Perhaps the iconography of Tsarnaev is in some part to blame here. Before his crime and subsequent capture, he had been active on social media, and left behind the flotsam and jetsam of any teenager's life online: posed photographs, tweets, favorite song lyrics. Images of Tsarnaev are therefore easily accessible, plentiful, and usually filtered and angled to be flattering, unlike the post-rampage mugshots usually disseminated after a horrific act of violence. Since online communities thrive on the sharing of images, it is easy to imagine picture-heavy exchanges between supporters to be reducible to nothing more than the images themselves.
Accusations of "hybristophilia," the experience of immense sexual attraction to suspected, confessed or convicted violent criminals, have arisen in support of the latter notion. Rosin used the term in her article, and Allen alluded to it by indicting "something more primal and less pretty in the female psyche." The pathologizing of female sexuality is nothing new, but more stunning than this modern rerun of hysteria as an explanation for aberrant female sexuality is the fact that adopting this theory requires us to openly dismiss Tsanaev supporters' claim that they believe him to be innocent. The old, worn-out whine that women only go for bad boys is especially puzzling when a large contingent of the women themselves are insisting that the boy is not, in fact, bad.
Major media outlets would rather imagine Tsarnaev's female supporters as deviant or hysterical, but never just plain wrong. If there is a legitimate criticism to be made of the individuals who believe Tsarnaev to be innocent it is that their beliefs are counterfactual. Different arguments await engagement with those who question how Tsarnaev's Miranda rights were handled, or with those who oppose the death penalty in this case or all cases.
But I doubt that those arguments will ever be had. It is not surprising to me that many of the writers who have most angrily shredded Tsarnaev's female supporters are themselves women. After all, women are aware that we are always in danger of being dismissed due to unfair associations with slanderous gender stereotypes, and are therefore quick to distance ourselves from women who are out of line. The looming threat of being labeled just another one of the repugnant, hysterical ones is doubtlessly enough to discourage young women with unpopular opinions on the Tsarnaev trial from joining important discussions.
In a July 10th L.A. Times opinion piece by Alexandra Le Tellier called "Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his Disgusting Fangirls," Le Tellier echoes Rosin, Allen and others in viciously tearing into Tsarnaev's 'disgusting' female supporters. Above her screed is a photograph, and in it is a pair of protestors. One is a man with a shaven head wearing a black sweatshirt and Guy Fawkes mask. He is holding a piece of poster board decorated with pro-Tsarnaev slogans. The other person is a young woman with long dark hair, wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with Tsarnaev's face. It reads: Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is innocent.
Their opinions, it seems, are substantively identical. But only one of them is disgusting.