Orientalism, Islamophobia, and the Tsarnaev Case, Part 3: The Micro, Continued

(Title image: A court sketch of Jahar from 2015, depicting him as older and more suspicious than he appeared in reality.)

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In this three-part podcast miniseries, Tom “Attorney Dad” Frizzell plays host and invites his daughter Heather to share what she learned in her Master’s program in International Studies at the University of Washington. She discusses how writing her academic thesis on Dzhokhar “Jahar” Tsarnaev’s case helped her better understand not just the Boston Marathon bombing, but the War on Terror, American foreign policy, and systemic discrimination against Muslims.

In the final installment, Heather wraps up her discussion of the “micro”: how the mainstream media coverage of Jahar’s case fanned the flames of misinformation, which aided prosecutors in their bid to sentence him to death in 2015. Topics covered include bias from journalists, particularly from disgraced Boston Globe columnist Kevin Cullen and in the controversial July 2013 Rolling Stone article “Jahar’s World;” understanding Jahar’s so-called “jihadist rhetoric” as an invention of Western law enforcement; solving the riddle of the boat note, the most damning piece of evidence used against Jahar at trial; why his legal team leaned into Orientalist stereotypes to defend him; how national American politics influenced the Obama administration’s stance on pursuing the death penalty for Jahar; the dubious nature of “terrorism experts” and their use by the government at trial; the dangers inherent to private intelligence firms; a hot take on “jihadists” in general, and more.

Correction: I misspeak in the episode, saying Dr. Matthew Levitt was employed by the Center for Middle East Policy. He was employed by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Read Heather’s thesis here: Regimes of Truth: Why Everything “Known” About the Boston Marathon Bombing is Wrong

Episode Extras

Links to Mentioned Articles, Websites, etc

Chechen Activist Tumso Abdurakhmanov’s YouTube Channel (in Russian)

“I’d Prefer to Die in Poland”: Chechnya’s Most Famous YouTuber in Exile Faces Deportation to Russia Article on Abdurakhmanov’s Mistreatment by the Chechen and Russian governments (in English)

Private Jihad: How Ritz Katz Got Into the Spying Business New Yorker article from 2006 detailing the creation of private intel firms by self-proclaimed “experts” who shaped the prejudicial post-9/11 policy toward “Muslim terrorists” – including Evan Kohlmann, who submitted an expert witness report to the government in Jahar’s case.

Episode music: “The Complex” by Kevin MacLeod

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