Slate Editor: 'Strong Consensus' That Dzhokhar Was 'Normal'

"There's a strong consensus he was pretty normal." That's how Slate's Emily Bazelon described surviving Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who seems to have been discovered by the police. You cannot make this stuff up. The Slate writer interviewed two family friends, who attended Tsarnaev's high school who said of him:

"He was really nice,” Sam Greenberg [Bazelon’s family friend], now a junior at Harvard, told me over the phone. Sam played junior varsity soccer with Tsarnaev for a year and also hung out with him occasionally in the athletic area after school. “He was pretty quiet. Didn’t have a ton to say but was very normal, seemed like a nice kid.”

Sam remembers that Tsarnaev had plenty of friends. “I don’t know about close friends, but he was friendly with a lot of people,” Sam said. “It feels really weird, knowing now that he did this, and talking to my friends so far who knew him, some of them better than I did, there’s a strong consensus he was pretty normal.”


Nathan Greenberg said, “I just remember seeing him on the wrestling team, just one of the normal kids. He seemed like a nice guy. He hung out with people who I knew as nice people. It’s bizarre. When I think of that grade, they were just the regular kids. I saw pictures of him at a pre-prom party on Facebook, and it’s just a mix of kids.”

Bazelon concluded that Dzhokhar was a member of an immigrant family that fled Chechnya, and it “doesn’t sound like at high school he stuck to other immigrant kids, or kids from Russia and the surrounding regions.”  What exactly is that supposed to mean? Yes, perhaps Tsarnaev showed no signs of trouble and that in and of itself is worth noting. But on the other hand, for the most part, the 9/11 hijackers also seemed like pretty normal guys to neighbors and acquaintances.

Exploring how part of the radicalization process also prepares sleeper cells to blend in without raising suspicion would be worth examining, rather than simply marveling at how "normal" Tsarnaev seemed to those around him.