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Editorials

Character sketch

Pop psych pans out?

After authorities publicly identified Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his older brother Tamerlan as suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings, a conventional wisdom about their relationship emerged almost immediately: Tamerlan was obviously the leader.

Everyone who furiously Googled the brothers’ names that Friday soon learned the following: that Dzhokhar, 19, had won a $2,500 scholarship from the City of Cambridge and been honored as student-athlete of the month at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School; that he used an Americanized nickname, Jahar; and that on his Twitter account, allusions to conspiracy theories about 9/11 were accompanied by musings about cheeseburgers, marijuana, and beer pong. The 26-year-old Tamerlan, it was equally clear, found American life far more challenging. Interviewed for a photo essay about his boxing career, Tamerlan said he didn’t understand Americans and didn’t have a single American friend. Applying a little pop psychology to a few bare facts, many commentators concluded that Tamerlan had likely dreamed up the Marathon plot — which involved crude bombs made with pressure cookers, explosives, and BBs — and drawn his better-assimilated younger brother in.

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