It's the way of teen fads, really. The once virulent online activism arguing that Dzhokhar "Jahar" Tsarnaev was innocent of the Boston bombings is just whispers now, a few bedraggled Facebook pages peeling off of bedroom walls.
Shortly after images of "Suspect Number Two" were released to the public and that suspect was identified as Tsarnaev on Friday, April 19, 2013, the ad hoc community of support clicked into gear on social media. The earliest surviving #FreeJahar tweet is from KingRi, at 10:26 that night: "Jahar ain do it mane, #FreeJahar." By April 25th, #FreeJahar was a phenomenon.
"In place of candid shots of Harry Styles and Zayn Malik, there are now photos of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev," Gawker's Max Read wrote about an eighth grader's Tumblr page in one of the first big profiles of the movement on that day. "The precocious, self-conscious tone remains, and when you visit your browser still reads 'One Direction Infection,' but the blog has a new URL: free-jahar.tumblr.com."
That's still the URL for the site, but the "annotated crime scene photos" Read described are gone. Scroll down a bit and you see a few morose text posts about Jahar. In one, the author is confused about the prospect of Tsarnaev getting the death penalty; in another, she rails against Troy Crossley, identified as a friend of Tsarnaev's who used his new fame to promote his rap career. "Troy used all of this just for 'fame' and his stupid music that no one listens to anyway," the Tumblr post reads. "You would think a 'close friend' of Jahar would be doing something more productive with this case."
Crossley has tweeted sporadically about Tsarnaev, sending emoji kisses to @_freejahar_ and, last month, sending out the supportive tweet at left. He also retweeted one of the last tweets from Tsarnaev himself on April 4: "I'm a stress free kind of guy."
The #FreeJahar hashtag has been pretty quiet on Twitter recently, a few dozen posts a day, but with a big spike on Tuesday, for understandable reasons. The most popular tweet today is @toxxicbieber's retweet of @freejahar02's tweet, "Retweet this if you believe Jahar is innocent of bombing the Boston marathon lets get the word out there all you have to do is RT." Only 20 people have retweeted it.
As Read noted at the time, Free Jahar was largely a Tumblr phenomenon, in part thanks to the fact that the most active demographic to embraced it was teenage women. (Though their motivations for doing so differed.) Tumblr is quieter these days than it used to be. The most recent posts tagged #FreeJahar as of writing are about Oscar Pistorius and a few four-day-old posts from j-is-for-justice.tumblr.com. The second-most-recent reads, "Stop reading my blog, I have no tolerance for your idiotic comments. This is for people who support the topics I write about. Bug off if you don’t like what I write GO AWAY!!!!!"
The page JaharTsarnaevIsInnocent.tumblr.com has a lengthy set of posts picking at some of the many small inconsistencies in the early reports of the attacks. It is also a repository for some of the once-ubiquitous image collages that featured the handsome face of the younger brother. If you go to that page, be warned: Pharrell's song "Happy" begins playing once you do. At FightingForTheTsarnaevBrothers.tumblr.com the autoplaying song is Russian hip-hop. The posts are a mix of Tsarnaev fandom and Bieber fandom.
There are still a number of Facebook pages, too. Freejahar has 78 likes and no posts since April 24, 2013. Free Jahar has 96 likes and posted most recently in January. FreeJaharTsar has 167 members and no public posts — but also links to FreeJaharTsar.org, an online index of every possible conspiracy theory that exists. Among the "Suspicious People Involved" that are listed: the Boston police commissioner and the head of the FBI for the region.
FreeJaharTsar.org also mentions the death of Ibragim Todoshev, who died while in FBI custody last year. That was mentioned in @FreeJahar's remembrances today as well: "Lets not forget how #Tamerlan died and how his friend, Ibragim #Todoshev, was murdered by the FBI."
But that dedication to scouring the rabbit holes of the case is rare. For most of the #FreeJahar advocates, their interest probably didn't survive last summer. Like @KingJuss17, who, on the day after Tsrnaev's capture, pledged his eternal support.
#freejahar is in my bio & it ain't comin out of it ever.— J u s s (@KingJuss17) April 20, 2013
His bio currently reads, "#FreeMyPops #Otf #Boston."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.