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Jean Kaufman

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July 21, 2013 - 12:15 am
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Much of the brouhaha about Rolling Stone’s piece on Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has centered on the rockstar-style photo of the bomber on the cover.

But that’s not the only thing wrong with the article. Take the text, which is an earnest attempt to answer the question: How could a good boy like Dzhokhar go so bad? What secret sorrow, what family troubles or school troubles or other troubles led a young man universally described as unusually charming, magnetic, easygoing, laid-back, cool, and happy-go-lucky to become an Islamic terrorist murderer?

The article fails abysmally to answer the question, although along the way it offers quite a bit of background information about the boy and then the young man it refers to as Jahar, as most of his friends did. But perhaps the author is asking the wrong question. Maybe there’s not that much to explain or understand, if one considers the possibility that the charismatic Dzohkhar may in fact be a psychopath.

How could that be? Despite a common popular misconception that psychopaths are a gloomy sort, not the type of people you’d take to if you were to meet them, that doesn’t really describe the majority of them. The classic text on the subject, The Mask of Sanity, was written in 1941 by psychiatrist Hervey Cleckley. That’s a long time ago, but the work holds up very well today because although we can describe psychopathy, we have learned very little more about its etiology than was known in Cleckley’s time. Here’s his description of the psychopath’s “mask”:

…[T]he [psychopath's] central personality…[is] covered over by…a perfect mask of genuine sanity, a flawless surface indicative in every respect of robust mental health. .. [T]hose called psychopaths are very sharply characterized by the lack of anxiety (remorse, uneasy anticipation, apprehensive scrupulousness, the sense of being under stress or strain)…

It is my opinion that when the typical psychopath…occasionally commits a major deed of violence, it is usually a casual act done not from tremendous passion or as a result of plans persistently followed with earnest compelling fervor. There is less to indicate excessively violent rage than a relatively weak emotion breaking through even weaker restraints.

Reading Cleckley, and then reading the Rolling Stone piece, one can’t help but be struck by the similarity between his friends’ descriptions of Dzhokhar and Cleckley’s descriptions of psychopaths. Many of Dzhokhar’s friends were deeply puzzled by the cool, chill, laid-back Jahar’s participation in the bombing, and theorized that his more conventionally depressed, angry, and jihadi brother Tamerlan must have “turned” him or controlled or brainwashed him in some way to have accounted for Dzhokhar’s going along with such a violent and cold-blooded act.

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Top Rated Comments   
I think part of the point here is that, to a true psychopath, Islamic fundamentalism is as negligible a philosophy as any other. So it doesn't seem outlandish that a young man, with no moral sense (but a lot of practice aping his neighbors, who have the conscience he curiously seems to lack) would be a willing accomplice to his Islamic-fundamentalist brother.

Their mother raised them BOTH to be jihadists, it seems... my guess is that she would be as surprised as the rest of us to learn that he cares as much about that as he does about the Save The Spotted Owl Society.

The psychopath explanation, to me, makes more sense than the jihadi explanation. Sure, jihadis do abhorrent things, but they're proud of them afterward, and take pleasure in discussing in great detail how disgusting their targets were and how happily they'd perpetrate such an attack again. This baby-faced monster seems... bored by it all.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
So ... Rolling Stone wants to portray him as a poor misguided, confused, misunderstood youth and this article ... a psychopath. Both seem almost desperate to ignore the elephant in the room, that being Islam. Either it's a religion of misunderstood youths and pschopaths, not likely, or something else is driving the bus. Fanatical belief in jihad, perhaps? Nah couldn't be.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
He's not a psychopath. He's a Muslim.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (41)
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1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Psychopathy is not a mental illness, psychopathy is not insanity, and psychopathy is not a defense to crime in any way.

Sometimes when you explain something—saying Dzhokhar is a psychopath, for example—you’re really not “explaining” much at all. And here I most definitely am not excusing anything, either. I think that making excuses for acts such as the Tsarnaev brothers’ is what most people fear from such speculation. Psychopathy, although apparently representing some sort of defect present from birth (we think) that then can interact with environment and free will to sometimes result in crimininality, is no bar to criminal responsibility at all.

And although psychopathy is regarded as a “disorder” rather than a mental illness, that is primarily descriptive as well. We actually know very little about the etiology of character disorders and they are virtually irrelevant in assigning criminal responsibility. My point in calling Dzhokhar a psychopath is certainly not to absolve him of anything, nor to say we “understand” him, but to point out the futility of trying to “understand” him in the usual psychological sense of “what terrible trauma did he undergo to make this happen?”, the way the Rolling Stone article and Dzhokhar’s friends and teachers seem to be trying to do. With a psychopath, there is not necessarily any terrible trauma at all, although sometimes there is.

Islamic fanaticism had a role in the Boston bombing, apparently a very large one for Tamerlan. For Dzhokhar, it seems to have acted more as another mask, a not-very-deeply-motivated excuse for violence. Not all terrorists are alike, nor are all brothers alike.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
When your a good moon god worshiper following Muhammad, it is not Islamic Fundamentalism. It is just being a good warrior for the god of the Kaaba.

Muhammad would be proud this POS Jihad virgin seeker, placed the bomb next to a small Saxon male child. Do you know what that means? I do.

I have an idea. Since their Uncle did not turn them in, or their Mosque, let's continue allowing millions of his fellow Koran followers into these United States so we can get American culture changed post hast.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The Rolling stone article gave a good account of what can happen. His (Tsarnaev) conversion was something that is not all that unexpected as he is young and impressionable. The real damage is speculation. He will have a trial. More will be known then. Too bad some misguided merchants did not carry the magazine people need to know terrorist look like other people so we can't tell by looking.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I agree - with reservations. We won't know who or what Tsarnaev "is" unless and until he has a psych evaluation and the results are made public. (And even that won't be conclusive - psychology is not an exactly science.)

But his behavior after the incident seems indicative. He ran over his own brother. Despite being badly wounded, he took time to write a jihad message in his own blood before he surrendered. And he seems detached about the whole thing - like his acts and his situation are no big deal.

Is a kid his age, who grew up mostly in America, capable of that kind of coolness and bravado? I don't know. I'm not as cynical as Phillip Caputo, who said, "One of the most brutal things in the world is your average nineteen-year-old American boy."

One thing I don't believe is that he was Mr. Average Teenager warped beyond recognition by radical Islam or American culture.

There was something wrong with that kid.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
He sounds a little bit like Obama -- the kid with the exotic background who was too cool for school. Obama was however extremely goal oriented and not a mass murderer.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Great analysis, Neo. That cold-blooded psychopath boy's evil is enhanced by the crazy element of the religion-of-peace. I had completely understood, from your article. it seemed to me that you were not putting this out as an excuse, but rather to color in the lines on, or flesh out, this boy that the bored-lazy author of media magazine cover story had no interest in doing.

Back in April, there was a powerful article with a similar idea on the evil nature of the boy. In SOFREP, the article - http://sofrep.com/20082/sympathy-for-the-devil-from-boston-to-beslan/
- by Laura Walker, is entitled "Sympathy for the Devil."

Walker lays out in sickening detail the works of the Chechen terrorist, Shamil Basayev, whom the younger marathon bomber had "liked" but tried to delete, in Pinterest. Read the whole thing.

Media fluff, like the author of this, highly disposable, RS cover story are whitewashing this fellow's evil.

And that is wrong.



1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Psychopath Shmychopath. Faith, whether religious or political, is the reason for the greatest of evils. People who do really bad things have nothing to gain from their acts. They think they are being virtuous.

http://www.jochnowitz.net/Essays/The-Boston-Bombers.html
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
News flash: Muhammad was a psychopath too. What binds all warriors for the god of the kaabba? You guessed it, the koran.

Hey, puke faces, there is no extremists Islamists. Just Apostates.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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