From the NYT:
By KATHARINE Q. SEELYE and IAN LOVETT
BOSTON — Just five hours after the bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon last week, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, was back at his computer, doing what he did almost every day, posting a message on Twitter.
“Ain’t no love in the heart of the city, stay safe people,” he wrote.
... For the most part, [the Tsarnaev Brothers] appeared calm, according to people who saw them, raising no suspicions that anything was amiss, let alone that they might have had anything to do with the attack.
... By 1:14 p.m. Dzhokhar was back on Twitter. In an exchange with another fellow student, he dispensed some medical advice: you need to get Claritin clear.
The other student has since deleted his account so the reply is no longer visible. Within three minutes, Dzhokhar added: #heavy I’ve been looking for those, there is a shortage on the black market if you wanna make a quick buck, nuff said.
... “He was running some cardio on treadmill,” said Mr. Kedski, who said he often saw Dzhokhar smoking cigarettes and marijuana outside his dormitory. “He just seemed like a normal kid,” Mr. Kedski added. “He blended in very well.” ...
“I stopped by his room a couple times,” Mr. Juozaitis said. “He was just playing FIFA on Xbox. It wasn’t, like, weird. He was just doing what I do.”
He seemed to have resumed his habits of staying up late and sleeping in late, and of smoking marijuana, which he did frequently, they said.
Though he may have been quiet, Dzhokhar was hardly a loner — he was quite sociable.
Sonja Bergeron, 19, said she would often see him at parties at dorms where he would be drinking and smoking marijuana. (She advised reporters to “look for the potheads” to find people who would have known him better.)
“He was a kind of a party animal,” she said.
I don't want to get all Umberto Eco-y on you, but I'm vaguely reminded of the legendary hashish-smoking Muslim "Assassins" that Marco Polo wrote about. They were one of the coolest things in my Classics Illustrated Adventures of Marco Polo comic book that I read when I was about nine.
Actually, Umberto Eco (Foucault's Pedulum, The Name of the Rose) is great. So, let's see where this absurd medieval hashhead thread goes.
Granted, the Tsarnaevs weren't bookish sorts, but the etymological link between "hashish" and "assassin" has got to be close to a universal in Pothead Lore. So, the Tsarnaev brothers would certainly have heard about "hashish" = "assassin" from some bong buddy, and they would have thought it was cool.
Moreover, it turns out that the Order of the Assassins was founded by the "Old Man of the Mountain" in Alamut Castle in northwestern Iran just down the coast of the Caspian Sea from Dagestan. So, the Tsarnaevs might have taken some hometown pride in the legend, because from the perspective of Cambridge, Chechnya, Dagestan, and Alamut are all practically the same place.
If you look up "Assassins" in Wikipedia, you get its usual multiple-personality syndrome. First, Wikipedia scolds you that this is all just an Orientalist myth:
"The literal interpretation of this term in referring to the Nizaris (as hashish consuming intoxicated assassins) is rooted in the fantasies of medieval Westerners and their imaginative ignorance of Islam and the Ismailis."
But, also, Wikipedia wants you to know, this stuff is pretty awesome:
The origins of the Assassins trace back to just before the First Crusade around 1080. There has been much difficulty finding out much information about the origins of the Assassins because most early sources are either written by enemies of the order or based on legends. Most sources dealing with the order's inner working were destroyed with the capture of Alamut, the Assassins' headquarters, by the Mongols in 1256. However, it is possible to trace the beginnings of the cult back to its first Grandmaster, Hassan-i Sabbah.
A passionate devotee of Isma'ili beliefs, Hassan-i Sabbah was well-liked throughout Cairo, Syria and most of the Middle East by other Isma'ili, which led to a number of people becoming his followers. Using his fame and popularity, Sabbah founded the Order of the Assassins. ... Because of the unrest in the Holy Land caused by the Crusades, Hassan-i Sabbah found himself not only fighting for power with other Muslims, but also with the invading Christian forces.
... He had established a secret society of deadly assassins, which was built in a hierarchical format. Below Sabbah, the Grand Headmaster of the Order, were those known as "Greater Propagandists", followed by the normal "Propagandists", the Rafiqs ("Companions"), and the Lasiqs ("Adherents"). It was the Lasiqs who were trained to become some of the most feared assassins, or as they were called, "Fida'i" (self-sacrificing agent), in the known world.
It is, however, unknown how Hassan-i-Sabbah was able to get his "Fida'i" to perform with such fervent loyalty. One theory, possibly the best known but also the most criticized, comes from the observations from Marco Polo during his travels to the Orient. He describes how the "Old Man of the Mountain" (Sabbah) would drug his young followers with hashish, lead them to a "paradise", and then claim that only he had the means to allow for their return.
Perceiving that Sabbah was either a prophet or some kind of magic man, his disciples, believing that only he could return them to "paradise", were fully committed to his cause and willing to carry out his every request. ...
With his new weapons, Sabbah began to order assassinations, ranging from politicians to great generals. Assassins rarely would attack ordinary citizens though and tended not to be hostile towards them.
Well, that doesn't fit. But, you gotta admit that the rest of the stuff might have appealed to Tamerlan and Dzhokhar.
All Hashashins were trained in both the art of combat as in the study of religion, believing that they were on a jihad and were religious warriors.
Some consider them the Templars of Islam ...
like the Knights Templar in The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, the meathead's Umberto Eco.
Although the "Fida'i" were the lowest rank in Sabbah's order and only used as expendable pawns to do the Grandmaster's bidding, much time and many resources were put into training them. The Assassins were generally young in age giving them the physical strength and stamina which would be required to carry out these murders. However, physical prowess was not the only trait that was required to be a "Fida'i". To get to their targets, the Assassins had to be patient, cold, and calculating. They were generally intelligent and well read because they were required to possess not only knowledge about their enemy, but his or her culture and their native language. They were trained by their masters to disguise themselves, sneak into enemy territory and perform the assassinations instead of simply attacking their target outright.  ...
The Assassins were finally linked by the 19th century orientalist scholar Silvestre de Sacy to the Arabic hashish using their variant names assassin and assissini in the 19th century. ... This label was quickly adopted by anti-Ismaili historians and applied to the Ismailis of Syria and Persia. The spread of the term was further facilitated through military encounters between the Nizaris and the Crusaders, whose chroniclers adopted the term and disseminated it across Europe. ...
For about two centuries, the hashashin specialized in assassinating their religious and political enemies.[Wasserman 2] These killings were often conducted in full view of the public and often in broad daylight, so as to instill terror in their foes.
Assassinations were primarily carried out with a dagger, which was sometimes tipped with poison. Due to being immensely outnumbered in enemy territory, the hashashin tended to specialize in covert operations. Hashashins would often assimilate themselves in the towns and regions of their targets and, over time, stealthily insert themselves into strategic positions.
See, they are assimilating!
... In the heat of battle however, under no circumstances did they commit suicide unless completely necessary, preferring to be killed by their captors. ...
In other words, like the Tsarnaevs, they were not suicide terrorists, but instead went down fighting.
The 19th century philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche gives prominent focus to what he terms "the Brotherhood of Assassins", in part 3, section 24 of On the Genealogy of Morality. Nietzsche's signature work is to attempt the transvaluation of values, that is, to transcend the inherited Jewish and Christian politics, psychology and ethics of ressentiment and guilt. Nietzsche points to the Assassins as anti-ascetic 'free spirits' who no longer believe in metaphysical truth.
I don't exactly know what that means, but as the 2011 movie The Guard pointed out, Nietzsche is the favorite philosopher of meatheads: Whatever doesn't kill me only makes me stronger.
Games like the the Assassin's Creed series employ assassin folklore to both their story and gameplay.
You can get Assassin's Creed on your X-Box. And you know who played a lot of X-Box? Dzhokhar!
This is not to say that Tamerlan and Django were inspired by Assassin pothead / meathead lore. But they might have been...
I sometimes worry that I might start a groundless rumor; but in my experience, the odds that I've figured out some wacky reality are significantly higher than that many people will believe me when I try to tell them.
Since my thinking tends to be parallel to reality but orthogonal to how most people like to think, I'm dependent on a limited group of readers to whom I have to appeal periodically for financial support. Thus, I've started my first panhandling drive of 2013.
First: you can make a non-tax deductible contribution to me by credit card via WePay by clicking here.
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