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Newsweek has never been a stranger to controversial magazine covers. In addition to recent outcry over spreads on Michelle Bachmann and working women, the Atlantic’s David Graham was quick to point out that Newsweek has been courting controversy with its cover page since long before the Internet made trolling a viable business strategy.
But the magazine has outdone itself with its latest cover story, Muslim Rage, and its attendant hashtag. After asking Twitter to weigh in on the story using #muslimrage, commentators quickly reclaimed the hashtag, making jokes about how frustrating it is when you leave your shoes at the mosque or when a restaurant forgets to put garlic sauce on your shawarma.
But as Tweeters used the hashtag to poke fun at everyone from Mitt Romney to muslin (the fabric), the joke was ultimately on Newsweek. Yes, they got an entire social network to talk about them for a day, but the ultimate costs of this play for pageviews is perhaps yet to be seen (they’ve already suffered the indignation of an instantly classic Gawker takedown). And any loss of legitimacy and respect that may result from this will serve as a warning of what can happen when a horribly miscalculated hashtag is let loose in the wild.
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