Ed Driscoll

Cognitive Dissonance Strikes Deep

But of course: “#FreeJahar Hashtag Hits Twitter as People Sympathize With Boston Terror Suspect Who Allegedly Placed Bomb That Killed 8-Year-Old.”

Despite the mounting evidence against him, there are actually people who believe that Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar “Jahar” Tsarnaev is an innocent patsy being framed by the government.

Sure, the FBI reportedly has photo evidence of 19-year-old Jahar placing what is thought to be one of the bombs next to an 8-year-old boy who was later killed. And of course there’s the whole alleged killing of an MIT campus officer and leading police on a 24-hour manhunt during which he and his brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev reportedly threw explosives and fired multiple rounds at police officers — but that’s not enough to convince some people that he could even possibly be guilty.

Seemingly spitting in the face of the victims of the Boston bombings and everyone else affected by the senseless attack, several people began using the hashtag #FreeJahar on Twitter. Why? Because he’s all innocent and stuff.


This level of cognitive dissonance is nothing new; as James Piereson wrote seven years ago in Commentary:

There is much about Oswald and the assassination that can now never be known for certain. Of one thing, however, there can be little doubt: there would never have been any serious talk about a conspiracy if President Kennedy had been shot by a right-wing figure whose guilt was established by the same evidence as condemned Oswald. Such an event would have been readily understood in terms of then prevailing assumptions about the dangers from the Right. Kennedy’s assassin, however, bolted onto the historical stage in violation of a script that many people had assimilated as the truth about America. Instead of adjusting their thinking accordingly, they strove to account for the discordance by taking refuge in conspiracy theories.

And as he told Peter Robinson two years later on the Uncommon Knowledge interview sometimes the cognitive dissonance was palpable; immediately after Kennedy’s death, facts and myth shared the same space on the front page of the New York Times:

James Piereson: In the center of the front page of the New York Times that day, in the center column, there’s a long article on Oswald and his communist associations that they have already, within 24 hours of the event. And, all of that has stood out. There have been some additions to it. But the key elements, his defection to the Soviet Union…

Peter Robinson: I had no idea that they knew immediately.

James Piereson: They knew that the defection to the Soviet Union, the return to the United States, working for Fairplay for Cuba in the summer of 1963. And I believe they also had in that article, his attempt to travel to Cuba in the fall of 1963, via the Cuban and Soviet embassies in Mexico City. So they have all that very quickly. Adjacent to that however, is the [James] Reston column which suggests that President Kennedy is a victim of a streak of hatred and violence in the nation. So you have this juxtaposition of the fact, President Kennedy is killed by a communist.With the interpretation. President Kennedy is a victim of American culture. These two things did not jive.


Good thing the New York Times learned its lesson and wouldn’t seek the same rush to judgement today. Seven years ago, Karl Rove caused the entire professional left to soil their drawers when he said:

Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 in the attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers.

The rush to therapy — and to trutherism — begins anew.

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