Eminem, Nutella, and Edmund Burke: A Close Reading of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s Twitter Account

Slate's Culture Blog
April 19 2013 1:15 PM

Eminem, Nutella, and Edmund Burke: A Close Reading of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s Twitter Account

Avatar for the Twitter account that reportedly belonged to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Gawker’s Adrian Chen has found what he believes to be 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s Twitter account, and BuzzFeed is reporting that the account indeed belongs to the at-large marathon bombing suspect.

John Swansburg John Swansburg

John Swansburg is Slate's deputy editor.

The tweets are jarring for their ordinariness. The updates sketch a portrait of a somewhat bro-ish, quite assimilated young American. If his tweets are to be believed, Tsarnaev is a sports fan—“imagine how reckless their weekend is going to be in #Louisville,” he wrote in the wake of the team’s NCAA victory. He likes hip-hop, specifically Kendrick Lamar and Eminem. He has thoughts on the best strategy for when to buy the new Air Jordans. He seems to like women—he posted an NSFW image of a man and woman engaged in a sex act, rendered in ASCII characters—and doesn’t care for gays, if his homophobic retweets can be interpreted as endorsements. (On the other hand, he once tweeted a line from Rent.)


He eats Hot Pockets, though he doesn’t like them nearly as much as he likes Nutella, which has come up more than once in recent months. He’s familiar enough with American popular culture that he could note the recent absence of a once ubiquitous advertising avatar: “I haven't seen a silly rabbit trix are for kids commercial in a while, did he finally get some or what...”

These seem like the stray observations of an American male who would wear his baseball cap backward; he lives up to the image in the minds of those who spent yesterday “brofiling” him. And yet sprinkled throughout these anodyne, pop-culture-laden notes are musings that take on a darker hue after the bombings. On April 7, he wrote: “If you have the knowledge and the inspiration all that's left is to take action.”* On March 10, he tweeted: “Never underestimate the rebel with a cause.” Chillingly, his quotation of Eminem’s verse from “Forgot About Dre” (“nowadays everybody wanna talk like they got somethin to say but nothin comes out when they move their lips; just a bunch of gibberish”) came after the bombings.

As recently as January, he dismissed people who link Islam with terror (“I don't argue with fools who say islam is terrorism it's not worth a thing, let an idiot remain an idiot”). In March, he paraphrased Edmund Burke (“evil triumphs when good men do nothing”). Given what he seems to have done, he invests the maxim with malice—a malice made that much more scary by the banality of what surrounds it.

Below, Megyn Kelly of Fox News does a dramatic reading of the Eminem verse quoted by Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on Twitter.

Correction, April 19, 2013: This post originally misstated the date of a tweet sent by Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. It was sent on April 7, not April 8.



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