling Stone.)
So, a late-night war of tweets ensued between Rich and myself, with a handful of his fans and social-media impostors chiming in along the way. Short story short, as you might predict, festivities included but were not limited to Rich calling me sub-human, exhibiting a fundamental misunderstanding of basic journalism, a glaring lack of historical knowledge and ultimately admitting that he, like his lemmings, did not actually read the current Rolling Stone cover story — he lied.
Then Rich really made himself look like a Mensa-worthy championship debater when he pulled the Hitler card, explaining his fib by tweeting at little Jewish me, “I’ll show you a pic of Hitler, and you tell me if you really still need to read Mein Kampf. Your ideological sway is toxic.”