#FreeJahar Fandom: Why Are Teenagers So Susceptible to Crackpot Conspiracy Theories?

Move over Bieber, the alleged Boston bomber is about to give you a run for your money. Over the days since the Boston Marathon bombing and the news coverage of the Tsarnev family, and friends, fan pages have sprouted up around the Internet and teenage Twitter feeds specifically that of Tsarnev’s friend Troy Crossley abound with pro-Tsarnev messages from literally around the world.

Like most terrorist attacks, assassinations, and plane crashes in recent history, which have internet pages set up to link them to some sort of conspiracy or government set up, the Boston Marathon bombing is no different. Images and video are examined along with testimony from experts or witnesses, which apparently proves the bombings were orchestrated by the government and that Tsarnev is totally innocent (and omg, like, so adorable!).

#FreeJahar, and #JusticeforJahar are the battle-cries of teens, and young 20-somethings like Anna (20) in Nebraska, and Emily Jolly (20) of Mississippi. These fans say he is innocent and toss around conspiracy theories of every variety. Those advocating for Jahar (Dhokhar's nickname) have built up a presence on Tumblr and Twitter. These (mostly female) fans have uploaded photos, Jahar-quotes, music videos of his favorite songs, and animated GIFs depicting a relatively normal looking, happy teenage boy. They discuss wanting to hug him, his "weird" food cravings, and how he's feeling "thinking that everyone hates him."

In the bizarre world of internet fandoms and fetishes, those built around convicted or accused killers are among the most fascinating, in that car-crash sort of way where, even as you cringe, you absolutely must peek out the window and scan for rolling heads.

To most rational adults, the whole display of these sites is alien, but the phenomenon is not without precedent. Indeed, there are "Holmies" fan pages created for James Holmes of the Aurora, Colorado Dark Knight massacre, as well as "Columbiners" pages for the Columbine High School shooters Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris. The existence of these "fandoms," however, still does not give people (everyone else) an explanation of their existence. Despite the insight of essays like Rachel Monroe's on what urban dictionary terms the teenage "feels," this usually empathetic writer is still left wondering WTF, MATE??? 

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Nicole Polizzi

Nicole is an adjunct lecturer in Sociology, Philosophy and Composition at ASA in Manhattan. Professionally she is dually obsessed with the expansion/protection of human rights and social justice, and holistic, arts-inclusive education reform. Running, writing and belting Adele in the shower are her catharses.

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