The Year Of The Mask: The Ballad Of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

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Now, this bomb is armed! This bomb is mobile! And the identity of the triggerman is a mystery. For one of you holds the detonator! And we came here not as conquerors, but as liberators to return control of this city to the people. And at the first sign of interference from the outside world, or for those people attempting to flee, this anonymous Gothamite —this unsung hero—will trigger the bomb. For now, martial law is in effect. Return to your homes, hold your families close, and wait. Tomorrow you claim what is rightfully yours.
—Bane, “The Dark Knight Rises”

do yourself a favor, go watch the batman #tooreal.
—Boston marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev after watching “The Dark Knight Rises” (3 days after the Aurora theater shooting)

The Year Of The Mask has not just been about the intersection between politics and comic book culture, and the ouroboros of fantasy and reality…it has been about how the media (intentionally) creates clicks out of horror and (unintentionally, but perhaps even more destructive) creates “folk heroes” out of murderers. James Holmes had his “Holmies.” Chris Dorner had his Facebook support pagesChris Dorner had his Facebook support pages.

And The Dark Knight Rises fan Dzhokhar Tsarnaev? He had Rolling Stone.

I. COVER BOY

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“HollywoodLife”

On April 15, 2013 three people died and 264 were injured when two pressure cooker bombs went off at the Boston Marathon. The suspects were Chechen brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Fleeing from police in a carjacked SUV, they were caught in a firefight with police; Tamerlan was pronounced dead at the scene, while Dzhokhar escaped in the SUV (running over his brother’s body in the process).

After a fully-televised manhunt, Dzhokhar—whose first name is pronounced, I shit you not, “JOH’-kahr “—was found hiding in a boat in somebody’s backyard. He was shot and taken into custody.

In August of 2013, Rolling Stone featured a youthful and photogenic picture of Dzhokhar on their front cover—much as one would do for a boy band frontman or, say, Jim Morrison in his prime.

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In December 2013, Adweek named the Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Rolling Stone cover as the “Hottest Cover Of The Year.”

America, ladies and gentlemen. Our fucking culture.

…I do believe that the myth of ‘Celebrity’ is not just innocently shallow entertainment, but a powerful and fundamental part of a larger movement revolving around greed, apathy and hierarchy that is currently dragging us down, down, down, lower and scarier, and perhaps weaker than we’ve ever, ever been. Smile!
— Joseph Gordon-Levitt

II. HORROR, ON LOOP

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The Boston Marathon bombings were NOT the first case of “real” terrorism on U.S. soil since 9/11. During The Year Of The Mask, Americans had been continually terrorized by highly publicized mass-killing incidents—especially since the Aurora “Dark Knight” shootings, after which it seemed we were treated to one gory tale literally every week.

How is what happened at Sandy Hook not terrorism? When Adam Lanza was said to be inspired by Norway’s Anders Breivik—a TERRORIST?

That said, the trend in the media at the time was to officially make the Boston Bombing the “second” 9/11. Which, no matter how tragic the Boston bombing was—and I am not minimizing the tragedy—it was not a “second 9/11.”

Because, in a sense, 9/11 had never stopped.

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9/11 did not seem to be a finite event, but one whose ripples through time informed everything that had happened since.

Further, I believe that the event had a particular impact on Millennials—like Dzhokhar Tsarnaev—in a way that I think we are only now starting to understand the magnitude of.

And as had become standard since 9/11, the news media amplified the horrific impact of the Boston Bombing as much as possible—using such methodology as endlessly repeated video loops of destruction, and gory photos for their newspaper headlines.

For example, one news station kept playing the same “Vine” video clip of the initial marathon bombing as B roll over and over again while their talking heads blathered. We are talking a clip less than 30 seconds long, capturing the very moment that lives were horribly changed forever. Seen a few times, it was a historical document of an event; played 20 times in a row, it became something far more, its ultimate purpose not to inform but to numb into accepting a “new normal.”

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Imagine, watching a clip of a bomb go off literally 5, 10 times in a row. This short clip, looped, playing on every TV screen, on monitors hanging over bars. The droning of assorted pundits as the image of violence goes on and on and on…

And then, to escape it all, you go to the movies.

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III. “I’M JUST A STRESS-FREE KIND OF GUY”

Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev—who was known to his friends as “Jahar”—had a very active Twitter account, on which he chatted about his thoughts on the latest movies, politics, his “current mood,” and much more. In general, his status updates looked frighteningly like any other from his age group.

Sure, he had dreams about zombie apocalypses, talked about 9/11 conspiracy theories, and complained about the media…but why wouldn’t he do those things? The Walking Dead was one of the most popular TV shows at the time. Opinions considered “fringe”  were getting increasingly “mainstreamed,” especially among the Millennial set (one of the things that was never really noted until the last couple of years).

1. Zombie apocalypse dreams

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Dzhokhar cited a number of “zombie apocalypse” dreams. As I will point out later, I believe some of these dreams cited by him to be prophetic in nature of the horror to follow. Notice how on the Dec 21, 2012 tweet, he references all the “Doomsday” talk he no doubt had become saturated with by the media.

2. Dark Knight Rises

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He watched The Dark Knight Rises when it came out, noting that it was “too real.” TDKR was key to the Aurora shootings; it also has a plot that, in some respects, strongly resembles that of what happened in Boston.

3. Believed 9/11 was an inside job

16And:

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These tweets are fascinating in that they echo some current “alt-right” talking points…and yet, this young man was supposed to be the “Other” who commits terrorist acts and hates Americans/Western culture. It begs the question: who really was Dzhokhar at this time-period?

4. The Marine

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I’m just tossing this in as an aside. Be interesting to know who that “Marine” was.

5. The Prophetic Tweet

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I am of the opinion that prophetic dreams can and do happen. Dzhokhar and his brother carried out the bombings on April 15—the day Abraham Lincoln died. He “killed” Lincoln/killed people on Lincoln’s death day.

6. Various Tweets

The following messages reflect a number of “profundities” about what Dzhokhar felt about life, terrorism, death, and so on. We read these things as the detritus/tea-leaves our fellow humans in the current era leave behind— a life, if not of “letters,” then of 140 characters.

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IV. WHO WAS DZHOKHAR TSARNAEV?

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As should be absolutely not a surprise at this point, a cult of admirers/apologists for Boston Bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev emerged, mirroring other cases such as the James Holmes “Holmies” the and Columbine Kidz afficonados. Dzhokhar fans—who used the Twitter hashtag #freejahar —seemed to be the place on the Venn diagram where Boston bombing False Flaggers/Deniers, teenage girls, and angry men in their early 20s who smoke pot all met.

The ethnic identity and religion of the Boston Marathon bombers fit quite nicely the Olympus Has Fallen New Patriotism Narrative. Indeed, the tragedy is often cited today as a reason why we need to “get tough” on immigrants and especially Muslim immigrants.

And yet if there was one thing Rolling Stone’s “star” coverage of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev—as well as the young man’s own social media footprint—did prove was that he had far more in common with “lone nuts” like James Holmes, Chris Dorner, and a host of others than an ISIS warrior in the desert.

Dzhokhar was steeped in American pop-culture, as well as the most popular conspiracies of the “patriot” fringe. Through his tweets, he sought to cultivate a romantic image of himself as “cool,” as a rebel, as hip to the latest trends, as politically informed.

Dzhokhar was no “alien” from Hollywood central casting. He was, instead, “one of us.”

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He was, in a sense, just another “geek.”